Smart homes didn’t rapidly become the norm like all the experts predicted. This can be attributed to significant privacy and security concerns, lack of perceived benefits, and high prices.
However, with the emergence of Amazon Echo four years ago, things are slowly but surely changing. As the Echo, a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa goes through a period of rapid adoption, it has also prompted others to release their own competing voice-controlled smart devices.
This has also opened the door for the proliferation of more IoT devices from smart fridges, locks, thermometers, and much more. According to Gartner, there’ll be around 20.9 billion connected devices by 2020.
Much of that will be smart home products developed for the consumer IoT niche. With the emergence of awesome smart devices like Cujo and Ugo, we can expect to start seeing more smart technologies playing a key role in our homes.
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But when will that happen? I personally think it won’t happen anytime soon as the industry still has to overcome some significant challenges.
Fragmentation & Lack of Standardization
For consumer IoT to become ubiquitous, it has to be supported by a robust ecosystem that can help deliver real value. This is going to be a huge challenge as IoT is highly fragmented on many different levels.
Smart sensors and devices operate on mesh networks, radio networks, and various proprietary operating systems (OS). To access real value, these individual subsystems must be able to seamlessly integrate (from end-to-end).
IoT app development is also quite different from traditional development with .NET, Python, or Java. The development experience will also be completely different because it’s not going to function like a traditional mobile application.
This means that for IoT app development to increase progressively, individual development environments need to be able to easily integrate with the larger IoT ecosystem.
The key challenges faced by consumer IoT app developers are as follows:
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- Mobile OS can’t be easily adapted to IoT devices with low-power sensors
- Proprietary standards and platforms make integration almost impossible
- IoT devices use a variety of radio communication technologies
- Resource-constrained with low power radio standards
- Limited integration with analytical software (in the cloud)
- Mesh networks with multiple network protocols
The more data that can flow seamlessly between all these smart devices, the more options developers will have to build apps that provide real value to the end-user. However, the industry will need to come up with a single standard as right now, we have many that come into conflict making integration (almost) impossible.
Some of these great frameworks and standards that come with various degrees of complexity, different functionality, and abstraction levels include the following:
- Apache Kafka
- OPC US
Security & Privacy Challenges
IoT has already become an attractive target for bad actors. So for IoT to be properly implemented in our homes and become the norm across the planet, security must be addressed immediately and effectively.
Privacy is another major concern as these devices can record and store everything that’s being said and done in the house (but sometimes this same problem can become an advantage). As a result, consumers will now have to not only worry about their smartphone, but also their smart fridge, thermostat, or even a baby monitor being breached.
This makes it important for manufacturers to be proactive and address these problems now without waiting for government legislation. By finding effective solutions to ensure security and privacy for IoT devices in the near future, manufacturers can also highlight it as their USP to help drive mass adoption.
This year, you can expect the adoption of IoT devices to grow, but this will continue to be a slow process because of the challenges listed above. Furthermore, enterprises will also need to find ways to monetize the data and provide IoT services with apps that provide real value to the end user.
The problems with finding top IoT and cybersecurity professionals will also continue for years to come, so manufacturers will need to find innovative ways to make it work.
However, for smart homes to become the norm, the industry needs to make some changes as the current state of IoT is stifling growth. For now, consumer IoT will move forward with home automation, but to stay relevant, we need to find concrete solutions to these persistent IoT challenges.
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