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IoT groups are like an orchestra tuning up: The music starts in 2016

Stephen Lawson | Jan. 2, 2015
Multiple industry groups formed in 2014, and there will probably be just as many a year from now.

Yet the cacophony of voices calling for order in IoT probably won't become a harmonious chorus next year. The efforts vendors are making now are just the first stage of a long process, said analyst James Brehm, founder of James Brehm & Associates.

"We need to have the dialogs, but we're really early on," Brehm said. Even vendors within the same group in some cases are pushing conflicting strategies, and a year from now, there may be even more organizations competing to define how IoT gets done, Brehm said.

Though a lot of this maneuvering may happen behind the scenes, it does affect users. The alphabet soup of industry groups makes buyers -- especially consumers -- nervous about getting stranded, Moorhead at Moor Insights & Strategy said.

"They don't want to buy the next Betamax," he said. "For sure, it's holding back the growth of the industry."

The conflicts don't weigh on enterprise IoT as much. There are already 30-year-old interfaces there that need translation, and investments in custom adaptation work can pay off in industrial settings, Moorhead said. Still, the hope is that standardization across industries eventually lowers costs and yields new and useful combinations of data.

In homes and enterprises, no single standard will reign supreme, Machina Research analyst Andy Castonguay said.

"This market, especially, is one of heavy fragmentation, and of innovation, which essentially throws a wrench in the works of a single interface among devices," Castonguay said. But like others, he expects to see consolidation among the various efforts.

Here's one way that might work: Two groups decide they could reach a broader market if their products worked with both specifications instead of one, so they agree to make their technologies talk to each other, Moorhead said. Then they develop the next major release as one. As the dust clears through this kind of consolidation, formal industry-wide standards may take shape in 2017, he said.

If you want to know which specification has staying power, the size and momentum of the group behind it might be good indicators, analysts say. But IoT's future, at least for consumers, may instead be determined by just one player with a big market share and a good idea.

The compromises required in industry groups of many competing vendors can lead to solutions that are less than ideal, and less than ideally easy to use, analyst Brehm said. "Survival of the fittest is sometimes what works best. ... Let people vote with their wallets."

An example from a different type of tech ecosystem is close at hand.

"How many people did Apple work with to make things interoperable to make the iPhone or the iPad a success?" Brehm said. "Fantastic success. No consortium necessary."



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