Interoperability challenges can arise when attempting to integrate devices made by different manufacturers. If the device and cloud service are from the same vendor and if proprietary data protocols are used between device and cloud service, then user may be tied to a specific cloud service, limiting or preventing the use of alternative service providers. This is commonly referred to as vendor lock-in. IoT customers too are starting to consider Vendor lock in problem.
The IoT market is evolving through three phases:
Do IoT Yourself (DIY) : Early companies into IoT had to build everything themselves – devices, gateways, cloud platform and application – because there was no-one else to buy these parts from. This took a lot of time and money, and the resulting solution was unlikely to be interoperable with anything else because the design choices that were made along the way are unlikely to be the same as another company’s. The result is that the company and their customers become locked in a silo, unable to take advantage of all the advances going on in the rest of the world.
All-In-One: In this second phase, companies take a solution like the above but “build once, sell many” – by turning it into a more general framework they can sell to multiple customers, amortising their development cost. There are some significant potential upsides of this approach and at the last count there were 300+ such all-in-one IoT offerings (the best include Electric Imp, Thingworx, RelayR, Samsung Artik, ARM mbed). It’s quite an attractive proposition: If you’re a product company selling some Thing and you want to connect your Thing to the internet, the idea of buying everything you need from a one-stop-shop vendor is initially attractive. And indeed it might very well be a sensible approach to take for a trial.
No one vendor can be good at everything – not even the likes of Amazon and Google. As time goes by, this all-in-one vendor will increasingly struggle to compete on all fronts against everyone, and fall behind. You don’t buy your “Internet” or your “Web” from just one company – and likewise you won’t buy your “IoT” from just one company.
Ecosystem: This brings us to the end-game. As more and more vendors arrive on the IoT scene, it becomes increasingly possible for companies deploying an IoT solution to find all the pieces that they need to make that solution already available “off-the-shelf” – i.e. ready made, either as a product they can buy, or a SaaS they can subscribe to, or even as Open Source. Sometimes call “COTS” (Commercial Off-The-Shelf), this is increasingly the normal way to acquire the large pieces of a solution – the devices, the gateways, the communications services, the cloud platforms and application platforms. And it’s also becoming a common way to acquire even the smaller pieces they are made of, such as communications modules and software stacks.
The flood of devices entering the marketplace will keep IoT standards open. The diversity of devices means it is hard to achieve vendor lock-in