I’ve always been a techno-junkie. I love to explore new technologies and gadgets to see what they can do and where the limits are. I tend to hang around with people like that, too. My friend Randy owned a four-bedroom home that—I promise I’m not making this up—had an entire bedroom filled with discarded technologies like Palm Pilots, Apple Newtons, floppy disks, and even CB radios.
I have the same disease, but there’s a partial governor on my buying behavior because I’m married. Nevertheless, I have a lot of connected devices in my home, and it occurred to me lately that the smart-home movement is a harbinger of the Internet of Things as it relates to business.
Let me explain. Right now in my home, I have seven networks:
- Wired Ethernet
- Wireless (two zones with repeaters)
- DirecTV (proprietary network that talks to nothing else natively)
- Security system and thermostat control (cellular, no ability to connect with Ethernet)
- Surveillance (Power Over Ethernet hybrid with a DVR unit that does bridge across to my Ethernet network)
- X10 (no snickering—that was state of the art in 2003)
- Sonos (separate network that bridges to my Ethernet)
Even if you don’t count the wireless set-up separately, I still have six networks. Can I get to a lot of disparate devices? Absolutely. But most of them have a separate application for the iPhone or Droid. To go from controlling my pool equipment to controlling my BBQ pit temperature/fan controller, I have to switch to a separate app.
Everything has a different interface; all have dedicated web pages or their own standalone application. There is no single place from which I can control my home’s security, video, temperature, lights, etc. because everything’s proprietary.
Are there companies trying to fix this? Absolutely. A quick search will show you the following products and initiatives:
- Apple’s Homekit. Apple seems open to partnerships here, but they’ll still be in the driver’s seat.
- Open Interconnect Consortium. Many hardware companies sponsor this, including Intel, Dell, Cisco, and Samsung.
- AllJoyn. Linux-based open source originally started by Qualcomm.
When you look beyond the ones that are open or semi-open, it gets even more fragmented:
- Smart Home. A hub that allows control of compatible hardware.
- Loew’s IRIS. A hub that allows control of compatible hardware.
- Home Depot’s Wink. A hub that allows control of compatible hardware.
- Staples’ Connect. A hub that allows control of compatible hardware.
Although a couple of these products try to do some device integration of their own, for the most part you have to select a standard or a smart-hub collective and buy only those products.
In the meantime, I can put in a smart-home system that will turn on the air conditioning when I open my garage door, turn on the spa, and adjust the lighting in the kitchen so I can cook—if I’m willing to throw out all the devices and hardware I have now. Then I’ll cross my fingers really tightly and hope my selected solution succeeds long term in the marketplace.
My point is that there’s a lot of talk right now about the Internet of Things (IoT). But we don’t benefit from somethings being connected—the gains come when everythingis connected to everything else. We need activities to be enabled across multiple connected devices. Unfortunately, we’re a long way from standards at home. And even farther from them at work.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore what IoT initiatives can do for your business today. But be prepared to do a lot of integrating and coding to make a solution work, and understand that standards are lacking right now, so you’ll need to look at short- and mid-term ROIs.
I’ve got to get back to figuring out how to rip out 13-year-old X10 light switches. We’ll talk later.