An important issue in the IoT industry is the plethora of IoT standards that exist today and new standards being created. The current situation for IoT standards has been described as a ‘Trainwreck for IoT Vendors‘ and the implication being IoT solutions are going to be pretty dumb. In the recent IoT Developer Survey, interoperability was one of the top concerns, so it is definitely been on the minds of IoT developers.
If we look at why there are so many IoT standards, there are many answers. The simple fact is that all standards are not created equal and some solve very different problems. Many of the different standards exist at different layers of the stack; just like the Internet. There is also lot of innovation required in the IoT industry to enable many of the use cases, for example, LPWAN. We also have to remember IoT is not new. Lots of industries have have massive investments in equipment that uses an existing standard that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Those are some of the valid reasons for the different IoT standards. Of course, they are many not great reasons; as the saying goes ‘standards are like toothbrushes, everyone wants to use one but not other peoples’. XKCD captures the spirit of the worst possible situation for a new IoT standard.
It is time we accept there will be a plethora of IoT standards. Some will become more widely adopted than others, some will fail but we will never get to the ‘one IoT standard to rule them all’. It is just not realistic.
However, we still need to solve the issue of interoperability. There are many use cases of Things/Devices that communicate using different standards but will need to communicate in a consistent manner. It seems to me the only way this interoperability challenge will be solved is in software and ideally open source software. We need an open software platform that enables the standards bazaar and not try to create a cathedral. Kai Kreuzer, Eclipse SmartHome project leader, has published a great video on this topic for Home Automation.
Interoperability is not going to be solved in standards groups. It is going to be solved with running software. Open source IoT platforms are going to be the bedrock for the IoT industry. There is just no other way it will work.