The 2014 hype is certainly focused around the Internet of Things, or the Internet of Everything, or is it the industrial internet, the Consumer Internet or simply Machine to Machine (M2M)? While the market is still having trouble agreeing upon a name they are understandably also having trouble agreeing on the standard that should link all these connected devices. The latest standard to be announced is the Google backed, Thread that is “designed to securely and reliably connect hundreds of products around the home”. If that description sounds familiar, that's because it is. Thread joins similar collaborative efforts led by the likes of Intel (OIC), Qualcomm (AllSeen), GE(OIC) and others in the race to establish standards for the Internet of Things, which is widely considered the next technology frontier. In the past twelve months four new standards (AllJoyn, IIC, OIC, Thread) have been announced in addition to the four (OMA DM, OMA LwM2M, MQTT, OneM2M) that already exist!
Currently, most of the connected devices whether they are smart watches, home security systems or industrial sensors, communicate directly to a management console. This management console can be in the form of a smartphone app, web site or dedicated backend system. But this is not the Internet of Things, this is the connected world that gives the users insight and control of remotely deployed devices. The true potential of the Internet of Things will come about when different devices manufactured by different companies can communicate directly with each other. True value will come when a device can broadcast its status to all the connected devices and they can then start an action of their own as a result. For example instead of my AEG washing machine informing me that it has finished working and then me being able to access my Bosch dishwasher and instructing it to start a wash cycle, the Internet of Things will enable the AMR (Automatic Meter Reader) to be informed from the utility company’s head office that the electricity rate is now low, the AMR will broadcast this to the house appliances and the devices will then start cycles based on a predefined priority.
There is a clear agreement that unifying the communication protocols across devices is required for and Internet of Things to be actually that. All these devices must speak the same language, recognize each other’s existence, send status updates and trigger actions. Mitigating security threats will be key to IoT adoption. Imagine that the connectivity to your home device enables unauthorized hackers to get in and manipulate your security system. A lack of security will thwart the adoption of IoT. Measurements of security (e.g. cryptographic keys, encryptions) will need to be incorporated into any standard framework to drastically eliminate security risks enabling safe and secure communication and over-the-air updates.
The question is which will be the standard that the market adopts as obviously multiple standards are not standards at all! Next month I will be publishing a paper that attempts to bring some order to the confusing world of IoT standards by explaining what they each cover, who is backing them and how they differ, compete and cooperate.