Unifying a Fragmented "Internet of Things"

While just about everybody would agree that the “Internet of Things” within the context of machine-to-machine (M2M) applications is one of the next big things on the Web, turning that vision into reality has been problematic because of the lack of standards.

To address that specific issue a cross-industry group called The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) has been promoting the adoption of a oneM2M initiative that promises to harmonize various standard initiatives in a way that should make the “Internet of Things” truly programmable.

Speaking at the recent ITEXPO West conference, Dr. David Foote, CTO for Hitachi CTA and vice chair of the oneM2M Steering Committee, says because M2M market is overly fragmented, there are no standard APIs that developers can use to build M2M applications. Ultimately, this only serves to retard the development of the “Internet of Things,” which today is little more than a hodgepodge of incompatible proprietary systems.

To unify the “Internet of Things” Foote argues there needs to be a common set of services that can be invoked via an API. Developers will still be able to use multiple tools to invoke APIs, but each M2M Platform should not require developers to learn yet another set of arcane APIs to build an application, says Foote.

What Foote is getting at is nothing short of a multi-billion opportunity for developers. Unfortunately, the providers of M2M technologies gave never been galvanized around creating that opportunity; opting instead to concentrate on proprietary APIs in what is arguably a misguided effort to maintain control at the expense of market expansion.

Programmability is hardly the only issue holding back M2M applications. There is a crying need for greater amounts of bandwidth and better understanding of the actual costs involved. In fact, Patricia Iurato, vice president of sales of the manufacturing vertical team at Verizon Wireless argues that too many customers think of M2M like a cellular phone call, which results in some erroneous assumptions relative costs. Verizon, for example, will work with customers to bundle data connections in a way that dramatically cuts costs.

More importantly from a developer perspective, Verizon has set up a think tank in Waltham, Mass. where they can work with Verizon experts to help develop these applications for free, says Iurato.

There’s no doubt that the “Internet of Things” represents the next great opportunity for developers. The challenge has been finding a way to turn that vision into an actual application reality.

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