2016 is the year of Internet of Things (Internet of Things, short IoT). IoT is easy anywhere.On every corner you can see networked “things”, devices, prototyen and IoT initiatives. IoT expressions pamper on any conceivable application: smart air-conditioning systems, networked cars, smart kitchen appliances, robots, smart shoes, talkative sunglasses, etc. Despite all these “things”, the IoT still plays a role in everyday life. What progress has IoT made so far? What developments are still needed so that we can all benefit from the networked “things”?
Despite the never ending hypes and the constant marketing of new networked “things” in the headlines, the Internet of things in its current state consists mainly of isolated technology islands. The IoT is still very far from becoming a valuable ecosystem. This year’s Forester analysis found that IoT standards are only emerging, as traders have begun to create general interoperability just a few years ago. An essay published in the Fortune from January 2016 even expressed the opinion that most well-known brands leave important questions unanswered, for example to ecosystem-wide standards or viable property models for data. According to this, users can acquire networkable devices, but these devices can not be interlinked with one another regardless of the manufacturer.
This does not mean that nothing is behind it. The evolution of the Internet of Things has made promising progress, and industrial applications are becoming ever more mature. Analysts and investors are working better in the problem and are starting to ask the right questions in terms of applicability, extensibility and security. Unfortunately, the IoT communication has hitherto been run by equipment manufacturers and semiconductor teams.This communication must also involve other partners. It is now very important to show that interoperability can lead to less fragmentation that can transform these individual islands into a coherent, valuable ecosystem. This requires simpler interfaces and secure data connections between the different solutions. Operators would thus be encouraged to network the best ideas in the IoT and to create new possibilities for their customers. Customers could then choose appropriate solutions from a wide range of products and control these solutions more easily.Only when this process is as simple and intuitive as installing an app from an app store, then the IoT era has really begun.
Similar and yet different
As we are talking about the app model, I do not think the Internet of Things will become a reality. Meanwhile, every user should be familiar with the phenomenon of app fatigue (app fatigue). Making our technique that it does what we want also requires more and more effort. We need the simplicity and functionality of the app model without this effort. This combination is starting to pick up at the consumer applications.
One example is an increasingly popular wireless device with speakers, voice commands, and cloud-based self-service APIs: Amazon’s Echo and the virtual assistant Alexa. Users can play music, operate the heating, dim the light, and use a collection of more than 100 other “abilities” that Alexa has mastered – all through simple voice commands; No reason to take a device in your hand, to wipe on a display or to touch something. Although this is sophisticated and facilitates the use of their devices, the real potential lies in the extensibility of this system and in how easily new functions can be added. With simple if-then rules or complex context-sensitive commands, users can connect additional smart devices to Alexa, use ready-made command groups, or even teach their virtual assistants new “abilities”. If a IoT communication protocol (ZigBee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.) is integrated into a standard language, IoT offers the opportunity for IoT providers to offer their users voice control for all possible devices. Thus the urgently needed system integration would be possible, and the devices and services could finally work together uncomplicated. That would be the beginning of a valuable ecosystem.
The Alexa example, of course, can not answer all the big questions. It is also not the only or even the best way to realize the Internet of Things. Myriads of other IoT hubs, devices, platforms, and APIs could be combined to get the same features. But the Alexa example clearly shows what progress has been made on the Internet of Things. Services can be added much more easily and work better together. It does not take an eternity to perfect ease of use, to promote integration opportunities, and to create healthy ecosystems of IoT services. Alexa takes this into account. It is just an example of many, but even this one example is a giant advance.
* Roger Gregory is Vice President of Product Marketing at Greenwave Systems.
Note: This article first appeared on www.industry-of-things.de