back to article The IoT wars are over, maybe? Amazon, Apple, Google give up on smart-home domination dreams, agree to develop common standards

After years of trying and failing to dominate the smart home market with their own standards, tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have finally agreed to work on a set of common code that will allow smart home products, from thermostats to cameras to plugs to digital assistants, to work together seamlessly. The new “Connected …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    If I were to guess....

    Apple may throw in the towel, but being a dominant force in the Phone / Tablet market, they can have a huge sway on what gets to be a standard. Amazon sit in the middle, a competitor to Google but also an ally by using Android. The theirs Google, who Apple could conviently make life hard for by not supporting their protocols.

    So by joining up, all three get to win and kill off everyone else.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: If I were to guess....

      Dominant force? They are the number 3 smartphone manufacturer and have a market share under 20%, Samsung are number 1 with 23%, Huawei 2nd with 18%. I think Apple have around 16%.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: If I were to guess....

        Apple are a dominant force amoung those who spend money on this sort of stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I were to guess....

          Apple are were a dominant force amoung those who spend money on this sort of stuff.

          On their offering, Apple HomeKit has had an utterly unfettered unambiguously disastrous uptake when compared to the competition.

          On the market front, consumer IOT also has become cheaper now - smart bulbs, lights and security system now cover various price points.

          On the voice controlled front, everything supports Alexa, Amazon have a home run.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I were to guess....

          I wasn't even aware that they were involved in it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I were to guess....

          Apple TV... sucks.

          Siri... sucks

          Apple Homekit...sucks

          Where, prey tell, is the domination?

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: If I were to guess....

        You are counting phones. Apple _may_ count revenue, but mostly they count profits.

    2. J. R. Hartley

      Re: If I were to guess....

      I really liked my LightwaveRF lights. Glad I didn't go for their heating controls now, as they'll likely go bust soon.

      Shame Inalready invested in Nest Protects, Somfy electric blinds, and a Ring doorbell too. I doubt they'll retrofit these new standards to old products.

      The problem with bleeding edge is that nothing works properly, and you end up getting fucked.

    3. Frank Bitterlich

      Re: If I were to guess....

      If the stuff is really IP-based, it's probably the app developrs who take up the support, not Apple in its role as OS vendor. If they don't support it, it won't be deeply integrated in iOS (read: Siri etc.), but it should be trivial for third-party apps to support and maybe integrate it.

  2. Charles 9 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Connect directly to the Internet?

    Am I the only one who feels they kinda missed a trick here?

    Having something come between IoT gadgets and the Internet at large isn't such a bad idea. The problem lay in the control of that go-between.

    Perhaps a better approach would be to standardize a spec for an IoT hob such that devices need to register with this hub and the hub in turn provides the Internet connectivity. BUT...the spec for this hub is open so that anyone who wishes to whip up one with their own particular rules and specs can do so.

    But of course, that would probably stop the demographic slurp cold. No, they have to keep on doing it, only through the back door this time.

    1. sbt Silver badge
      Big Brother

      they kinda missed a trick here?

      The model to date has been to maintain reliance on a cloud service with maximal opportunity to extract ongoing revenue via subscriptions and data for resale via slurp. Sadly, I don't see either of those motives going away in the hunt for ubiquity.

      Simple devices isolated from the 'net and a controller/hub with enough smarts to run stuff regardless of 'net connectivity is the only way I'd want to go, but that's not the model on offer.

      Except that if the protocols are open and royalty free, there's nothing to stop someone from rolling their own hub on a small SoC style unit.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

        The protocols, maybe, but they say nothing about the keys. Meaning, what's to stop all your tat from simply having public encryption keys and an always-encrypt policy meaning the only entity who can read and interpret the data they send are the big boys with the private keys? And if you block the connection, it assumes something is wrong and stops working, which is probably part of the spec, too?

        So basically, it's a variant on Tivoization. Everything in the device is open, including the public key. But good luck trying to keep a lid on the data mining without ending up with a brick.

        1. sbt Silver badge
          Alert

          The key to success

          Keys specific to manufacturers would prevent interoperability, which seems to be one goal of this standardisation "effort". If comms are going to be encrypted in the manner you suggest back to the cloud and the providers will need broker between each other in order for your devices to work together, then they might as well stick to the current protocols and build the brokerage amongst themselves anyway.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

          Nothing stops them from doing that, but that's pretty much what they're already doing. There's no need for them to adopt a new standard if they want to keep doing that, and I'm sure many devices won't abandon single-backend policies on their products. Those companies who do adopt this, on the other hand, are probably banking on making money by selling more devices that can interoperate. They're probably also banking on customers not blocking the extra data flow that reports back to them as well, so it's not as if this new protocol fixes that problem at all. But at least it should be easier to control the devices using local machines and keep using things after they've been abandoned by their manufacturers.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

            "There's no need for them to adopt a new standard if they want to keep doing that, and I'm sure many devices won't abandon single-backend policies on their products."

            Thing is, with an encryption key only the back end can decrypt, there's no way to fake it. Meaning it's their rules or you live with a brick.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

        >Except that if the protocols are open and royalty free

        Don't expect that. From the announcement, it seems the results from this cooperation will not be a suite of Open de jure Standards, but something that closer to a proprietary pooling/cross licencing of patents.

        Even though home automation networking has been an on-going Standards activity since at least the 1980's and so there will be much prior art, expect much of this has been made patentable through the usual application of magic words such as "...with a voice assistant", "...using Internet", "...using Cloud"...

