The Lingua Franca of the Internet of Things (IoT)

A few years back, not long ago, I used to access internet only through my computer. But now, I can access it using my phones, tablets, game consoles.  More and more everyday use devices like watches, cars, etc. are getting linked to the internet.  I am interacting with these devices, communicating with them to other connected devices to improve my productivity, have a better lifestyle, reduce my surprises and lower my operating costs of appliances.  IoT promises the next technical revolution.

Management gurus, technology companies, always uncover the next big thing and through it the next source of income. They are rapidly creating new opportunities around “the internet of things” and converting it into almost “the internet of everything.”

To realize the “promise” of IoT, technology companies have to work well on the common standards, which is adopted by a majority of them so that devices can get connected and talk seamlessly with each other.  Naturally, it will not happen without jostling between rival products and competing systems. It has happened for trains, televisions, video recorders, and the internet itself. It will happen the same for the connected devices.

The need for connect-and-communicate devices and underlying platforms has incubated some industry groups.  Amongst them, the most prominent is the AllSeen Alliance.  It is a consortium of firms with diverse domains likes semiconductors, white goods, consumer electronics and retails. Some of the most prominent members are Microsoft, Qualcomm, Panasonic, LG, and Haier. AllSeen Alliance’s member Qualcomm has created a free piece of software, AllJoyn. It was then handed over to its member to develop it further.  It’s an open source software framework that allows devices to communicate other devices around it. It is flexible, promotes proximal network and cloud connection (which is optional) e.g., a motion sensor letting appliances in the room to know that no one is in the room so that these appliances can shut themselves off.

The manufacturer or operating system agnostic, AllJoyn sits in a device. It communicates over the wireless links such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.  The broadcast information it relays is a common language. Other connected devices or platforms understand it.

The common language can result into many other not-yet-thought-of applications. Though it sounds simple, the challenge remains considerable. It is a daunting task to accommodate diverse nature of connected things, their thousands of uses and their sophistication. Also one has to think about future compatibility, to make people habitual about installing regular software updates for things like smart kitchen appliances.

Like, AllSeen Alliance, there is another group called the Industrial Internet Consortium to “define common architectures” for smart objects. AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM, and Intel have formed it.

Similarly IPSO Alliance, which promotes the usage of the Internet Protocol, which eventually standardises the way that data could flow across different types of network.

The Open Interconnect Consortium (Broadcom, Dell, Samsung and others), and IEEE are working to build consensus on standards.

As one can see efforts put in by these alliances and consortiums are both competing and complementing. E.g. AllJoyn is focusing on for short-distance object-to-object communication. The Industrial Internet Consortium is focusing on commercial and industrial use cases.

Just to give you an idea about devices, brands which are currently in the market ecosystem, I am sharing a comprehensive analysis done by a blogger Chris McCann. He has divided things into two categories like Thing-Consumers and Thing – Enterprise. He has created a third category, Internet-infrastructure under which he has covered Hardware/ Connectivity platforms, Board/Chipsets, Software Platforms, Analytics, Data Storage.

There are interesting observations he has shared, and I liked are:

  • Currently, more devices are connected on the internet than humans
  • IoT has potential to transform the operations of industries
  • As of today, IoT is in a nascent On consumer side it is still mainly for the hobbyist, on enterprise side, it is still for early adopter
  • IoT security is a big deal and big unresolved problem
  • Full ecosystem of IoT is huge

Summary
I sometimes wonder whether number and verities of the connected devices can make the emergence of a single standard near to impossible.  Keeping my fingers cross and hoping to arrive at “Universal” languages for the connected devices and to have a better life.

About the Author

Atul Gunjal is the Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of IWORKTECH. It is Alpharetta, GA based company. It has development centre in Pune, India.

IWORKTECH develops solutions and products in the areas like Utility, Healthcare and Education. It has wide experience in providing Enterprise Wide solution.