The Internet Of Things Needs To Solve Its Connectivity Issue


The Internet Of Things Has A Fatal Flaw

Though tech sites and news outlets alike are constantly abuzz with news about the Internet of Things, IoT still has a ways to go before it becomes a large presence in consumer lives and a contender in the tech market. Many blame this on inherent internet issues such as privacy and data collection. But some tech experts are pointing out that one of IoT's biggest hurdles has nothing to do with customer reception. Instead, many believe that before IoT can reach its true potential, it needs to tackle its issues of connectivity. To create intuitive devices that better our daily lives, they need to be able to communicate with each other seemlessly and our current methods of connection just aren't cutting it.

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The "Basket of Remotes" Problem

Wi-Fi, the familiar, leading form of connectivity, has been criticized as power-hungry: the system is made for big-data transfers and therefore is inefficient for the smaller, time-to-time interactions that accompany interconnected objects. While Bluetooth is updating their software to allow it to be more compatible with IoT devices, the system also isn’t a true mesh network. Bluetooth also doesn’t currently support IPv6, the latest version of internet identification which will be the standard for most new IoT software and which offers a huge upgrade to the limited 4.3 billion IP addresses available through IPv4. IoT has also quickly encountered what’s referred to as the “basket of remotes” problem: there’s no centralized standard for IoT object communication. So any enthusiast attempting to embrace the new technology often finds themselves with a variety of devices that do a terrible job at interacting with one another. Instead of the slick, streamlined, interconnected experience the Internet of Things is supposed to bring, IoT users are left with the same hassle that many TV-users face -  different devices, several different controllers, and more of a headache than a blessing because of the lack of real integration. Internet Of Things Basket

Tackling the Connectivity Issue

Hardware companies have already realized this problem: Intel, Dell, and Samsung have announced an Open Interconnect Consortium (IOC), a consortium which later this year will release and develop standards and open source code which can be used by developers to ensure communication between devices. The OIC plans to certify devices which comply with its standards and is hoping that their standards will ensure an interconnected, unified IoT system.


For several companies and startups, the promise of standards and regulation in connectivity isn’t enough. Tech startup Iotera, which recently opened up their Kickstarter, has developed their own network in light of the issues they find with available methods. Iotera produces tiny tags that act as GPS trackers, accelerometers, speakers, temperature sensors, and more. These tags can be attached to any of a number of items to monitor their location and status from a smartphone app, computer, or centralized hub. What sets Iotera apart from similar products like Tile and Taggs their creation of a new network: Iotera’s system allows all of their tags, whether they’re yours or someone else’s, to interact with each other, effectively sharing a free network between all users. Each tag has a range of three to four miles, so their website points out that with only 10 of the devices, cities the size of San Francisco can be completely covered. While Iotera may not be a solution to the growing basket-of-remotes problem, it’s an example of startups innovating forms of connectivity, with a population-reliant network method that may be what the Internet of Things needs.

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Larger companies have also worked to establish new networks, with the most notable announcement ambitiously seeking to replace Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth as the standard form of IoT connectivity for the smart home. A group of seven companies, most notably Samsung and Nest, recently announced Thread, a mesh network built on ZigBee which boasts low power consumption, security, and the ability to connect over 250 smart devices. Google’s Nest thermostat is currently running Thread, and the company promises that they’ll be certifying new devices with Thread in mid-2015. While nobody can be sure whether Thread will accomplish their goal of replacing existing networks, IoT and the smart home market certainly has room for a connectivity system which, according to their website “solves reliability, security, power, and compatibility issues… once and for all.” Thread will have to compete with Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth’s own new IoT network contender, which may have quite an edge due to a recognizable name. Either way, technologies like Thread and Iotera represent the beginnings of solutions to IoT’s connectivity issue, and remind us that new technologies, with new capabilities, are no doubt on the horizon.
Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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