The recent news that Amazon, Apple, and Google are working together to create a new standard for smart home communication is a rare display of unity amongst the giants of our interconnected worlds. Bob Bajoras, President of Art+Logic looks into the issue.
With the discussions around a common standard some questions inevitably come to mind: Will the work be successful? Is this the right time for this? Why now? A big challenge will be with the intricacies of getting different devices, both software and hardware, to communicate to each other.
Bob Bajoras, President of Art+Logic, an innovative software development firm for over 25 years, who have worked with Google and Apple in the past, has some thoughts on the plans.
Digital Journal: How important is it to have a single standard for home communication?
Bob Bajoras: Speaking as a software and hardware developer, the standard is important in that it simplifies entry into the market. I no longer have to choose a team in order to get into the game. As long as my product adheres to the standard, I'm guaranteed that it will have value to potential customers. Meaning it will work with end users that are running a smart home network that conforms to the new standard, which, if I'm understanding the goal, should be every household with a WiFi network.
That all sounds great, but what I see as the most important outcome is that we could see new companies enter the market. New players with a fresh perspective and a desire or need to stand out in the crowd will encourage more innovation. Hopefully we'll see new products that not only conform to the standard, but also offer new capabilities.
DJ: How easily will this be achieved?
Bajoras: I'm fairly optimistic it can get done. There are many more contributors than just the big three companies, that being Amazon, Google, and Apple. I think some of the "smaller" members of the Zigbee Alliance will push to get the standard adopted. These are members representing some of the potential new players in the market that would most benefit from the standard.
DJ: Will the outcome be successful?
Bajoras: Again, I'm feeling optimistic. I think it will succeed at expanding the user base. End users that haven't bought into the smart home idea may get on board when they hear that they don't have to choose between competing technologies. Consumers may see the simplification of smart home products operating directly on their existing Wifi without the need to deploy a separate technology specific bridge, as a reason to give it a try. New companies may offer lower cost products, which would also entice new customers to give smart home devices a try. Also, as I mentioned earlier, if new companies join the market and begin to produce new innovative solutions, that would be a successful outcome to me.
DJ: Out of Amazon, Apple, and Google, who will be the dominant partner?
Bajoras: Good question. You might think it will be Amazon if Amazon sees a standard protocol as a threat to their position as the leader in market share. Or it might be Apple if Apple sees this as an opportunity to increase their market share. As it stands right now, the working group looks to be focused on finding a common ground. Let's look at what all the existing platforms have in common. Let's start there and then look at the strengths of each platform and see how that can be integrated with a standard. It will be interesting to see how far that strategy goes before commercial priorities start to creep into the process.
DJ: Will the collaboration last in the long-term?
Bajoras: The only "guarantee" is that the collaboration will last long enough to adopt a standard. I'm confident we'll get that far. Once the standard has been established and products begin to hit the market, competition will encourage manufacturers to differentiate their products. As soon as one manufacturer develops functionality that only works with their devices, it won't matter if those devices are compatible with the communication standard. Consumers will once again be faced with the decision to adopt that company's product line in order to take advantage of features only offered with their products.
Even if the protocol is open-source, that doesn't preclude manufacturer's from developing proprietary functionality.
DJ: What does the development mean for other companies hoping to enter the smart home communication market?
Bajoras: As I've said several times because I think this is the most important outcome of adopting a standard, having a standard should open up the market to new players. Developing a quality consumer product requires a substantial financial investment. To support multiple technologies requires an even larger investment, one that many companies won't be able to justify.
Companies that do decide to jump in are essentially facing two options today: To keep costs down, they'll choose one of the current technologies to support and run the risk of losing that investment if they pick the wrong tech to hang their hat, or go all-in and spend the development funds required to support multiple technologies, which means waiting longer before realizing any return, assuming they ever recoup their investment.