The Internet of Things (IoT) is definitely taking things to the next level, however when it comes to the development of universal standards and frameworks, you can say that we’re stuck in the Wild West.
According to Gartner, 6.4 billion connected devices will be in use this year. Further, that number is expected to rise significantly to 21 billion by the year 2020. In other words, all these connected devices will enter your living spaces without any real oversight of development or a central IoT standard.
According to UpGuard, the following devices will (probably) be hacked this year:
- Single passenger drones
- Baby monitors
- Kitchen appliances
- Stuffed animals
- Smart minivans
- Heart-related medical devices
- Smart lightbulbs
So vulnerabilities in IoT devices is a serious issue that we need to overcome, so setting a standard is vital for the future of IoT.
We have been talking about IoT standards for three years now, but we are no where near a clear universal IoT standard. Further, the industry doesn’t wait for guidelines when it comes to development. So standards wars can be won and lost before anything is set in stone.
As always, alliances have been formed and some standards are developing slowly. Further, some have even begun to certify products, so we are on the right track. However, we are miles away from arriving at a single standard (mainly) because IoT itself is a complicated field.
There is no concrete definition as what all these “things” are. Some can be devices like pacemakers while others can be household items like fridges. Both may require very different parameters when it comes to structure and security.
For now, all these incompatible technologies are working together using established communications protocols like the following:
There are so many groups trying to develop IoT standards and frameworks, I am starting to lose count. However, some key players have started to emerge, so let’s take a look at them.
The Thread Group
When it comes to standards groups, the Thread Group hasn’t been around for long, but it’s definitely the most active group at the moment. Owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Thread is basically a wireless-centric standard that covers security, power conservation, networking, and compatibility.
Currently, a Thread certified device will have an IPv6 address. If IPv6 adoption becomes more popular over the months to come, it has the potential to solve networking issues for IoT devices. With both Samsung and Philips now on board, the future looks bright for Thread.
Qualcomm developed the Alljoyn protocol, but it was taken over by the Linux Foundation, the standard behind AllSeen Alliance. It was the first standards group for IoT and it’s on an open-source framework.
It directs service layer and connectivity for IoT devices to develop devices that are highly adaptable and interoperable, to connect and engage directly with IoT devices located in the vicinity.
The goal is to have devices interact with each other regardless of the type of device, operating system, transport layer, and platform.
Unlike Thread which is a radio protocol, AllJoyn is a secure joining protocol that’s focused on communication between devices on a Wi-Fi network (but it doesn’t actually require one). It really doesn’t matter what the device is, what matters is what services that device can support or interact with.
AllSeen Alliance currently has 170 members including Sony, Lowe’s, and Microsoft, but there hasn’t been any real movement.
Apple HomeKit is a communications framework that was developed to control connected devices. Although it’s not exactly a standard (it’s just an option for hardware manufacturers), we have to make a note of it.
Surprisingly, the Apple HomeKit hasn’t been as popular as expected. The main reason for this turn of events is Apple’s resolve to have cutting-edge 3072-bit encryption keys along with Apple certified chips to be used by Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices. As a result, many products have to be redesigned just to enable HomeKit support.
That being said, devices with HomeKit are quite popular, so that they can drive the standard and encourage adoption across the board.
Other IoT standards (that haven’t been discussed):
- IEEE P2413
- ITU-T SG20
- Industrial Internet Consortium
- Open Interconnect Consortium/IoTivity
All these standards simply can’t survive, only a couple of these should make the final cut. However, the impact of these standards won’t be seen for a while, it will take a few years. In the meantime, expect some more standards groups to pop up and (stay or) fade away. All we can do at the moment is wait and see how it will all play out.