Monday, January 26, 2015

IoT Standards Wars vs. Skirmishes

In the Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Home specific space, it is not a standards “war” that is underway, rather, it is a media and consumer mindset “skirmish” that is playing out in the headlines. Do not let such skirmishes deter you from embracing the IoT for Smart Homes with speed.

While, you may worry that Google, Intel, Qualcomm and others are introducing their own “standards” for the Internet of Things, such worry, particularly on top of all the various protocols ranging from Bluetooth to ZigBee to Z-wave, Insteon or even Thread, are not a battle worth fretting over as the key issue in a real standards war is royalty payments, whereas in a skirmish, it’s about headlines and perceived importance. Do not fret over today’s IoT-Smart Home standards skirmishes as they are only about headlines and perceptions.

Not Royalties

IoT in the Smart Home is not facing the same battle as the Blu-ray versus HD DVD standard war of recent video years. In that battle, it was very much about huge royalties to be paid or not, with the loser retreating with only heavy expenses in hand.  The standards battle in the IoT Smart Home space is more a skirmish than outright war. Just look at the number of attempts to roll up functionality into all encompassing “umbrella” plays which are largely being offered royalty free to participants willing to develop marketplace solutions. The skirmish is about perception rather than royalties and that is good for growing your Smart Home business opportunity.

One such umbrella play – AllJoyn – is meant to make it easier to develop and deploy Smart Home products with speed. It began within Qualcomm as a traditional royalty war fighter weapon. However, AllJoyn quickly crossed the chasm into an open-source solution for the good of the industry. The fractured nature of the emerging standards drove their decision and AllJoyn is now a good example of a skirmish won as opposed to the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war lost.  And as a skirmish, Qualcomm’s AllJoyn is likely to find continuing success.

Wireless Protocols

Digging deeper, into the specific IoT Smart Home segment of wireless communication protocols (another skirmish), researchers estimate that the annual product shipments of proprietary wireless technologies for home automation, will double by 2017 (good news for ZigBee, Z-Wave or whoever). However, the market share of those proprietary technology products in Smart Homes, according to the same research, will drop by half versus today given the broader move towards open standards. So arguing over ZigBee, Bluetooth, et al. is to be caught fretting over the skirmish as opposed to the consumers’ hearts and minds waiting to be won in the IoT Smart Home space.

Cloud Power

In the end, it is much easier to embrace multiple protocols and standards in the silicon (the tried and true way) or even better, in the cloud (the new way). Therefore these battles will never brew-to-boil the way the media headlines would have consumers think.

To underscore the power of solving things in the cloud – things that used to be solved locally in silicon – you must recognize that the cloud represents a key functionality shift in these standards skirmishes. Today you have the ability to solve mis-matches of standards and protocols in the cloud where you can readily and cost-effectively deploy the technology weaponry to mitigate the differences with ease.

Is your organization planning for this cloud centric shift accordingly? Are you designing so that as much of the difficult work is done in the cloud as possible? In an age of constant connectivity, it’s not only feasible, it’s easier and more economical to place the bulk horsepower in the cloud and then have your devices leverage it over the network instead of forcing ever bigger brains (and cost) into the silicon at the local device level.

Of course, if you are leveraging available horsepower in the cloud, the burden on your devices to be aware of and compliant with all those standards is also greatly lessened.


In spite of the headline noise, developers, product managers, and executives alike need to embrace as many of the different standards as possible and actively seek ways of keeping their emerging platforms as open to the rapidly evolving IoT Smart Home skirmishes – not wars – as possible.

G2Speaks will continue to probe, poke, and report on standards as appropriate.


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