What You’re Asking For Is Not What You’re Actually Asking For

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Stop saying, “Make my devices talk to each other.”  What you really want to say is “Make my devices work together.”  Subtle difference?  Maybe.  But it can have profound impacts on how we design the Connected Home.

There have been numerous attempts over the past 2 decades to create what amounts to an Internet of Things Interoperability Standard – see Zwave, X10, ZigBee, IoTivity, UPnP, Thread, Weave, AllJoyn and HomeKit.  The best minds of the industry have collectively spent countless man-years designing, developing, debating and promoting these various standards that can indeed allow devices to “talk to each other”.  And yet if today you have more than one connected device in your home they almost certainly do not, in fact, talk to each other.

By and large devices don’t need to “talk to each other” any more than your right hand needs to talk to your left hand in order to clap.

Your brain coordinates the actions of your hands to cause a clap.  So too in the smart home, a coordinating “brain” of some sort should cause your devices to work together to create useful automation.

This notion of “working together” versus “talking to each other” massively changes how device makers can think about building products.  So rather than trying to wrangle an all-encompassing interoperability standard (which would enable every thermostat to “talk to” every TV, door lock, or light bulb) device makers really just need to build appropriate network connectivity and an open API that allows a coordinating system to communicate with it.

Devices built this way put consumers who buy them in control.  The consumer can use each device in a stand-alone manner (which most people do today) or they can adopt a controller product to make that product work with the other gear in their home.  There are smart phone apps, Cloud solutions and network hubs that can achieve this coordination.  What’s right for Jim in Savannah is probably different than what’s right for Jane in Ottawa.  The device makers just need to design their devices to be individually smart and open then leave it up to Jim or Jane to select the best solution to make all of their things collectively smart.