Enabling smart home interoperability and Overcoming Multiple IoT Standards

smart home interoperability

Introduction

Smart home may still be a confusing mess of disparate devices and standards. There are so many standards bodies, you may feel like sitting back and watching for the moment. That is not the best strategy as there is strong demand for smart home products already. If you find the right IoT platform provider, you can deliver smart home interoperability to your customers now – and also make standards work for you.

Smart Home Interoperability is the Key to Realizing IoT Potential

Smart home, while not delivering on the hype of many years ago, is slowly making inroads and finding successful product niches. For example, Nest, and Philips Hue, and many others. Most of these products are standalone items. Their features requires connectivity with your phone but not with other devices. This shows how early we are in the IoT experiment.

The true opportunity and definitions of IoT is devices working together. There are real and tangible usage cases where devices working together can be beneficial to each other. For example, setting locks or sensors to turn on your lights on dark nights, or helping older people so they can avoid slipping over. We know this because security systems, and some of the smart hub systems already in the market, already have these features. But to achieve this next stage of IoT we need devices to be easier to use, and that means seamlessly interoperable and standards.

Incredible Number of Different IoT Standards and Consortia

While some companies set up their own product ecosystems, standards agreed across industry are the norm in the tech industry and have been the reason for its success of the Internet and other things. But for smart home and IoT the number of standards bodies and consortia is daunting: Thread, IPSO Alliance, AllSeen Alliance, IIC, OIC, OCF, oneM2M, FiWare and Open Connectivity. If you check out this list the number of different categories and companies involved is simply mindblogging.

This is not surprising considering the areas it needs to cover if we are going to achieve the objective of devices communicating and interacting seamlessly. For this to happen we need: at the device side embedded intelligence, ubiquitous connectivity between devices, and deep analytical insight in the cloud.

Challenges of Choosing the Right IoT Standard

For retailers, distributors, brands or companies from a vertical industry like insurance or healthcare – thinking about which brands to work with or creating their own device – there are a number of legitimate concerns:

  • You don’t want to invest in something that is not there in a few years. If the standard you choose loses out then you have invested money, time and effort.
  • You don’t want to have to maintain many different standards as this is a precious waste of resources.
  • Even if you are a retailer, principally just selling brands, you don’t want to explain to your customers if it is not there anymore. If the killer service comes out will you be inoperable with that service.

Get Involved Now

With so much different standards out there it might be tempting to sit on the sideways and wait for a winner to emerge. This avoids risk, but also brings the following problems:

  1. You can make money now – Although household penetration was only around 5% for smart home in 2015 that amounted to around 60 billion dollars in 2015 or 200 million devices.(Source)
  2. An answer for the which standard wins out is a long way off as industry cycles can take 10 to 15 years to settle down. We don’t even know the killer features or products yet and often these can dictate the standards needed. For example, in mobile, not until the app store emerged as a killer feature could standards emerge around it. You can’t afford to wait all that time and let your competitor own your industry.
  3. Standards are a facilitator to make creating the services by commercial companies easier. Don’t expect the killer features to come out of any standards body. You need to be experimenting around IoT features for your customers.
  4. In fact, the standard that succeeds is often the one that gains traction because: it delivers a successful feature or, by chance, is the standard used on a successful feature. There are numerous cases where large company support meant a lesser standard won out. In many cases the defacto standard is something coming out of a large company. The whole Android ecosystem has many open parts and standards so that manufacturers and developers can get involved easily, but it is an ecosystem driven by Google’s business concerns, open where it suits best and closed in other places. Another case is the Amazon Echo, which, due to the popularity of its service, is proving to be something that everyone wants to be compatible with. In short, If you sit on the sidelines you risk your competitor creating the standards and ecosystem for your industry.

Choosing the Right IoT Platform Provider

It is important to get involved now, but what is the right strategy? The suggestions below can help you choose the right partner and how to approach working with the different standards bodies.

  1. Choose an IoT platform provider who has a solution for smart home interoperability now. For the next few years there will still be a huge number of disparate protocols and standards that you need your device to connect to. Individual companies will do this work. These companies should not just support their own ecosystem, but brands outside it for maximum flexibility. They should have a plan going forward to keep integrating with new devices.
  2. Make sure they already have expertise in smart home interoperability and have delivered products to market. That they have the experience not just on the technical side to implement your device plans, but also on the business side to understand and advise you on how to best use IoT, whether it is device side, connectivity or data analytics.
  3. Get a partner who can advise you which standards are more likely to succeed.
  4. Engage with the standards bodies, but do it in the context of how it fits in with your overall business plans. Make sure, if possible, that the standard is benefiting your product vision.

We at Securifi have been involved in this market for many years, working on our own ecosystem and trying to bring innovation and added value to the smart home space. With Almond we decided to add that extra value while the market is developing by integrating our smart home into a router. We have developed one of the largest ecosystems as Almond connects to hundreds of sensors and smart products, including: Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue, Nest and Yale. We have also created an automation engine that enables: multiple devices, time and arm and disarm modes as conditions.

If you would like to know more information on the how the different standards bodies and protocols are driving the IoT landscape. Also how you can cost-effectively achieve and manage interoperability now for your own ecosystem or product. Please click here.

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