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The Internet of Things Standards Wars

By July 15, 2014Article

With every new technology wave, we’ve witnessed a new round of debates regarding industry standards fostered by various players jockeying for position within the related marketplace. 

Too often, what is lost in all the standards talk is how customers will be best served. So, incorporating representatives of brand-name enterprise organizations, in addition to big name technology and software vendors, is essential. 

The rapid rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has sparked the latest tug-of-war among established and newly created standards groups seeking to set the rules for the IoT so the proponents of each group can gain a competitive advantage. 

The IoT phenomenon poses particularly challenging standards issues for the technology and software industry, as well as the wide assortment of enterprises seeking to capitalize on the promise of the IoT. This is because IoT requires organizations to address a wide array of connectivity, interoperability, security, privacy and compliance considerations in order to successfully implement an IoT initiative. 

Compounding this challenge is the fact that nearly every industry can benefit from IoT deployments but must adhere to a myriad of existing technology and regulatory constraints plus a new set of IT and policy considerations. 

And complicating matters still further are the global interest and nationalistic concerns raised by IoT. 

Among the established standards groups debating how to approach IoT are the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA), European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and ITU Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things (IoT-GSI). 

There are also a growing number of newly created standards groups led by companies seeking to assert their views on the IoT marketplace. The most recent groups to emerge are the Open Interconnect Consortium and the Thread Group. This OIC group is led by Intel, Atmel, Broadcom, Dell, Samsung and Qualcomm. Like other open-source initiatives, the Open Interconnect Consortium member companies are promising to donate their intellectual property (IP) to the community so others can build on their ideas and develop common methodologies to ensure interoperability. 

Google Inc’s Nest Labs is leading the Thread Group, which is seeking to encourage Smart Home gadget makers to use the Thread standard for devices to communicate via a network. The new Thread Group includes Samsung Electronics, ARM Holdings, Freescale Semiconductor, Silicon Labs, Big Ass Fans and lock maker Yale. 

GE is the key driver of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), which also includes Cisco Systems, AT&T, IBM and Intel among its charter members. Since its inception in March 2014, the IIC has grown to over 50 corporate members. 

Intel’s presence on both the IIC and OIC is another common occurrence in the standards world. In part, it is a reflection of the varying areas of focus among the assortment of standards groups circling the IoT marketplace. It is also a common tactic by various companies to hedge their bets regarding which standards they align with in order to ensure they don’t pick the wrong standards group to promote their interests. 

Over the coming months, you can expect a handful of additional standards groups to be formed, especially focused on specific aspects of IoT deployments and particular vertical market issues. 

You can also expect a continuous stream of announcements of the latest companies to align themselves with the various standards groups, which are actively recruiting new members to demonstrate their importance in the rapidly evolving IoT marketplace. 

Determining which standards group deserves your attention and allegiance should be based on which of them attracts the greatest number and diversity of players, and aligns with your specific technological and vertical market areas of concern. 

However, don’t expect the IoT standards to be any better than the standards we’ve seen from previous industry efforts. The truth is that the standard-setting process is fraught with political pressures that inevitably result in compromises and leave plenty of room for proprietary interpretations by the various vendors involved. 

Nonetheless, fostering and establishing industry standards is an essential part of encouraging innovation and ensuring customer success.

Jeffrey Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace and host of the Connected Cloud Summit focused on the IoT market on September 18 in Boston, MA. He can be reached at 




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