Internet of Things, Technology

Are IoT partnerships more important than IoT standards?

Recently, the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem has witnessed multiple partnerships. Some of the noteworthy alliances are listed below:-

  1. AT&T recently announced an IoT partnership with Otis and Globecomm.
  2. Intel Australia confirmed Synnex as their partner.
  3. Dell revealed its IoT Solution Partner Program with more than 20 companies as partners is ready to create an IoT ecosystem, with a variety of players such as SAP, OSIsoft, PTC, Kepware, Microsoft etc.

The Importance of Partnership in IoT

For implementing an end-to-end IoT solution within each domain, there are specific products, skills, and services that are required to be aligned. This involves multiple components, such as sensors; connectivity; hardware devices like smartphones, health devices; platforms; standards; business intelligence; analytics; artificial intelligence etc.

IoT expertise limited to one area may not be enough for making partnerships a crucial element for success. The configuration of these skill sets varies from one use-case to another, thus, enterprises cannot view it as a one-off partnership. It needs to be an ongoing program, which must be inculcated in the culture of the organization, mandating IoT partnerships’ both at operational as well as strategic levels.

“Irrespective of a build or buy approach, IoT markets will strategically and tactically require enterprises to build partnerships and collaborations either for product and service development purposes, for creating channels to market, or for adding value to applications and services.” said Machina Research.

However, the most daunting challenge the enterprises are facing when it comes to embracing the IoT is the lack of security, privacy, and interoperability of standards.

Standards are the backbone for growth

Standardization of technology is imperative, as it increases interoperability of components and lowers entry barriers. Although having well-established standards is of paramount consideration, it is a painstaking task to define them for IoT in near future owing to the specialized communication protocols in each industry. Vendors are launching products without standards in place, which may lead to tiny islands of connected solutions, making them useful only in a specific way and creating an “Intranet of Things” instead of a more meaningful Internet of Things. Standards need to be established and defined in order to avoid creation of mere silos.


As with any past revolution, the laborious task of creating standards cannot keep up with the pace of development of technology. At the same time, there is a high level of competition among enterprises leading to an inclination towards a particular approach. To implement the process of standardization in such a scenario is a challenging task. The complexity of these standardization efforts has evoked comparisons to the VHS and Betamax competition in the 1980s.

There are multiple groups and consortia which are already focusing on defining IoT standards, such as – Open Internet Consortium (OIC), The Thread Group, The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and IEEE P2413. But it’s difficult to predict how soon the standards will be implemented, as IoT space is sprawling, immature and fluidly changing.

Re/Code’s Ina Fried wrote, “there’s no way all of these devices will actually be able to all talk to each other until all this gets settled with either a victory or a truce.”

In the meantime, we’re likely to see some debate among the competing enterprises.

“If this works out at all like past format wars, heavyweights will line up behind each different approach and issue lots of announcements about how much momentum theirs are getting. One effort will undoubtedly gain the lead, eventually everyone will coalesce and then, someday down the road, perhaps all these Internet of Things devices will actually be able to talk to one another.” said Fried.

Conclusion

Both partnerships and standards are crucial for the growth and success of the “Internet of Things”. Nonetheless, it might take a little time for standards to evolve and settle, as has been the case with the past standardization wars. Even though standards are the backbone of IoT and are crucial for realizing the true potential IoT holds for us, partnerships will currently hold more value as heavyweights tend to line up behind their approach. Therefore, the one that is widely accepted will eventually win. However, things are likely to get more turbulent before they calm down.

This post was originally published in IoT-Now Magazine on 12 May 2016 by Tushar Bhatnagar.

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