Although half of all cyclists have had a bike stolen, new developments in bike lock technology have traditionally been limited to tougher metals and fancier keys. Lattis, the maker of the Ellipse bike lock, is introducing an alternative technology using the Internet of Things. Its solar-powered U-lock connects to smartphones to provide keyless security access, detect thefts and sense crashes.
Ellipse is only one of the countless products now connected to the internet that are rapidly changing the way humans interact with technology. Some experts predict that spending on IoT-enabled products and services will surpass $2 trillion by the end of the year.
In the rush to develop and release the newest, coolest gadgets, the IoT movement has encountered several pain points. The IoT was meant to bring different devices together to enhance the human experience, but many developers are building apps and products that don’t easily connect with one another.
This lack of interoperability presents several issues for both brands and consumers.
In fact, a study by the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) found poor interoperability to be the largest barrier to the universal adoption of connected devices. Consumers want a choice of products, and they become frustrated if their smart toothbrush syncs with Google Home but their mirror only talks to Amazon’s Alexa.
Without a standardized interoperability solution, users are also vulnerable to security threats. The results of systemic inconsistencies can be frustrating (a stolen bike) or downright dangerous (a hijacked traffic-control system). Interoperability is more than a convenience: It safeguard consumers against tech-savvy criminals.
To create a flexible but secure solution, everyone from the two-person startup to global entities like Microsoft needs to work together. “A collaborative, standards-based approach is the way forward for this industry, to ensure that the next wave of connected home and automotive devices fully meet consumers’ needs,” the OCF concluded in its report.
This is complex work. Casual cooperation will not be enough to define standards able to guide a global industry. The process calls for true collaboration, which prioritizes market-ready results and respects the roles of many different contributors. Big players may need to compromise in the short term, and small companies need the confidence that they will get a fair hearing.
Transparency and a shared vision are vital; accountability and accurate record-keeping are essential. Without these guiding principles, interoperability will remain elusive.
Several organizations are already working toward this goal. Some are specialized: The Industrial Internet Consortium and Trusted Computing Group are making headway in commercial technology. The zigbee alliance’s dotdot offers a broader solution, a common language between IoT devices on any network.
“…When everything speaks the same language, developers have a common platform to innovate on, and users get more freedom to choose products that work for them,” the Alliance asserts. With over 400 members, the zigbee alliance is becoming a major influencer in the move toward interoperability and improved design, security and profitability.
In addition to the broad-based work of these organizations, nearly every industry is addressing specific IoT concerns within their domains. Home appliance manufacturers, telecommunications, electrical, automobiles, healthcare, and many more industries are finding new partners, challenges and conversations as technology blurs traditional boundaries.
The continued success of the IoT hinges on the ability of devices to work together. So far, those devices haven't been able to figure out how to do it on their own -- humans have to enable it, thankfully. The Internet of Things is growing, and interoperability has become an imperative. To move forward, independent businesses and industry groups will need to collaborate. Doing so will enable them to not only defend commercial interests but also provide broad protections for the general public.