Safeguarding the future of IoT: Overcoming logical interoperability

A recent forecast by Gartner says that there will be 6.4 billion connected things in use in 2016, up 30 per cent from 2015. The forecast also suggests that 5.5 million new things will become connected every day. Without doubt, the Internet of Things (IoT) is well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged reality.

However, there is a pot-hole in the road ahead; interoperability. And this is a two-fold problem. Not only do industry members need to address the physical interoperability between devices from different vendors; they also need to address the issue of logical interoperability between industry standards organisations. Without industry standards groups working together to create full interoperability within the industry, the IoT is unlikely to ever reach its full potential and interoperability will remain a persistent and permanent obstacle.

The problem of logical interoperability has been addressed head-on by the UPnP Forum. The Forum has announced that the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) will acquire its substantial assets, and in exchange, the OIC will form a new UPnP Work Group to maintain UPnP specifications and enhance and maintain certification tools within the overall OIC organisation. This move was motivated by the desire to address the issue of logical interoperability. Both groups realised that many of our members and work items overlapped significantly. This move aims to consolidate industry efforts to strategically achieve open standardization for the IoT much faster.

UPnP technology can be found in billions of devices and is a key cornerstone in current wireless home networks around the world; an integral part of the transition from home to “smart home”. It’s the technology which allows you to bring home a wireless printer and send things to print almost instantly. UPnP is so ubiquitous we take it for granted.

The Open Interconnect Consortium was founded to use industry standard technologies to define a common software communications framework to compliment standards for physical interoperability. In its work to address the ever-changing landscape of the emerging IoT, OIC sponsors the IoTivity Project; an open source software framework, which enables seamless device-to-device interconnectivity. It is the aim of the consortium to connect the next 25 billion devices for the Internet of Things.

There needs to be complete logical interoperability of standards to ensure these devices are able to communicate and operate device-to-device seamlessly as they have been designed to do. The agreement between UPnP Forum and OIC will lead to a significant streamlining and consolidation of efforts around both forums’ work groups and infrastructure to aid in bringing full physical and logical interoperability about so IoT can come to its full fruition. OIC will build on the proven track record of UPnP to improve tests for broader IoT applications.

With the advent of IoT comes the possibility for smart homes to truly become a reality. The smart home of the future will rely on seamless connectivity embedded in virtually all household devices. This means a solid foundation for IoT needs to be put into place now. In a recent study by market research house GfK, 91 per cent of consumers were aware of the term “smart home” and 65 per cent said they had some understanding of its meaning and significance.

However, the complete transition from home to “smart home” will not happen without collaboration and cross-vertical effort. It is clear that organisations working together to reach one goal will be crucial in bringing about the smart home era. Further research from GfK’s study found that there was not a single technology provider, telecoms provider or high street retailer at this time that consumers trusted to deliver the smart home vision completely. This means that for the foreseeable future consumers will buy devices from multiple vendors and manufacturers which will place even more stress on the need for seamless connectivity between devices from different companies. The success of smart home adoption and services will ultimately depend on solid foundations for seamless interoperability and all key sectors cooperating to create a convincing proposition for smart home services for consumers.

Looking beyond the next five years, standards organisations and all vertical sectors will have to work together to combat potential and current issues facing the IoT landscape and the subsequent smart home revolution. The UPnP Forum and OIC agreement is a positive step forward and a great example to all vertical industries of logical interoperability in action.

Scott Lofgren, President, UPnP Forum

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