Open Standards Make Smart Homes Smarter

Posted on January 11th, 2017

Image: Serghei Starus

Author Phil Keys pointed out a recent  Forbes article entitled “Who Will Win the Broken Connected Home Market?” that today’s Internet-of-Things (IoT) related smart homes often fail to realize their promises. According to Keys:

“While most smart home devices are connected to the Internet many of these devices can’t communicate or work with each other. This is partly due to the fact that most of the current crop of connected home devices perform a single function. For companies fighting for market share, there is little incentive for the manufacturers to play nice with each other.”

What results is less smart homes – and more like homes full of smart devices that either don’t connect to each other or don’t work properly together. As Keys points out, this problem is compounded by the fact that the lifespan of smart home products can be unpredictable (as technology continues to evolve), plus we are seeing rapid churn in the market.  

“The lack of interoperability means that if you buy a connected device and the manufacturer later decides to discontinue the cloud service needed to support your device, you are left with an expensive useless object. With no other company supporting the device, you also have no recourse.”  

Keys cited examples of products, such as, the Aether Cone streaming music device, the Revolv home automation hub and the VueZone wireless. To combat this reality, Keys highlighted how telcos like AT&T are cobbling together their own smart home solutions and leasing them to consumers under the guise of “turnkey” solutions.  

As we have discussed in a previous article, the lack of interoperability and compatibility between IoT related devices is compounded by the sheer proliferation of proprietary technology dominating the market today. This is in part unavoidable, in a highly competitive and rapidly expanding marketplace where, as Keys notes, the drive to capture market share continues to drive a “first-to-market” proprietary development.  

To address the broader need, an array of industry consortiums, including the AllSeen Alliance and the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) are attempting to rally the industry to collaboratively develop and use broader specifications that will help realize the promises of IoT.    More recently, the Alphabet / Google Thread platform, which began as an open developer sandbox, spun out into an industry consortium. Not only has Thread become a consortium, Keys highlights that it is now a member participant in the OCF Alliance.

Without question, the collaborative progress that is being driven by industry consortia is a step in the right direction. However, Keys notes, the ideal solution to the plague of smart home devices would be “an open and globally adopted interoperability standard for connected devices.” However, this is easier said than done.

Without question, a suite of formal standards that ensure interoperability, security, privacy, safety on a global scale, for IoT and smart homes is highly desirable. However, as the market attempts to balance proprietary development against broader development collaboration, it will take awhile for truly open, IoT Standards to emerge. It will take even longer for a competitive shakeout to occur between competing standards in the IoT space.  

The development of open standards, which adhere to the OpenStand Principles, can help ensure the development of the highest quality, market-driven standards, by the broadest possible audience to drive success of the IoT and “smarter everything.”  However, the OpenStand Principles don’t just apply to standards development.

Applying the OpenStand Principles earlier in the technology development process for new IoT and smart home technical specifications can be highly beneficial. By applying the principles of openness, broad consensus, transparency, availability and market-driven adoption, consortia have a better ability to develop inclusive technology that adheres more strongly adhere to the principles that brought us some of the best technological innovations of our time, including the free and open Internet. With truly open specifications in place, the pathway to standardization may also become a more smooth one.  

If you are interested in this topic, see also: How we can’t build the IoT without open standards.

To become an OpenStand advocate please review the OpenStand Principles and sign your name as a supporter.  

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Open Standards: Touching Every Part of Life

Posted on January 4th, 2017

Image: Christian Mueller

A recent report from the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI), presents the global dynamics and landscapes of IoT Standards Developing Organization (SDO), Alliance and Open Source Software (OSS) initiatives and how those can be used. One of the challenges that are associated to LSPs (Large Scale Pilots) addressed in the report is the large number of competing technology standards which are projected in both horizontal and vertical directions.

According to the report, “The vertical direction implies that the standards and protocols are developed for the support of applications/services that are belonging to a particular application domain, i.e., a single vertical industry, such as home automation, smart mobility and wearable medical devices, etc. The horizontal direction implies that the standards and protocols are not targeting a specific vertical industry, but aim at providing general standard, protocols and solutions for as many vertical industry types as possible with the implication of developing limited adaptations to the applications that they need to support.”

