IoT Silos and the Connected Home August 18, 2014 | by Sean Lorenz
The connected home ecosystem is heating up quickly with major players like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and IBM placing stakes in the ground for protocol allegiances and API definintions. Even at Xively we are seeing an increasing number of customers building IoT products specifically for the home. For example, Lutron recently announced its Caseta system (which is powered by Xively) for wirelessly controlling your home’s lights and shades. With its Smart Bridge and app, Lutron is taking quick strides in bringing together different home products under one hub.
Devout IoT news followers probably know that Lutron isn’t the only one building a hub for the home these days. AllJoyn is an open framework being developed to promote interoperability across manufacturers. The new kid on the block is Thread – another group aiming to interconnect products across the homefront. Needless to say, the open source protocol battle is heating up. Like every technology before it, there will likely be a propagation of protocols in the next few years followed by a quick pruning based on developer acceptance and customer expectation.
So where does Xively fit into the connected home discussion? Let’s continue using Lutron as an example. A homeowner buys the Caseta kit with a few lamp dimmers, remote control blinds, and the Lutron Smart Bridge and App. Each of the dimmers and blinds talk directly to the Smart Bridge where they then use Xively to publish, subscribe, authenticate, and provision Lutron product data in the cloud. In other words, Xively is Switzerland when it comes to hubs and communication INSIDE the home. It’s when product data LEAVES the home and enters the cloud that Xively takes over to handle all the great stuff we talk about on the Platform page.
One way that Xively does help consumer product companies play nicely in the connected home is by making it easy to set, control, and access data within a home. So, if Lutron wanted to create an API, similar to what Nest recently released for 3rd party developers witih its Nest Developer Program, Xively’s RESTful and MQTT APIs would make it easy to offer developers access to various components of Caseta’s data in the cloud. Products in the home, then, have a few ways to access to access one another’s data: 1) a product-specific API built themselves or on top of an IoT Paas like Xively (via the connected product itself or the company’s hub), or 2) create compatible code for one or more of the open source frameworks hoping to become the de facto standard for cross-communication in the connected home.
As more alliances and protocols are bound to emerge in the coming year, it will be essential for consumer product companies to carefully navigate the space and provide solutions that customers want first and foremost. Building a developer API in addition to picking, and coding for, your favorite home IoT alliance is going to require quite a few extra engineering hours. Hopefully for consumers the protocol pruning process will happen quickly so that we can all finally enjoy the decades-long promise of a smarter, connected home. Until that day comes, we at least still have The Clapper.