As more and more devices connect to the Internet, if the “Connected Consumer” is to thrive in the world of the Internet of Things, connected solutions need to “just work”. The man-on-the-street needs device connectivity solutions that are easy, reliable and secure.
Currently there are very few truly connected systems available to consumers. They are often extremely expensive and complex to install. Despite the marketing promises, poor foresight and misaligned networking standards have left users with devices that do not play well together.
With so many vertical elements spanning utilities, entertainment and communications, the chances of any one market player with proprietary solutions swooping in to create a fully-formed Internet of Things ecosystem seems fanciful to say the least.
Without having some sort of Gateway to the Internet of Things, it is difficult to see how the various systems and protocols could come together in a manageable way. Without it, it is easy to visualize the Connected Consumer hating their new connected reality with its 15 different systems that they have to master. 15 instruction books and 15 things that could crash. And the dream quickly turns into a nightmare.
But with a Gateway in place, every sci-fi movie scene of people controlling their home from a console could become a reality in a very short period of time. Lights, curtains, temperatures, security, streaming and sharing – all accessible and controllable from a single interface. So what are the requirements for this Gateway to work for this simple, controllable reality?
First of all the Gateway needs to be multi-lingual, to say the least. A Gateway needs to talk all the languages that the devices in its ecosystem talk. As well as the languages that is spoken in the outside world. That means this “Interworking Proxy Framework” needs to be able to talk and translate WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Zwave, DLNA and UpNP. It also needs to connect to WANs, LTE and 3G networks. And it needs to communicate through HTTP, IP and TCP.
Whatever the communications protocol of the Internet of Things Area Network, whether it be SIP-based, HTTP-based or ETSI-based, the Gateway needs to connect to the Cloud via the Internet, through a cellular data network or otherwise. It also needs to support a Client/Server based RESTful architecture for efficient interaction between the Gateway and its Server.
The Gateway needs to be completely inclusive. It needs to have “Automated Service Discovery”. That means that new devices brought into the ecosystem need to be introduced with the simplicity of “plug and play”. It should also have support mechanisms for cloud based device management, so the device can be configured and upgraded within a matter of a few clicks via the cloud. Imagine the expensive nightmare of needing to get an engineer in every time you bought a new device for your home. It just needs to work effortlessly.
Another vital aspect is the requirement for device analytics. The Gateway should be able to relay all device activity to the cloud and applications on the cloud can then perform the analytics. The reporting can include device history for potential tracking purposes, monitor device compliance to agreed profiles and also generate fault management reports.
With all these aspects of a Gateway in place, what does the immediate future look like?
Well, it looks a little like the concepts we have seen for years…only this time it is real. And it is easy. You could take a photo on your smartphone and send the photo to your digital photo frame in your living room. You could check in via your tablet that your elderly parents or grandparents are well with your home surveillance while you are on your lunchbreak. You could turn on your AC or heating to come on or set times for them to come on each day. You could stream the football match you recorded to your home screen from your smartphone. You could drop your video call onto your TV, fullscreen or as a pop-up. And more importantly, you could manage every single aspect from the same interface, rather than having standalone systems to manage each one.
The technology is now available for all of this to happen in the very short term. It just requires a little more ambition and foresight and the massive revenue potential becomes a reality. Not to mention that we, the people, finally get a taste of “living in the future” with all the excitement that brings. The right players need to coalesce around a gateway that can make all of this happen. Consumer Electronics players need to step up their ambition and think beyond their vertically-aligned worlds. Chipset vendors need to ensure that devices and sensors work on the prevailing standards. And mobile operators need to think about how they can enable this new world and take their share of the pie. It is an exciting time for all the players in this market and no-one can afford to stand on the side-lines and watch others grasp the opportunities.