So, what does that mean for us? Simply put, in this era of convergence, standards have grown in their complexity and diversity, touching many different industries. Because each vertical carries unique protocols and considerations, it may be necessary to establish new Open Standards which serve as overarching standards across industries, while more specific standards govern each vertical. 

The verticals outlined in the report paint a vast and far reaching landscape of consideration and standardization.  They include, but are not limited to home/building, manufacturing/industry automation, vehicular/transport, healthcare, energy, cities, wearables and agribusiness.  Telecommunications, for example, is an area of open standards which cross all of these verticals.  

While the open standards movement has grown increasingly more global in nature, it is also important to consider the ways in which these standards touch our daily lives, and how this may impact the need for standards.

For example, in vehicular/transport, it is now possible to access real time traffic information and road data through mobile and vehicle-based technology.  We can also find available parking through sensors and mobile apps to prevent endless driving looking for a spot. Soon, the data of where people travel, how frequently and where the highest potential for accidents occurs will inform infrastructure decisions.

Further, wearables is an area that has seen extremely dynamic growth in the last few years.  Consumer-based wearables can monitor heart rates, caloric burn and other valuable health data.  Medical wearables can monitor glucose for diabetics that are connected to apps on their smartphones, allowing immediate access to that data. Doctors are now beginning to access and track this data to provide more proactive patient care.

The way we build our homes is also being impacted by the internet and open standards. We can already use apps on our smartphones to monitor our home’s security, heating and cooling, and lighting. We can monitor or our pets or children left at home to make sure they are safe. These applications are only getting stronger. Soon, our homes will proactively know when to turn on the heat, shut down appliances automatically if they sense fire or danger, and send notifications to your phone and emergency services, if necessary.

But the impact goes further than this.  Even the food we buy will soon be impacted by open standards. We’re using applications today to track the calories and nutritional value of our food. Technology currently exists to combine real-time data from soil, such as moisture levels, pesticide levels and weather forecasts, to spot any crop issues and allow farmers to better monitor farms and resources.

When we leverage open standards to extract data from existing silos and allow it to be be shared across verticals, the true value of the internet and the Internet of Things begins to emerge. We are already taking advantage of open standards in many ways. The value they provide to humanity will only continue to grow with your support. Please Sign your name and stand with us if you hold to our OpenStand Principles.

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Open Standards vs. Proprietary: Are Open Standards Really the Wave of the Future for IoT?

Posted on December 14th, 2016

open-standards-vs-proprietary-openstandImage: Tashatuvango

In a recent IoT Business News article Allan Woolhouse presents a strong case for open connectivity standards for IoT, starting with a no-nonsense look at the practical drivers that define the strength of an IoT Connectivity Standard, including:

  • Capacity
  • Quality of service
  • Range
  • Reliability
  • Battery life
  • Security
  • Interoperability
  • Cost
  • Proprietary vs. standard

Woolhouse, Chair of the Weightless SIG Marketing Working Group, turns attention to the issue of proprietary technologies versus open standards, pointing out the fundamentally different business proposition open standards offer for technology developers.  He points out the clear benefits open standards drive, including quality, interoperability, streamlined development and the ability for robust, multiple, peer-reviewed design teams to lead innovations at a fraction of the cost of alternatives.  Woodhouse argues that in the world of wireless communications “there are no successful proprietary standards”, asserting that “open standards always win out.”

The article underscores the inclusive nature of open standards, highlighting the role open standards play in driving more efficient development, tightening operations and reducing costs for both producer and end-consumer.  He points out that open standards also allow for peer-reviewed design teams that range in industries, which not only lead to greater innovation, but improve upon existing technologies to make them more robust and reliable, at a fraction of the cost of the alternatives. He also argues that with regard to telecommunications, on the “two-ends” of the wireless link (transmitter or base station, and receiver or device) “Open standards allow a vibrant ecosystem of suppliers for both sides of the link, enabling each party to choose their preferred supplier.  He continues, “Standard encourage competition which results in innovative products at lower prices. By enabling a range of companies, it reduces the risk of obsolescence due to a company deciding to no longer support a product.”

