Too Much of a Good Thing

More Competing Standards for Connecting Things


Google, Apple, and Microsoft are staking out their territories in the post-PC era, each officially supporting the development of competing connectivity frameworks. This is adding more complexity for developers and ultimately confusion for consumers.

In early June, Apple introduced its HomeKit framework for home automation devices. HomeKit enables the centralised control of connected objects such as smart locks, switches, lights and security cameras, and will make it possible to group devices into “scenes” and control them through Apple’s Siri voice interface rather than using several different apps. A few weeks after Apple’s announcement, Google unveiled its Works with Nest project, which covers many of the same usage examples and controls many of the same devices.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it joined the Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance, a competitor to parts of HomeKit and Works with Nest. AllSeen is based on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn open-source project, and is certainly the most open of the three schemes. The move highlights the evolution of player strategies over the past 10 years.

It’s no surprise that Google, Apple, and Microsoft each back different consortia which aim to standardise the smart home and connected objects. The three systems are not necessarily silos (interaction across them is possible by incorporating the other’s APIs), but it does indicate that cross-industry cooperation is not yet a primary goal.

However, the market could be in for more complexity as yet another standardisation organization and framework is rumoured to be the works. Reuters reported yesterday that several of Qualcomm’s chipmaker competitors might form their own consortium in further strategic elbowing in the new space.

Such market jostling and standards skirmishes indicate that the Internet of things is still at an adolescence stage, and industry-wide cooperation is required to meet many of the potential visions. The Internet itself is standardised in a very different fashion and would be a better model for the way forward. The way it looks now, things are getting out of hand.