Humble Beginnings of the IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT), that has been portrayed as an impending revolution, is not a new concept, but is the culmination from many years of connecting objects through computer networks. Kevin Ashton didn’t coin the phrase we use today until 1999 (while referring to RFID tags in supply chains), but the idea that he was employing came about earlier in the 90s when machine-to-machine (M2M) industrial solutions offered closed networks for device communication. Although these types of connections are not new to the tech world, they have only recently gained more ground in potential applicability.

This past October, the Internet Society put out an IoT overview and marked a number of key trends that have sparked the recent interest and excitement regarding connected devices. The pervasiveness of cheap connectivity has dramatically increased over the past few years, which is visible in one way because of the ubiquity of home Wi-Fi networks. In addition, the widespread adoption of IP-based networking creates an avenue for interoperability between devices.

Advances in circuit development and its miniaturization have also drastically changed the way we think about connectivity. The smart phones that many of us have in our pockets possess the processing power which surpasses some of the supercomputers of the 90s. Implementing internet connectivity into a device is drastically more advanced compared to when Kevin Aston first praised the possibilities of RFID and can be accomplished in much more diverse applications.

Finally, the most recent developments in data analytics and cloud computing have boosted the excitement to the point it’s at today: with hundreds of articles postulating the potential use-cases and applicability of the IoT. These movements really allow for the data sharing capabilities that enables a product to be “smart” and establish the support system for powerful third-party developers.

While it is exciting to visualize what the IoT will look like when it finally arrives, it’s helpful to look back a little and see how far we’ve come already. The integration of the internet into our daily lives has been an ongoing process for many years, and a lot of the benefits of these trends are soon to become a reality.

For more information, check out the Internet Societies’ overview:

Where is the standard for the IoT standards?

The rapid progression of device communication has resulted in a formidable roadblock to the Internet of Things (IoT). Too many rival standards have emerged from big company alliances and individual expansions. While companies like Samsung, Intel, and Cisco have united around the Open Interconnect Consortium, individual corporations like Apple and Google are beginning to make headway on their own API projects.

In order for the IoT to work, every device pair must have identical network standards. Without matching protocols, individual objects won’t be able to communicate. For example, in order to play music from a smartphone through a Bluetooth speaker, the phone must connect to the device over Bluetooth, and not through Wi-Fi. This can get far more complicated than just the internet connection. In addition to network standards like Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Wi-Fi, there are also application and security standards that must also be identical. Two devices that run on Wi-Fi still can’t work together if one runs on the Apple HomeKit protocol and the other is designed for Works with Nest.

Inevitably, the jumble of standards has drawn all sorts of lines in the sand as far as companies developing for the IoT are concerned. This process has begun to follow a similar mess that occurred with the development of radio-frequency identification (RFID). It took 15 years to develop a common protocol for the RFID market, because of competing corporate interests.

Without standards, there is no possibility for interoperability, but it is important that companies work together to come up with fewer, more universal standards. Reducing the amount of these protocols opens up more avenues for product developers, and allows the consumer more product choice, rather than having to be selective based on the protocols they are already using in their home.