We can handle devices, but can we handle data?

The growth of the internet of things relies on interoperability. Not only is it a necessity, but it is needed on a massive scale, says Suke Jawanda, chief marketing officer of Bluetooth Special Interest Group


Three mainstream connectivity technologies, wi-fi, and Bluetooth smart and cellular, have been and still are providing baseline interoperability between devices and the internet, unlocking the benefits of the interest of things (IoT) for consumers.

Wi-fi enables the transfer of large quantities of data from devices to the internet. It allows source devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, to connect to the cloud and all the data that provides.

Cellular networks provide connection to the internet where wi-fi is not available.

Finally, Bluetooth smart provides the critical connection between the source device and peripheral sensor or other edge devices. This is particularly important where power consumption is a concern, as Bluetooth smart technology enables ultra-low power data transfer.

Bluetooth is a good case study for the explosion in device interoperability in recent years. Even though it’s already the biggest wireless technology in the world, embedded in the most devices, it’s still the fastest growing.  In fact, it took Bluetooth ten years to ship its first billion devices. In 2014 alone, three billion devices will ship and analysts predict this figure will double in the next four years.

The next piece of the puzzle the industry needs to solve is data interoperability

These three technologies work together to seamlessly connect things to each other and the cloud. Manufacturers and third-party developers can count on the wireless technology required for their devices to function to be in their customers’ hands already, and can rest assured in the knowledge that their hardware and associated apps will “just work” with the tablet and smartphones they already own.

The next piece of the puzzle the industry needs to solve is data interoperability. A practical example of this would be in the smart home. Consumers want their lighting, heating and security systems all talking to their mobile devices. What is challenging is integrating all the separate applications, which have these systems’ data fed into them, into a single dashboard for the entire home. The convenience of having all this data consolidated in one place is really what makes the IoT a truly engaging proposition.

The IoT hinges on consumers being able to capitalise on the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model their connected lives are based on. It is consumers’ BYOD lifestyles which prompted massive device interoperability to be unleashed and likewise it is spurring the opportunity for data interoperability. Consumers just want any device they own to work with every other device and the applications they care about.

We’re just starting to see the building blocks of data interoperability put into place. Announced recently at their respective developer conferences, Apple Healthkit and Homekit, and Google Fit are the first information consolidation platforms emerging that can take data from Bluetooth smart devices and provide the user with a holistic view of the status of their health, fitness or home environment by connecting them to cloud applications via cellular or wi-fi.

With Bluetooth smart, wi-fi and cellular already working together to enable massive device interoperability, the stage is set for data interoperability to be the next disruptive opportunity for developers and service providers. Together, these two trends will enable consumers to experience the complete set of benefits the IoT can offer.