Internet of Things is one of fast growing technology in the recent years. Its expected that the growth of connected things will be around 50 billion by 2020. Every industry vertical has signed itself into embracing IOT either to create cutting edge products or for optimizing the resource and improve efficiency. As IOT growth explodes there are few challenges that are becoming key road blocks for a wider adoption of IOT. The two of the challenges that stands out are the security and Standardization.
Like any new growing technology standardization is important for IOT. Standardization will allows devices to interoperable in IOT and allow seamless integration between various verticals. Several attempts has been made to standardize IOT, new alliances and consortiums have been formed but there is yet no single winner though many have shown promises for becoming one.
Why is standardizing IOT difficult?
The main reason for the complexity of IOT standardization is the fragmented nature of its adoption base. IOT is a global phenomena and it has expanded its roots to all sectors of life- Factories, Healthcare, transportation, utilities, home. The standards and protocol used for one vertical may not scale well for the other . For example a smart home device may be managed with wireless protocol such as Zigbee or WiFi. But when IOT is used for an M2M application Zigbee or WiFi may not be the right approach we need to look at cellular communication protocols.
Similarly each layer of the IOT architecture could vary depending on which industry its used for. The way an industrial application handles data may be different from the way home device handles it. So arriving at common standard which is aggreable to all has been difficult.
Differences in IOT spring from each layer of the architecture. Each vendor/manufacturer use the approach which easily adaptable to their industry segment.
Where are we now?
Z-wave and Zigbee were the top standards used by several smart home manufacturers in the beginning. But they could not establish themself as the defacto standard for IOT. Then we had many more communication protocols that emerged as the one that could serve the needs of IOT, there re around 12+ protocols now available for IOT, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Zwave, EnOcean, NFC, WiFI, LPWAN, NB-IOT, weightless, LoRA, LTE, Cellular being some of them.
The differences are just not in the communication layer.Different standards are available for data transport in IOT – MQTT, CoAP, REST, SOAP, Websocket.
Many consortium and alliance have been formed to standardize IOT. Some of the as listed below
- The Open Interconnect Consortium has come out with their IOTvity standards
- AllSeen Alliance has their ALLJoyn standard.
- THread group has the thread standard.
- ZigBee Alliance has their Zigbee standard.
- Z Wave alliance.
- Industrial Internet Consortium.
The goal of these consortiums is to find a common ground /standard that every vendor manufacturer can follow while implementing IOT. But unfortunately they haven’t been able to agree on the terms But currently no one has emerged as the leader in setting the standards. Disagreement in standards , licensing has been the reason for no clear winner. Which standard will emerge as a leader will be based on which is easily adoptable by manufacturers.
Right now every vendor puts together the pieces that works best for their application without much thought on the standards. But if IOT has to mature a common standard must emerge which would allow Interoperability of various devices and can scale to different industry verticals seamlessly. Whether this is possible or not depends on how much collaboration happens between these different consortium.