In the old days, as they say, a phone was a phone and just a phone. To control the phone, you needed to interface with…the phone. For a great experience with your phone, you needed…a great phone.
With IoT, the phone is controlled by a network of parallel “Things” and to interface with your phone you need to interface with the network. To have a great phone, you need to have a phone with a great relationship with the network of products and services that support its functionality. Welcome to the world of interoperability.
Beyond the Device-Specific Domain
As interoperability becomes a market expectation, new IoT standardization needs to target the entire ecosystem that supports a connected device. Like any new technology market, however, keeping up with the pace of the market offers a unique set of challenges.
It is predicted that 50 billion IoT devices will be available by 2020. For these devices to achieve the seamless interoperability that consumers have come to expect, they must be able to perform three key functions:
When IoT-enabled devices can’t perform these basic functions, they lose their overall functionality for the consumer. This loss disables the device from allowing disparate or overlapping solutions to “talk” (or connect) to each other.
Several factors can contribute to network fragmentation:
- Different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs): Devices or equipment that are not made by the same manufacturer can be difficult or impossible to integrate with gadgets made by others.
- Different operating systems: Different devices may run on different operating systems, creating problems for users who are accustomed to leveraging a single OS.
- Different versions or times of purchase: Devices that weren’t made or purchased at the same time will vary, especially as the IoT continues to evolve and new gadgets with enhanced features are introduced.
Ultimately, lack of standardization in the industry is one of the primary causes of ineffective interoperability, there are competing standards, alliances and closed ecosystems. Despite the barriers and challenges, however, engineering developments are rapidly advancing to meet the market’s needs and plug interoperability gaps.
Solution: Defining Interoperability as a Core Feature
The first step to addressing any problem is to bring it to the front and center. As such, interoperability should be treated as a core feature, according to the Open Solutions Alliance.1 Despite the spirit of competition that drives individual manufacturers and systems to eschew “linking arms” with their competition, there remains the fact that without interoperability, many prospects will simply not be embraced by consumers, resulting in less revenue opportunity for everyone and fewer engineering resources to fix the problem in later releases.
There is always going to be competition, particularly in a blossoming market like IoT that is veritably dripping with possibility, both for economic prosperity and the thrill of innovation. As with any business, vendors are seeking a competitive edge, but, as with any business, the supplier who ultimately makes the best product (in this case, one with the utmost capability for reliable interoperability) is going to succeed in the long-term by comprehending market trends and designing for the future.
Designing for the Future: Integrating Interoperability as a Core Feature in IoT
Any company will need the teams with skills to provide the knowledge, experience, and infrastructure necessary to enable them to become a major player in the competitive IoT market. It’s a new and abstract field that requires highly skilled system integrators. A skilled system integrator can guide the device company through each stage of product development — from architecture to design to building validation.
Essentially, you will need a capable engineering partner to play the following roles simultaneously:
- An ecosystem integrator threading multi-disciplinary technologies to realize a larger IoT solution.
- An engineering partner helping you accelerate your solution’s time-to-market.
- An innovation partner marching at the forefront of next-generation technologies to evaluate their applicability in various domains.
IoT industries need professional consultation to develop and streamline interoperability in a practical and timely manner. Full-package IoT solutions and standards will require cooperation among industrial alliances, which require time to develop and evolve. At the same time, leveraging pure-play product engineering firms can speed up IoT development and overcome standardization challenges.
System integrators can be leveraged for interoperability, cloud orchestrators can be leveraged for cloud integration, expert network analysts can be leveraged for enhanced security. Finding a reliable all-in-one, end-to-end services and solution provider is perhaps a much more valuable and practical solution for IoT solution developers than waiting for industrial alliances.
Atran helps many of the world’s leading technology brands embrace interoperability and ensures that they can make the most of their IoT devices. We take pride in partnering with globally recognized enterprises to help them optimize the IoT and give businesses of all sizes the ability to embrace the IoT.
Altran helps customers create better IoT solutions. Please contact us for more information.