Why interoperability is the key to the Internet of things succeeding

The Internet of Things is picking up pace and some experts suggest that consumers are starting to see the benefits of a truly connected world. In the connected home, people initially were able to share pictures, then audio, and now video in the home – from the TV through to mobile devices.

The next step in the connected home goes beyond personal content, enriching the interaction between equipment while providing subscription content and unified experiences to the end user. Another major step will be the continuity between the car and the home media experience and, crucially, to create the necessary interoperability to allow interaction between mobiles, TVs and smart home devices.

According to Ofcom, the average household owns at least three types of internet-enabled device. Juniper Research also expects smart home revenues to reach a global market value of $71 billion by 2018. And, with Google paying £1.9 billion for smart thermostat provider Nest Labs, we could see an influx of new devices for the connected home market much sooner than we thought.

Genuine or gimmick

However, some existing smart products simply provide a stand-alone solution and are often seen as gimmicks. Smart homes could become more than a clever gimmick in technological developments but true leaps forward in interoperability are needed if connections between our houses and our devices are to become part of our everyday lives.

Only when smart home products are combined and can be seamlessly integrated with other devices and technologies, will they become useful as an integral piece of a bigger smart home ecosystem.

The question still remains, though, as to whether consumers and businesses want or are even ready for this level of interconnectivity between devices and, more importantly, their information. With Nest or Samsung's Smart Things, the industry is getting an intimate knowledge of users' homes and behaviour. In addition, the use of smartphones provides an even better picture for companies trying to determine what we need in our homes.

However, at this stage, the industry has yet to provide the necessary piece to tie all those devices inside an interoperable framework. We cannot count on a proprietary ecosystem or pseudo open standards. The answer must be implementing open standards.

Need for open standards

Digital Living Network Alliance (DNLA) provides the open standards foundation and is ready to take the lead in helping to facilitate the necessary interoperability to make everything work together and provide the experience and direction.

The cross-industry DLNA Guidelines are at the heart of today's connected home interoperability, and have enabled more than 3 billion devices to share personal content with each other in the home. DLNA's latest guidelines, which were recently given the consumer-facing VidiPath brand name, support the extended technology requirements for viewing subscription TV content on many devices in the home while also protecting the rights of the premium content developers.

CE device manufacturers began the VidiPath Certification process in September, and subscribers will be encouraged to look for the VidiPath brand when shopping for retail devices that are expected to arrive on store shelves later this year. These products will deliver the full service provider experience on many different screens in the home – a task that should not be underestimated.

DLNA has been very important to the industry. Thanks to DLNA and its new VidiPath Guidelines, consumers now have more choices for enjoying the full subscription TV content-viewing experience on multiple devices, and product manufacturers have a single standard to work to. Service providers are also able to deliver content to multiple subscriber-owned devices with full quality, a consistent user experience and content protection, without additional equipment or multiple applications.

VidiPath enables secure playback of content across multiple devices by using Digital Transmission Content Protection over Internet Protocol (DTCP-IP) Link Layer protection technology. DTCP-IP is automatically negotiated between devices and has been designed to protect content as it moves across the local home network.

Broadband market

The influx of new devices for the connected home market will only add to the pressure already being placed on broadband providers. In order to bring the connected home into the reality of everyday future lives, there is a real need to improve the broadband infrastructure.

Currently, there is no single network type that offers the best solution for a multi-room video experience, but only a combination of broadcast and broadband pipes will deliver it in the next 10 years. Putting pressure on broadband providers to make bandwidth investments without giving them a way to get a solid return will impede their ability to make other investments needed to face OTT competitors.

For example, investments in a premium content catalogue and customer premises equipment. Again, DLNA is playing an important role by enabling service providers to exploit their service quality advantage over OTT providers, and get their content from cable, satellite or terrestrial sources directly onto a broader connected CE device ecosystem without requiring any new equipment per display.

Essentially, interoperability is the success factor for the Internet of Things and connected home.

For instance, to enable consumers to view subscription TV content throughout the connected home, the industry needs to use VidiPath Guidelines to create Certified, interoperable products that are easy to find and purchase. This will enable service providers to give consumers the full subscription TV experience on multiple devices without having to deploy additional equipment in subscribers' homes, or to manage unique applications for each device platform, and without violating content owner rights.

Taking this route will improve the user experience and enable consumers to truly benefit from a connected world.

Mark Dawson head of production at Broadband World Forum, and Olivier Carmona is director business development at AwoX