Woolhouse points to weightless technology as an example of technology that has been designed from a “clean slate” offering optimized performance at an “unbeatable price point” that avoids any legacy or backward compatibility issues. The article also provides an overview of the benefits the Weightless standards offers for LPWAN technology developers.

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the importance of “just one standard” bound by quality development practices, support across Industry from suppliers across the value chain in a manner that creates a  “virtuous spiral” for all participants. Woolhouse concludes that we do not yet have the right standardization in place to support the success of the IoT, due to fragmented support from the industry, a lack of clear standards and little clear marketing to consumers related to IoT brands.  

The reference “virtuous spiral”resonates with the OpenStand Principles, which were jointly affirmed by IEEE, W3C, ISOC, IETF and IAB in 2012, and based on the development principles that brought us the free and open internet. The OpenStand Principles encourage the development of standards and technologies with broad participation across the value chain, in a manner that are open, transparent, market-driven, accessible and voluntarily adopted by the marketplace.  

Posted in News

Open Standards and Collaborative Security Focus on Resiliency and Governance

Posted on December 7th, 2016

open-standards-and-collaborative-security-focus-on-resiliency-and-governance

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Olaf Kolkman, open standards advocate and CTO of the Internet Society (ISOC) (an affirming partner of the OpenStand Principles) has long been focused on the need for collaborative security.

This last summer, Kolkman gave the keynote address for the 27th Annual FIRST Conference on the topic of: “Collaborative Security – Reflections about Security and the Open Internet.”

Kolkman addressed how security policies are often premised at “stopping bad things and not on what the properties are that need protected.” When thinking about Internet security, contributors also need an “external perspective in order to trade off their actions towards the bigger internet.” This is called Collaborative Security.

Within a collaborative security framework, contributors must “reflect on resiliency, about outward facing security, governance, and give some examples of collaborative security and the difficulty of them getting traction,” said Kolkman.

During his talk, Kolkman discussed how an “open Internet is a powerful driver for social, technical, and economic interaction. Its success is based on invariants like openness and permissionless innovation – properties that not only create opportunities but also contribute an increased threat surface to the Internet.”

Kolkman’s talk also focused on the Internet Society’s April 2015 report on Collaborative Security in which describes their approach for tackling Internet security issues. In this report, Collaborative Security is characterized by five key elements:

  • Fostering confidence and protecting opportunities: The objective of security is to foster confidence in the Internet and to ensure the continued success of the Internet as a driver for economic and social innovation.
  • Collective Responsibility: Internet participants share a responsibility towards the system as a whole.
  • Fundamental Properties and Values: Security solutions should be compatible with fundamental human rights and preserve the fundamental properties of the Internet — the Internet Invariants.
  • Evolution and Consensus: Effective security relies on agile evolutionary steps based on the expertise of a broad set of stakeholders.
  • Think Globally, Act Locally: It is through voluntary bottom-up self-organization that the most impactful solutions are likely to reached.

To view the video of Kolkman’s talk or review his slides, click here.

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Recap of the IETF Meeting in Berlin

Posted on November 30th, 2016

ietf-openstandImage: Toria

A Recap of IETF 96

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meeting, hosted in July 2016, concluded with a wealth of discussion and activity aimed at furthering the goal of improving Internet efficiency by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use and manage the Internet.

Attendance at IETF 96 was unprecedented, including more than 1462 participants from 62 countries (more countries than ever before) including 316 first time attendees. During the meeting 12 new working group proposals were proposed, and it is estimated that over half of these groups will be approved as formal working groups. This year’s meeting also saw fair share of highlights, including the launch of a new and unique mentoring program and the annual Hackathon, which are highlighted with other details below.  You can watch the full recap of IETF 96 here:

Mentoring Program:

“This meeting was also the first for our new mentoring system. Volunteers from the IETF attendees had set up 50 mentors helping new people find their way in the IETF, for instance to establish contacts with other people. For me, an important part of the meeting is the ability to interact with other people building devices in the Internet. Specifications aside, these interactions are a crucial part of setting up new, interoperable technology to the Internet,” said Jari Arkko, IETF Chair.

