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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