The Internet of Things is failing

Cocoon Labs

Internet of Things

In the 1960s consumers were promised their lives would be made easier by smart domestic devices all working together. This poster from the period might seem crazy at first glance but the description has many parallels with the vision of domestic bliss being painted by proponents of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The marketing engines of the big technology brands are creating high expectations of IoT in consumer minds. Sadly, the first experience a consumer has of IoT will be a far cry from that promised. Individual products might work well with their respective mobile apps but there’s presently little chance of two purchases working well together. First impressions count and the risk is that IoT won’t get a second chance.

Seamless user experience

Programming the first generation of smart home controllers (or “brains” in 60s terminology) is like programming a VCR in the 80s – few can do it! Mass market adoption not only requires the verb “program” to drop from smart home lexicon but for interaction paradigms to be unified across products.

Apple is often held up as the epitome of great user experience. Perhaps then HomeKit could be a catalyst for the seamless experience (at least for Apple users) we all crave. It’s by no means certain though – right back in 2011, [email protected] was announced with similar goals. That died a death and ended up with Google paying $3.2Bn for Nest in 2014 to re-kindle it’s smart home efforts.

Making the connection

ZigBee and Z-Wave have been touted for years but market adoption of both is still anemic. The battle between these standards may have been a side show though. Some big names including Google and Samsung say neither has what’s required and have teamed up to launch the competing Thread networking standard. Add into the equation Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which though not directly comparable will be in every mobile device on the planet and the race is even more open.

There’s a few horses in the platform race too. The open source AllSeen Alliance is backed by Microsoft and Sony whilst Samsung and Intel are behind the Open Interconnect Alliance.

Navigating though the confusion

Buyers of our smart home security product often expect it to work with other things. That’s understandable, there’s huge potential to deliver a tangible benefit through Cocoon interacting with other devices.

Cocoon might lock your August smart lock when you retire for the night, play sounds though your Sonos HiFi to persuade a prospective intruder that someone’s home or other smart devices might respond to Cocoon noticing you retiring for the night. Perhaps they’ll even be use cases outside your house such as a social neighborhood watch scheme.

For now, our view is that the lowest common denominator is IP – everything will be connected to the Internet one way or another but likely through the router. Cocoon is no exception and we’ve committed to open APIs so that our customers can benefit from Cocoon interacting with other devices.

The smart home revolution will fail before its started if consumer experience and compatibility isn’t unified across the industry though. Its beyond us to solve that problem so we can only hope the big brands conclude their standards battles before its too late for everyone. We’ll be the first to adopt the standard as soon as there is one but the industry can’t wait forever.