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The Age of Closed Proprietary Systems Has Come to an End

A major challenge implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) is deploying large numbers of sensor and actuator nodes and connecting them in a suitable way. The characteristics of energy-harvesting wireless technology make it the perfect fit to bridge the last mile in an IoT network: small devices working without cables and batteries allowing a simple installation as well as quite easy gradual up-scaling in the number of deployed units. At the same time, the components require minimal service and maintenance effort.

But wireless and self-powered communication of the numerous nodes is just one building block for a wide adoption of an IoT. There are several other factors that need to be considered.

Easy device commissioning
As part of a user-friendly plug-and-play setup, easy device commissioning is essential. Adding and removing components to and from a networked infrastructure by consumers must be painless, quick, and even fun to do. Eventually, this even includes switching the device into different operation modes or selecting functions from a pre-set menu. Device commissioning, as it is called, is part of the installation process.

Using wireless remote commissioning technologies like, for instance, Near Field Communication (NFC) is a possible implementation. This way, the installer can reach the device directly and via tools he is already familiar with — PC, tablets, smartphones. In the future we will see a variety of very attractive graphical user interfaces running on standard IT equipment rather than the need for every sensor node running its own.

Unlimited connectivity
This brings us to the claim of an unlimited connectivity. Whether it’s Android, Windows, Java, etc. — the complete world of operating systems needs to be covered so that self-powered sensor nodes can be controlled via all devices, independent of the standard or protocol they are using. This requires standardized interfaces to be defined.

But this is not only the responsibility of the OS vendors. It’s rather up to us, the providers of energy-harvesting wireless technology, to define an open connectivity between self-powered communication and the OS world or different radio and line-powered protocols.

Data security
The ability of connecting everything and exchanging data from billions of distributed points demands security. So, from the sensor node to data processing in the cloud, all involved players must be committed to a high data integrity ensuring adequate signaling combined with confidentiality, authenticity, and DoS protection. Nevertheless, the level of security must be adapted to the component’s role in an application, ranging from state-of-the art encryption of a sensor node to the highest security level for the cloud connectivity. These different security levels are inevitable to ensure system functionality while offering adequate protection of data.

Low costs
Finally, cost is almost always a limiting or, rather, a liberating factor. Traditional approaches put the connectivity of several standards into a gateway. But traditional ways are by no means what will make the IoT happen. Putting the protocol translation into functional devices will lower the costs for the connectivity and increase the users’ acceptance. They don’t need to put additional gateways to the system to make it work but can use a device that combines control functionality in the network, such as an LED relay, for instance, with the translation.

The IoT has several requirements that can all be met by wireless self-powered sensor and actuator nodes, which are accessed via other protocols. All necessary technologies already exist today. The task now is to connect them in a seamless and secure way while leveraging the economies of scale at the same time. This shows clearly that the age of proprietary systems and protocols is over. A highly connected world requires vendors that create open interfaces to their systems and work closely together with each other.

19 comments on “The Age of Closed Proprietary Systems Has Come to an End

  1. Netcrawl
    March 10, 2014

    Interoperability is probably the single biggest challenge here, interoperability defines association with hardware/software and platforms enabling M2M communication, it uses mainly communication protocols and the massive infrastructure needed for those protocols to operate and communicate. interoperability is key in IoT, without interoperability sensors and consumer devices and sensor-equipped devices will not able to recognize each other and communicate.  

  2. samicksha
    March 11, 2014

    One of the challenge i have seen people discussing about is Battery Life, It is estimated that there will be around 24 billion connected devices by the year 2020. Given current energy availability, powering these devices will be impossible and in that case Battery will be the source.

  3. eafpres
    March 12, 2014

    Hi Matthias–i'm not sure exactly what you are suggesting.  Being able to communicate regardless of wireless standard or protocol seems like a big order.  I agree with you that easy provisioning is key.  That applies to integating WiFi nodes into a WLAN infrastructure, or Bluetooth, etc.  It applies of course to cellular connectons.  For cellular nodes, does this imply you would consider bundling the service with the sale of devices so that they would arrive to the customer already provisioned onto a carrier network?

  4. fasmicro
    March 12, 2014

    Great piece. This is certainly the new reality. The old model where companies closed everything does not have a role in today's business ecosystem. As we see open systems take up markets, sooner or later, all the old structures will be broken. It is amazing how the world has embraced Android over Blackberry despite the latter's claim of better security. Closed proprietary system has certainly come to and end. I am not sure I will buy a product I cannot put an add-on where possible.

  5. chirshadblog
    March 13, 2014

    @samicksha: I feel that the battery life is going down each and every day. The main reason behind it is the number of processors that runs within the device. I think we cannot blame the device about it since right now the phones are not just to make calls only. Its more of a multipurpose device. 

  6. samicksha
    March 13, 2014

    I understand your point @chirshadblog, but again battery life is one of the very important aspect before we judge the device so in my terms if battery is not good enough it may not give reputation or good stand to device in market.

