Is there an alternative to IOT standardisation?


29 May 2016
Venkat Krishan of Cognizant

Smart technologies are finding their way into everyday things around us - smartphones, smart cities, smart cars and even smart toothbrushes. However, building and outfitting IT environments with cloud-connected, data-transmitting and self-aware electronics is only a part of the deal. For ambient intelligence to really work, smart devices, smart rooms and the smart things inside them need to speak a common language.

Many organisations still face a road-bump as they await universal standardisation and regulatory bodies to make the Internet of Things (IOT) a reality.

Let’s take a step back and understand the challenge. The issues we face lie in the multitude of languages, protocols and standards, as well as the lack of agreement between each layer of the IOT. This is akin to having too many enterprising cooks in the kitchen, whether proprietary or open source in their approach.

Trying to achieve an industry-wide acceptance of one unified standard might be a wild goose chase with so many standardisation bodies and consortia vying to become king of the mountain. As more organisations pursue ambient computing initiatives, standardisation attempts are more divergent than convergent.

Is there an alternative to the waiting game? What can organisations do to beat competition?

The lack of standards might be overcome with a consolidated approach that meets the needs of various use cases and real-world deployments. In other words, ambient computing is moving away from a singular Internet of Things towards a plural “Internets of Things” that operate independently but can still connect to the public network as required.

Pioneering standardisation groups may collaborate on different layers of IOT in areas such as consolidated protocols for devices and their connectivity; and data management protocols, including collection, storage, modeling and analytics and application protocols that can be deployed to devices and desired ecosystems. The idea would then be to develop an IOT framework that encompasses all the layers with hooks and connectors covering all the entities involved from devices and networks to machine-to-machine and Web standards.

Such a delicate collaboration has indeed worked in the past, most notably amongst telecom service providers. Individual operators followed their own unique protocols until the Telecommunications Industry Association standardised multiple consortia that led to widespread agreements on data centre infrastructure, cabling, fibre-optic color coding and other protocols. The same could happen with ambient computing and for IOT.

Additional time and deeper collaboration might be required for an advanced view of IOT to form. According to research, ubiquitous or entrenched IOT deployments are still five to 10 years out. However, intra-organisational IOT deployments are already taking place, with many conversations already in advanced stages as industry leaders try to establish new thresholds of performance and deliver highly personalised customer experiences, products and services.

But until a consolidated IOT standard emerges, the evolution will be around multiple standards paving the way to best-of-breed solutions.

  • Venkataraman Krishnan is vice president and venture leader, Engineering and Manufacturing Solutions, Cognizant.