The good news is that the IoT has a new spirit of co-operation …
The bad news, says Nick Booth, is that this could create an opportunity for the Internet of Fiends.
The buzz in the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications industry has never been more positive. At every recent industry event, whether it’s about consumer electronics, smart cars or utilities, the delegates all say there’s a new spirit of co-operation in the air.
Suddenly there is less antagonism about competitive standards. Product manufacturers have seen the light and demand interoperability with all the zeal of recent converts. Everyone’s announcing partnerships. They’re complementing rather than competing with each other. Festival organisers might not recognise it as such, but this is the M2M version of the Summer of Love.
The intelligent building makers are building bridges with each other, while everyone from Sony to Sigfox is creating interfaces and urging partners to do whatever they like. It’s all very trusting and intimate and beautiful to see.
Manufacturers are putting application programming interfaces (APIs) into their product and allowing them to be used in all kinds of ways they never would have dreamed of. All this openness and cross fertilisation is only going to be great for the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Yes, OK, there are still some silos and proprietary no-go areas. Nevertheless, the integration bridges and application program interfaces (APIs) are breaking a lot of the taboos of the M2M industry.
It’s not as if there’s a lowering of standards. Everyone’s got one. But just as Wi-Fi didn’t have to wipe out Bluetooth (as was predicted all those years ago) each standard will triumph in its own niche use case. Meanwhile, everyone’s interested in creating something bigger out of all the various elements, so no single player is ever going to be bigger than the game.
With every component having its own IP address it’s possible IPV6 could create a sort of base level interoperability akin to the effect HTML 4 had on web publishing. It’s not that long ago that publishers were telling consumers which browser was best to use with their games, films or editorial. Now it doesn’t matter, thanks to the omnipotence of HTML 4.
Similarly, it seems like the entire M2M community has concluded that users don’t care about the engineering decisions that have been made to make everything run under the bonnet. They just want their applications to be running. Once the engines of M2M are firing on all cylinders, the consumers will be queuing up in their thousands to pay at the (as a) service stations.
The consensus among industry players is that this year will be the coming of age for the M2M industry. If the story of M2M was being made into a feature film, at some stage the narrator would say that “after that summer, things were never the same”.
However, there’s danger ahead. The new era of openness in the M2M Industry could see the heroes and heroines of the IoT being plunged into a new drama. Standardisation at the communications layer will attract a mass of development at the applications layer. There are doubtless some killer apps in development as we speak. Some of which will be the wrong kinds of killer apps.
The majority of these will do brilliant things. They will provide multiple options for doing great things with your car, your home security and your electricity supply. They could make Britain’s power grid more efficient and help us stave off the electricity shortage that threatens to plunge the nation into a power cut crisis.
However, there is another genre of killer app being developed right now. The same API that helped developers create useful solutions to our power problems will also allow a legion of malware writers to steal our personal information and start demanding ransoms. As I write this, a group called Anonymous has launched its latest martyrdom video on the web, promising to wage war on Donald Trump who, whatever you might think of him, has an electoral mandate that they’ve never earned.
Is enough emphasis being placed on security? As all the fantastic couplings are being made in the industry, are we sure we are taking enough precautions? Who is using your API?
Only the M2M code writers will know. They are the authors of this industry’s future. We will have to wait and see what narrative they write.
The author of this blog is freelance IT and communications writer, Nick Booth.
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