Will connected devices all get along?

IFA 2017 Question of the Day

Communication is key the in the world of IoT. Connected devices need to communicate with networks and, increasingly, with other devices to improve a consumer’s life and to add value to businesses.

How do they do it? How will they do it in the future? And who will decide?

According to software engineer and maker Anna Gerber, the growing number of devices in the IoT space makes interoperability an ongoing challenge.

“Adopting standard protocols has been the traditional approach for maintaining interoperability on the internet. However, for the IoT, standardization processes sometimes struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of change and technologies are released based on upcoming versions of standards that are still subject to change,” Gerber writes.

Further complicating matters is the question of competition. Especially when big new technologies are concerned, tech companies tend to want to stand out, and might therefore avoid collaborating with rivals. That can pose a problem for IoT interoperability.

There is evidence, however, that even fierce competitors see the value in making connected devices get along. For more than a year, Amazon and Microsoft have been working to make their voice-controlled digital assistants communicate with each other. By the end of the year, according to the New York Times, Cortana and Alexa will be able to summon one another. Apple and Google, meanwhile, have not yet signaled any desire to join forces, and may have business reasons to keep their A.I.s isolated.

So why should IoT competitors collaborate? Microsoft chief Satya Nadella said ultimately the motivation is the satisfaction of the consumer. If that end requires Cortana as well as Alexa, he said, then so be it.

“The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it,” Nadella told the Times.

Tell us what you think about the future of IoT device interoperability.

And visit IBM experts in Berlin from September 1–6 at IFA 2017, Europe’s biggest global conference for consumer electronics and adjacent industries, to continue the conversation.

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