"Things" are the thing in Internet of Things - Embedded.com

“Things” are the thing in Internet of Things

PARIS — Plenty of people and companies in the technology world tend to come at the Internet of Things by dwelling on the “Internet.” But what if, instead, we started with the “Things?”

This is the premise Skip Ashton, vice president of software at Silicon Labs, laid out in a recent interview with EE Times. He was speaking about broad, industry-level IoT challenges and Silicon Labs' IoT strategies moving into 2015.

Ashton said knowing intimately what “things” are supposed to do and how they think and behave will be the key to solving one of the IoT's most pressing issues: application layers.

Over the past 18 months, the industry has launched numerous consortia, from Qualcomm's AllSeen and Intel's Open Interconnect Consortium to Apple's HomeKit and Google's Thread. Every entity says it's targeting the “interoperability” of things at home, but each is obviously concentrating primarily on its own interests. The “layers” they are working on may be also slightly different from those pursued by others.

Ashton said bluntly that no industry consortium is particularly interested in defining — in gory detail — the specific functions of, say, what a door lock is supposed to do. Of course, “smart people [pursuing IoT] in Silicon Valley can get together and debate what electronic door locks should do besides opening and closing.” But if you talk to lock companies, they'll say they've already defined functions such as battery checks, scheduled routines for locking specific doors, complex rolling codes, and maintenance codes.

The library of commands for each function already exists, he said. “No door lock companies are looking forward to going through another arduous process of sitting around at a table and discussing what are already described in a binary format.”

Nevertheless, someone, or some group, has to translate those already determined commands into an IP-friendly format. Ashton would not name names, but he said one of the standards organizations will take up the challenge in 2015. “The information is not public yet,” but this will be the first step to “knock barriers down for IoT” in 2015.

Skip Ashton discussed the connected home at the Thread Information Session on Sept. 30.

Skip Ashton discussed the connected home at the Thread Information Session on Sept. 30.

Besides working for Silicon Labs, Ashton has been active in a number of consortia. He's serving as vice president of technology at Thread Group while chairing the ZigBee Technical Committee. Following is a digest of our conversation with him.

EE Times: What's missing in the IoT today?

Ashton: Unlike a lot of companies who come at IoT from the “I[nternet]” end of the business, we at Silicon Labs see ourselves in the “Things” business. We know how complex things could be and how painful it is to manage them without an IoT manager at home.

Missing today in the IoT are reliability and robustness. For example, consumers know, when they flick a switch, the light turns on. They expect switches to be infinitely reliable. But if new wirelessly connected light switches worked only 95 or 97% of the time for some reason, we'd have to cancel the project.

EE Times: So you're implying that those in the “I” end of the IoT business may have a contrasting view of things.

To read more of this external content, go to: “Apps Layer: '800lb Gorilla' in IoT Nobody Talks About.

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