Hackathon:  

The annual IETF Hackathon encourages developers to collaborate and develop utilities, ideas, sample code and solutions that show practical implementations of IETF standards. This year, IETF 96 was kicked off with the Hackathon. “There is growing engagement between the Open Source communities and the IETF. The IETF Hackathon had more participants than ever and we experimented with having a place for it in the IETF Lounge all week.”

Additional highlights included work proposals related to the Internet of Things (IoT), home networking and multimedia communications from browsers. One particularly interesting work proposal was called Advanced Queue Management (AQM). The AQM work proposal is an “effort attempting to make sure that bad router buffering practices do not waste capacity. This group has a real chance of improving how responsive the Internet feels to individual users, even without increasing their broadband connection speed.”

In all, IETF hosted yet another successful meeting full of engineers talking to each other, implementers sharing experiences, operators explaining their needs, and many other useful conversations designed to progress and betterment of the Internet. If you’re interested, you can read more about additional meeting highlights and proceedings.

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Forbes Council Discusses the Differences Between Open vs Closed Standards

Posted on November 9th, 2016

forbes-council-discusses-the-differences-between-open-vs-closed-standards-openstandImage: Rawpixel

A recent article in Forbes magazine asked nine technology and members of Forbes Technology Council their thoughts on regarding the issue of open versus proprietary standards in developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT). In various posts on this blog, we have highlighted the differences between technical specifications and standards, and have encouraged IoT development community to embrace the OpenStand principles. Here are a few examples: W3C and the McKinsey Report.

The experts from the Forbes council had varying opinions on the use of open vs. proprietary standards for IoT:

Sagi Brodi of Webair said, “Companies will adopt open standards to ease interoperability and get to market faster,” further acknowledging that there is room for both in the marketplace and that it will be a matter of natural selection.

Bishnu Nayak of FixStream Inc., took a similar stance, asserting hybrid solution will win in the end. Both open standard and proprietary technologies have benefits it just will come down to distilling those benefits and finding a solution combining both.

Ashley Saddul of Recruiter.com agreed with Nayak’s hybrid solution, arguing that while the IoT is still early in its development, companies see the potential and will look to secure market advantages. Saddul asserts that we will eventually end up with a premium commercial standard with a less sophisticated open-source alternative.

Marko Lehtimaki from AppGyver provided a different view, that both proprietary and open standards can succeed. “There will likely be a handful of platforms and protocols which IOT devices need to support. Open standards will spark more innovation, but proprietary technology might provide a better user experience.”

Nicholas Thompson of Grit, pointed out that open standards historically facilitate the level of interoperability, which allows for hardware and software components to work more seamlessly.  Thus, he argues, open standards normally win out.

The exception to this rule could be related to proprietary standards.

Gurpreet Singh of TalkLocal, advocates for “strength in exclusivity.” Singh asserts that the level of customer loyalty and brand power will allow powerhouses like Apple to develop their own standards, which will co-exist with open standards. Because of this dynamic, Singh asserts that Apple will pull ahead because of higher quality control and marketing dollars.

Where you do fall on this debate? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted in News

We Can’t Build the IoT Without Open Standards

Posted on November 2nd, 2016

openstandImage: Rupert Ganzer

In previous posts, we’ve discussed at length the need for open standards as a development framework for the Internet of Things (IoT) – and we’re not the only source to repeat this call.

“It’s time to say it loud and clear: we won’t build the Internet of Things without open standards.”

A recent article in Radar titled Toward an open Internet of Things outlines the critical need to develop the IoT with open standards. Innovation and collaboration, as outlined in our Principles, is critical to the success of the internet and IoT. Proprietary standards that don’t foster interoperability and data sharing will not fulfill the promise of the IoT. Yet, our current market perpetuates the impulse to lock down IP for competitive gain and profit. In the long-term, it won’t drive a win for the IoT or the people it serves.  As Radar said it:

“With the Internet of Things, it’s deja vu all over again. The vendors who provide public APIs and support open standards will succeed in the long run. Likewise, the vendors who try to trap consumers behind proprietary software and non-interoperable products will eventually fail, to everyone’s detriment. If you win the IoT, you lose it.”

Like what you read? You might enjoy our post, “The Expanding Internet of Things Presents Big Security Challenges for Tech Industry.”

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