  7. eafpres
    March 14, 2014

    @fasmicro–“The old model where companies closed everything does not have a role in today's business ecosystem.”

    I'm not sure I agree.  Let me describe a scenario.  In my comment on the other article I talked about thinking of the home as a machine, and it has lots of possibe sensor nodes.  Now let's say that every home automation device should use a wireless standard vs. a proprietay method.  Then let's say that there is a protocol that simply passes “payloads” from the node to a listener.  Let's make that listener a gateway that can link to many standards for short-range wireless.  Then the gateway is connected to the internet.  Now the listener is a cloud-based web application.  The content of the payloads only makes sense to that application, because it was written for the hardware.  Perhaps we come to some agreement with 10 or 15 suppliers of home automation nodes, so they share their payload definition with us, so our app can be friendly with their hardware.

    The payloads and the application are “closed an proprietary” according to this blog and your comment.  I don't see that part as much of a problem.

  8. Davidled
    March 16, 2014

    Traditionally, industry IoT application includes building and manufactory automation, transportation, cards, engineering tool and smart energy. In reality, there are so many harsh environment such as smoke, temperature variation (too hot or too cold), location below ground or surrounded by weakest cellular coverage area, and any noise due to electric characterizes of device or other factor.  These components cause the performance degrade of IoT.  In the future, internet protocol such as 802.15.14, Wifi should be upgrade with multiple layers and/or multiple communication protocol.

  9. chirshadblog
    March 17, 2014

    @DaeJ: Yes the best would be to go for multiple layers since the security aspects would be more towards the plus side. 

  10. fasmicro
    March 22, 2014

    The main reason behind it is the number of processors that runs within the device.

    Absolutely, that is why companies must look for minimal designs. I spend time to understand what I need in devices and buy for optimality. You have to charge your phone daily because there are many things demanding power which add no value to your daily use. Imagine if we have the urge to not add those rarely-used devices, battery life usage may improve.

  11. fasmicro
    March 22, 2014

    >> The payloads and the application are “closed an proprietary” according to this blog and your comment.  I don't see that part as much of a problem.

    I agree on the piece. My comment was general, not specific on the blog content. My point is that we need to transition to the point where companies build things and offer a platform for users and customers to build on top of them. Imagine if you have that home automation and the owner of the house can reasonably add new features like toys etc inside that network. He has done that because your platform is open and he can pull codes from the web. As Android has shown, you get more customers when you do not limit their imaginations on your products by staying closed. 

     

  12. fasmicro
    March 22, 2014

    Yes, battery quality is one of the first things reviewers check when they examine mobile devices. I am not sure any product has a chance in the market if the battery is not optimally good.

  13. fasmicro
    March 22, 2014

    >> @DaeJ: Yes the best would be to go for multiple layers since the security aspects would be more towards the plus side. 

    But we must understand that security costs usability. So, it is not a slam dunk that one can simply pile layers of security without affecting the user experience.

  14. eafpres
    March 22, 2014

    @fasmicro–thanks for your thoughts.  I think it depends on where you draw the line between the value you provide directly and the value you provide by offering the platform for the customer to build upon.  One issue is reliability–there are lots of apps for Android that do great things, and true for iOS as well.  But both platforms can behave erratically, crash, etc.  So there needs to be a balance.  For the kinds of things I'm interested in IoT for, the reliabilty has to be a lot better than most mobile platforms.

    Now we see lots of companies big and small offering IoT platforms via web platforms.  As you say, the market will let us know what it wants in due course.

  15. samicksha
    March 24, 2014

    Battery is one of the important aspect before we judge any device, if device is not online or available then its next to useless. Also keeping fact in mind that fast charging increases component changes, shortening battery lifespan.

  16. fasmicro
    May 1, 2014

    @eafpress, you made a good point on the need to have a balance >> Now we see lots of companies big and small offering IoT platforms via web platforms.  As you say, the market will let us know what it wants in due course.>> Usually, I have noticed that the market innovator can start closed. For those trying to catch-up, you need to open it up. One of the reasons Facebook beat Myspace was allowing 3rd party plugins. The same is for Android over iOS. As you said, it all depends.

  17. fasmicro
    May 1, 2014

    Battery is one of the important aspect before we judge any device, if device is not online or available then its next to useless.

    This becomes more important if it is a product from China. With all due respect, they lag behind in making products with reasonable battery performance thereby creating problems for the buyer and themselves losing markets. If the battery does not perform well, nothing matters.

  18. samicksha
    May 7, 2014

    @fasmicro, I am not sure about trend in US but here in India most of the products says that they made in China. In Fact Top brands like Apple and Samsug also get their products delivered from China.

  19. fasmicro
    June 4, 2014

    >>  In Fact Top brands like Apple and Samsug also get their products delivered from China

    Sure, they are assembled in China but most times, they are designed outside of China. Take for example, MediaTek chipset powers most of the phones shipped from China. You may not see their logo on the package but they provide the engine of those phones.And MediaTek depends on UK-based ARM to provide the processor.

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