The Doppler Quarterly Fall 2016 - Page 40

The 2016 State of IoT Standards David Linthicum Most of the current competing IoT standards won’t survive, and if you wait for final standards to emerge, you’ll miss out on market opportunities. The Internet of Things (IoT) has a bull’s-eye on its back, and it is easy to see why: There are no central IoT standards today, and no real oversight over development on smart devices, which now number nearly 5 billion, according to Gartner estimates. Unfortunately, little has changed since last year in this regard. At issue is the fact that most IoT devices use proprietary technology. They do so because there are no de facto standards to speak of for popular devices, such as smart thermostats. IoT providers still view the market with a gold rush mentality: They figure that the more they can leverage their own technology, the more market share they can obtain and retain. Moving to a standard will, eventually, become more compelling for these vendors. That is a good thing, because developers (and users) are increasingly demanding standards, which they see as desirable to protect their investment in IoT devices — and their jobs. For instance, if you purchase an IoT-enabled home thermostat, you want the device to use an open standard that allows third-party applications to communicate and control the thermostat, as well as other home IoT devices. Users also want devices to support an effective security standard so that they won’t wake up one morning to discover that hackers have turned up the heat to 100 degrees—or unlocked the doors. 38 | THE DOPPLER | FALL 2016 Blocker: Each vendor has its own agenda When consumers start demanding IoT standards for the devices they buy, vendors will have to provide them to remain competitive. Device manufacturers will want to control the standard, even though they are working with dozens of other companies, including competitors, so that they can drive the standard in a direction that fits their agenda. Vendors have their own selfish motivations with regard to pushing standards. So buyers who want standards that deliver value need to understand those motivations. Several IoT standards alliances have been formed, some partisan, some more independent. By 2014, a handful of these were maturing, and today a few have even begun to certify products on a limited basis. Considering that standards are pretty much driven by companies that have their own agenda, the question is, Do you need standards at all? Also, if standards are created slowly by committee, will they be obsolete shortly after their release? Users increasingly find themselves in a world of Wi-Fi, IFTTT, SmartThings, and other innovations designed to bring incompatible technologies together. Beyond compatibility with some well-established communications protocols such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave, many are asking whether IoT standards are already irrelevant. But a few organizations still care about standards—