IoT Availability

It seems to me….

If you think that the internet has changed your life, think again. The IoT is about to change it all over again!” ~ Brendan O’Brien[1].

The Internet of Things (IoT), usually assumed to refer to everyday objects with wireless networking, is one of the next major technological disrupters and will significantly impact how things are done, probably as much as the Internet already has in the past (though its greatest impact should be somewhat transparent to most users). General (broad) artificial intelligence (AI) remains the 500-pound gorilla, potentially the largest disrupter imaginable, but probably remains 40-50 years in the future though more limited development (narrow) will continually occur during that period. IoT is much more immediate; consumer products are already becoming available and will rapidly increase in the near future.

IoT implementation has not yet reached sufficient availability that owners are able to use their phone to control their washer/dryer or any other household appliance. The IoT will allow users to use phone apps to control most such appliances: lights, thermostats, refrigerators, baby monitors, coffeemakers, security cameras, lawn sprinklers, doorbell cams, robo-vacuums, etc. It will allow users to see who’s ringing their doorbell when they are away and even unlock the door if they are expecting someone.

History has shown that convenience is the primary reason for consumer acceptance of a new technology. A product that reduces effort is likely to be a winner but, at least so far, the IoT has not been well accepted; with today’s implementation of consumer products, “things” are not very convenient[2]. Users must download an app, create an account, and connecting the device to their Wi-Fi network.

Apps do not talk to one each other so users must open one app to adjust the lighting, another app to change their speakers’ volume, a third to tweak the temperature, etc.

Developers are aware of these problems but each company has developed its own proprietary standard rather than cooperating on standards to unify these products: Thread (from Google), HomeKit (Apple), AllJoyn (originally Qualcomm) and SmartThings (Samsung), among others. Attempts to settle the standards war has resulted in its own standards war.

Security is an additional issue: should our kitchens, heating and cooling, and other home systems be connected to the Internet possibly providing access to hackers? What about door locks? Some IoT products, such as Internet-connected thermostats from Nest and Honeywell, have had limited success as have home security cams.

One somewhat surprising IoT success is the Amazon Echo, a black cylinder that responds to voice commands similar to a Cortana or Siri voice assistant for your home. Users can request it to play any kind of music, answer questions, check the weather… from across the room.

Amazon continues to add more features to the Echo and is now able to control a networked thermostat (“Set the temperature to 70”), lights (“Turn off the downstairs lights”), music system (“Play romantic guitar on Sonos”), and power-strip outlets (“Turn on the fan”) without the owner having to find (or even own) a phone or open an app.

While voice control represents a breakthrough in convenience, the Echo and its inevitable imitators don’t fully solve the IoT problems. It does not address security problems, initial setup, and works only with certain compatible devices.

An additional difficulty is that problems never considered always develop following the release of any new category of product. There now are indications of some problems with IoT applications when an IoT-based product is either discontinued or no longer supported by its developer which is relatively common in the initial availability of any product.

Rather than leaving users with a useless brick, any IoT or cloud-based product should be constructed using firmware code or software that would switch on in the event of a product reaching the end of its supported life or if a company that manufactures the device ends its support. This software would essentially turn the device into a cloud-independent, standalone device so it would still provide some minimum level of functionality such that it was able to keep performing its basic tasks.

This firmware/software would essentially, upon death of the product and/or company, be made available on an escrowed server that is funded in perpetuity (or for a certain period of time after the company or product dies) or made available on a site run by an independent third party. This may include apps or other software that would be open sourced and include simple interface documentation so that any third-party, such as an open-source project, could support it if it wished.

The hype and potential for IoT is extremely high. Now to see if it can deliver to the extent predicted.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] Brendan O’Brien is a record producer, mixer, engineer, musician, and Chief Architect & Co-Founder of Aria Systems.

[2] Pogue, David. The “Internet of Things” Needs a Fix, Scientific American,, 1 July 2016.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in AllJoyn, Amazon, Apple, Artificial Intelligence, Cortana, Echo, Google, Hackers, HomeKit, Honeywell, Internet of Things, IoT, Microsoft, Nest, Networking, Qualcomm, Samsung, Security, Siri, SmartThings, Thread and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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