If interoperability between different devices can not be achieved, the new technology’s potential will unravel. Nicole Kobie reports
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.theguardian.com
The problem. Research by McKinsey suggests that 40% of the value of the IoE will need to be unlocked via interoperability; failing to overcome that hurdle could cost trillions of dollars and leave the IoT less useful that promised. Every major IT company wants to lead the charge, meaning each is developing its own set of standards and building proprietary systems – a problem faced by a host of other technologies that have come before. Is it too late to save the internet of things from becoming fractured into useless pieces – an internet of silos – or can the industry work together to build a true internet of everything? Given the potential benefits, and the previous interoperability challenges faced by IT, it may seem surprising that it continues to be a problem. “It’s an issue that hasn’t gone away and was never solved,” said Justin Anderson, director of IoE firm Flexeye. “Part of the reason for that is a lot of the applications that have been created … have been stand-alone systems [and] often it’s in their interest not to open it up for all to be able to engage with.” That single-mindedness is flawed; tech companies need to work together because failing to unlock the value in IoE could be costly. McKinsey predicts the value of IoE will top $11tn by 2025, but without interoperability will stall at $7tn. And it’s not all about the boost to the economy. “Interoperability is vital if the internet of things is going to reach its potential, whether that is in cities, health, education or any other example,” said Maurizio Pilu , executive director for collaborative R&D at Digital Catapult. “Interoperability lowers barriers to innovation and is fundamental to the creation of participation. Additionally, and importantly, interoperability allows ideas to scale faster. For example a digital business can develop a home gadget and sell it at a DIY store knowing it will just work. Interoperability also enables data to be shared and combined – ultimately allowing many more IoT services and solutions to be developed.” What can be done? The standard response to improving interoperability is, well, standards. Every IoE product from a major tech company seems to come with its own set of standards, from Microsoft-backed AllSeen Alliance to the Open Interconnect Consortium , backed by Intel, Samsung and Dell, and the Thread Group , with support from ARM and Google’s Nest. But drafting standards isn’t enough. People need to actually use them. “The acid test is adoption. A standard that is not deployed in the millions has not yet caught on so cannot be called a standard. It’s hard to say how it will happen. Some say it will be one of the giants shipping millions of devices supporting a standard. One thing is very clear, however: for standards to be established, openness is essential.”
Pilu compared it to the web, pointing out that the “bold move” to an open commons was what made it work. “There does still remain a cultural shift to openness that we need to be aware of in IoT interoperability,” said Pilu. Open APIs (application program interfaces) are another solution, noted Bachmann, offering access to data and systems “to provide a broader palette for developers”, and makes IoE more of a “fabric” between IT services. But that raises other problems, said Anderson. APIs are become more standardised, meaning “we’re moving in that direction to make the API the interface into that data”.