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Interoperability, user experience key for the Internet of Things – Notes from MWC15


“The smart thing that Apple did with the iPhone was that it gave the SDK of the accelerometer and gyroscope to app developers,” Danny Lousberg, Director of Product Management, Technicolor said, at a session at the Mobile World Congress. Referring to the AllJoyn framework, Lousberg said that “This software project exposes the capabilities of the things around you in the same way (as Apple): displays, speakers, clocks.” The session on the Internet of things was organized by the AllSeen Alliance, a non profit consortium with 141 members across consumer durables and technology, which promotes the “Internet of Everything”. Technicolor is a premier member, as are Electrolux, Haier, LG, Microsoft, Panasonic, Bosch, Lenovo, among several others.

allseen-allianceSome notes from the sessions by Lousberg and Yuri Buluy from MobilityLab, and a couple of executives from Microsoft: Ivan Judson and Felix Rieseberg.


1. Three basic tips:

1. “(As a manufacturer/developer) Target the entire ecosystem. Philips is looking at 10 million devices by the end of the year. Help us grow the ecosystem.”
2. “Take location into account. Design it around what the user is expecting, and whether in home or office.”
3. “Design for security, use the gateway agent for sandboxing.”

2. Designing for user experiences

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– The user only cares about functionality:“One user experience, irrespective of which devices the consumer uses. Typically, the normal consumer doesn’t care about tech, they care about functionality. We need to create devices that are capable of making smart decisions on behalf of consumers. AllSeen makes all the information of sensors across the home available to app developers. If you have the information, they can make sense of it on behalf of the user.”

“The user doesn’t need to notice that the devices are connected. The future is where the user just gets the device and things just work the way they have to work. It just works the way that you expect it to work.”

– Designing a different experience based on where you are: “The smartphone is a nomadic device, sometimes connected to a hot-spot, sometimes the home network, sometimes an LTE network. A connected car is the most expensive IoT device. It’s important to understand what the specific needs of those devices are.”

“The more interesting part is how you design the app based on where you are, at home or outside. If I’m at home, and I launch a thermostat app, it should pop up a dial that lets me set the temperature. If I’m outside, I want to program what the temperature must be once I get home. The interface shown when at home and outside should be different.”

“There is also the network side of things: if I have a security camera at home, I might want HD video when home, and scale it down once I’m outside. How do we go beyond the proximal network (home network), where your devices are in touch with each other?”

3. Interoperability:

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– It’s complicated: “IoT is something even bigger than the international space station. Think of how many countries collaborated in that to make sure all systems work together. The scale of the problem of IoT is bigger. Many more things need to cooperate and interoperate when every single provider builds their own hardware and software. The downside is that we have four pillars where they used to be one: hardware, software, data and security.”

“Too many moving parts. If you focus on any area, you’ll build one of these areas well. If we don’t cooperate as an industry we will have at least one weakness, and which is why we have to work together. This is why all of us have to work on all of these things and cooperate.”

– User experience demands interoperability: “I don’t think anyone wants to buy a product from supplier A, another from supplier B, and then try and make them work together. There has to be one platform.”

– Standard standard?: This year, next year, we’ll see many standards partners come together to make this happen. We’ve seen this in many other technology: one standard becomes the winning standard, and that is usually done by bringing many partners together.”

“You don’t want to duplicate code, and talk to devices using different protocols at home versus outside.”

“At some point, the user is going to be overwhelmed with multiple devices and services, so the AllSeen gateway agent allows you to use the same service across devices. It allows you to connect to other proximal networks (primary and vacation homes, home and office), AllJoyn to Alljoyn, AllJoyn to PAN (Zigbee, Z-wave, echonet)

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4. Security & Privacy: “You don’t want any app to mess with your gateway. It should sandbox all the third party modules, so that they can’t touch any third party application in your gateway device. Secondly, you can get only a filtered view of the LAN. Your entire home network is not going to be exposed to the outside world. It will only have access to the APIs of the gateway agent.

“When designing applications, take into account that users are more and more aware of privacy implications. Put the user in control. Don’t make it complex.”

5. Complexity in starting an IoT company: “People who are building software are not hardware experts and people who are building hardware are not software experts.”

“Heatworks is a small company with 10-15 people. The founder has a track record of building businesses. It builds products that can heat anything that has minerals. It’s incredibly simple: some conductors and a board. They have mechanical engineers, hardware engineers, supply chain management engineers. They have one software engineer who writes firmware. Security is proximate. In order to get this to the market, they have to check cloud infrastructure. How do they build a mobile experience? Something that sets the temperature to the level that I want when I go, and a different level that my wife wants.”

“In a market of a trillion devices, how do we do it at scale? We collaborate around open source solutions.”

6. It’s all about software and applications: “We’re going to reach a point where what you’re building doesn’t matter, because what the consumer is buying (in terms of hardware) doesn’t matter. It won’t be about which heater it is, but about how it works when you have real applications such as being able to walk into a shower without really changing anything. The user experience will kinda grow as a mesh.”

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7. Handling data: “Imagine the amount of data from a car: It’s currently around 25,000 abstracted data points for a 10 minute trip, whereas inside the car, it is gigs (gigabytes) per day. You need to analyse this data in real time: you need to at least do something in a low latency manner. automate future predictions, comparing it with historical data in the event hub, and make recommendations. People are racing each other to come up with scenarios for it.”

“If you go to Netflix, it knows what movie you might like. That is a machine looking at patterns. We can do really well with a very small number of data points. With more data points available, you can do more things. There’s a company in California that is running a brute force attack against AIDS, fully automated.”

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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