The electronics industry understands that developing and deploying IoT devices and services does not happen in a vacuum. The challenges are enormous. Put simply – the value chain consists of taking what used to be individual devices and appliances, adding intelligence, and then connecting these (potentially) billions of devices over the Internet where the data is eventually collected, stored, filtered and spun out into usable data and insights. This requires a litany of players in the supply chain from component and wireless connectivity vendors to mobile and cloud service providers that will need to work together to develop compatible IoT platforms, along with standards and certifications, across industries including consumer, medical, industrial, retail, and the public sector.
Collaboration, including between component suppliers, already has been in full swing since last year. But one of the big challenges today for component manufacturers is how to select the right standards to support. There have been a number of industry-led alliances formed over the past few years including the AllSeen Alliance (AllJoyn IoT Platform), the Open Interconnect Consortium, the Industrial Internet Consortium and the IPSO Alliance. There is also the question of wireless network connectivity, which is a whole other discussion.
One interesting point is that many of the big players, like Cisco, GE and Intel, have joined many of the same groups, hedging their bets on an IoT standards winner. You heard the old expression don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In fact, a recent GSA/McKinsey IoT report for the semiconductor industry pretty much states that is the right thing to do - focus on selected standards that are likely to gain widespread acceptance but plan for alternative scenarios. GSA/McKinsey report analysts also recommended engaging with industry associations or groups that are developing IoT standards. “Such collaboration is important even when companies are trying to help create marketplace standards,” they said.
In fact, some alliances are banding together to drive IoT standards. One example is the EnOcean Alliance (focused on self-powered wireless monitoring and control systems), which recently joined the AllSeen Alliance. The goal of the partnership is to connect the EnOcean ecosystem of more than 350 companies and more than 1,500 batteryless interoperable products to the open source AllSeen Alliance Community.
The ZigBee Alliance and the Thread Group also announced a collaboration to support the development of connected home products. They are collaborating to enable the ZigBee Cluster Library to run over Thread networks.
On top of these industry alliances, component manufacturers are collaborating and teaming up with other component vendors, cloud service providers, and a host of players in the IoT supply chain to grow their own product ecosystems. There are too many to name but some of the most recent ones include Fujitsu and Intel’s Partnership leveraging Fujitsu’s distributed service platform technology with Intel’s IoT Gateway. The first field trial will be to improve manufacturing process efficiency at Shimane Fujitsu, becoming a blueprint for interoperable IoT solutions for manufacturing. They will also address development in retailing and the public sector.
IoT is all about data collection and cloud solution providers are going to play an important role in the adoption of IoT. This means partnerships with cloud solution providers to ease the development of IoT devices and enabling new insights from the data collection. Just this week, Qualcomm announced that it added six new cloud service providers to its ecosystem that are now integrated with its QCA4002 Wi-Fi solution and related development platform. Ayla Networks, Exosite, Kii, Proximetry, Temboo and Xively by LogMeln join 2lemetry (an Amazon company), which was previously announced as a cloud ecosystem provider.
Samsung also announced it partnered with Temboo to incorporate its technology stack to support Samsung’s newly launched ARTIK IoT platform.
But this is nothing new, other components suppliers have been forming these types of relationships since last year. For example, in 2014, Texas Instruments introduced a third-party ecosystem of IoT cloud service providers, including 2lemetry, ARM, Arrayent, Exosite, IBM, LogMeIn, Spark, and Thingsquare as their first members. Looking at TI’s current ecosystem, the company has added at least nine additional companies since last year.
I won’t even include the scores of mergers & acquisitions among component manufacturers related to the IoT over the past year. All of these were made to strengthen their positions in the IoT industry.
This is just the beginning of a new era of collaboration in the electronics industry, where you’ll see competitors working together to drive the development and adoption of these smart devices designed to make our lives better at home and at work.