      3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

        Pretty sure LGR reviewed such equipment last year, could be controlled by either a pc or a dedicated controller.

        1. StudeJeff

          Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

          He did a review of some X-10 equipment, is that what you were referring to?

      4. Scene it all

        Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

        There is always the DIY approach. I needed a front door camera, so a USB camera now peeks out of the window above the door, and is connected to a Raspberry Pi3 near the door, with a 10" screen attached. The same Pi also fetches pictures from two IP cameras overlooking the front yard and uses Artificial Intelligence (TensorFlow) to recognize, for example, when the Mail has been delivered. It has no reason to connect to the outside world. The new Pi4 is easily capable to do things like this, and speech recognition too.

      5. Ian Michael Gumby
        Pirate

        Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

        Why not team up with other like minded hacks and build open sourced protocols based on using a Raspberry PI or network of devices for home security tying back to your own in home network where you could then keep everything in house, or use another app to take the backups to your own cloud storage, using your own encryption scheme?

      6. J. R. Hartley

        Re: they kinda missed a trick here?

        You're looking for X10

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

      I've just installed a Hive heating controller for an elderly relative: only the wireless thermostat was actually required, but it was a drop-in replacement for the existing programmer and cost very little more.

      A little-advertised feature (in fact the Hive website completely misrepresents it) is that you don't need the hub or the Internet connection: the wireless thermostat and control unit communicate over Zigbee (I believe) and can be configured not to look for the Hive hub. It works very well and there is a very simple interface on the thermostat for programming the heating and hot water. No accounts to create, no passwords, no dependency on the manufacturer's web service or the network.

      This is really how things should operate by default.

      However, given the length of time it's taken to get Bluetooth devices to the point where standard profiles will mostly be recognised in most appropriate circumstances, I suspect it's going to be a long time before devices from different manufacturers not only connect with each other but also interoperate correctly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

        Errm that's just a wireless thermostat functioning in fallback mode. It isn't surprising Hive isn't advertising it - you're using it in the error/fallback mode, effectively the network link is down.

        What is "smart" about it?

        External triggers - Location, door close/open,motion based etc, remote/voice control, local weather based heating scehdule updates, pre/early-start depending on your own home's heating characteristics etc

        I have hive heaving and use all of the above. You can't compare a wireless thermostat to the "smart" equivalent, they are hardly the same thing.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

          A thermostat is already weather based using the only input that matters - temperature.

          Every home has a single heating characteristic - how long does it take to reach the desired temperature when switched on from the (whatever) minimum setting. A simple programmable one that turns the heat up (how long + 5) mins before the morning alarm is all that is needed.

          If you can't afford to heat your home that way, smart gadgets are NOT where you should be spending your money.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

            You haven't used one clearly.

            No all homes don't have a single heating characteristic, each home has it's own and can have multiple - depending on the insulation, outside temperature and the rate of heat loss, an open window, a radiator not working.

            On a colder day, it might need to start earlier than on a warmer day. It might need to start earlier if one of the radiators is not doing a good job. Or the boiler efficiency has dropped.

            Yes you can turn it on earlier so that the worst case it accounted for, and then the thermostat will control the temperature but you are wasting energy this way as you are keeping it warmer for longer before the point on interest.

            Similarly a schedule running that takes of your presence, instead of having to manual change it.

            Etc.

            So no I don't think your answer is a valid response - you are stating that a wireless thermostat can do the same job, that is not the same as what a system with more inputs is capable of.

            That is what the smart is - use more inputs to make more intelligent decsions and fewer to no manual interventions for a better optimised system.

            Affordability is a straw man.. I don't get it. Indeed you could have saved money just getting a basic wireless thermostat - you paid for smarts that you don't use - the market will have an equivalent without that.

            However none of this means that a basic wireless thermostat is the same thing as a system designed to function with more inputs.

            If you don't want "smarts" or the "smarts" are not of individial utility, is a different point. That does not reduce the comparison to equality on an objective basis, only on a subjective one i.e. to you a wireless thermostat and a smart thermostat appears to be the same thing.

          2. Marty McFly
            Pint

            Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

            >A simple programmable one that turns the heat up (how long + 5) mins before the morning alarm is all that is needed.

            I have one from Honeywell that does that already. Basically programmed with "at this time, be at this temperature". It learns how long it takes to heat the house from a given starting point. So if it only needs to come up a couple degrees, it fires up a few minutes early. If it needs to come up a lot, it will fire up 30-45 minutes early.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

      From reading other articles about this, it looks like they're mainly agreeing communications methods first (wifi, Zigbee and Bluetooth LE, to cover different ranges, bandwidths, and energy usages).

      How far up the stack they're going I'm not sure, but I think the idea is that you'll buy a hub that has all three radios in it, so at least when you buy a thermostat from a different manufacturer, you'll at least be able to communicate with it. Actually integrating it might be a different matter.

    4. Black Betty

      Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

      The really smart trick here would be for someone to come up with a milspec strength private keyserver. Noone and nothing joins a private network (home, corporate, school, whatever) unless and until it is explicitly registered to that network. And no device or application gets permissions greater or a data pipe wider than needed to carry out its designed task.

    5. JamesMcP

      Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

      That's more or less Zigbee, an open standard with enrollment, encryption, commands, device profiles, etc that is extensible and cutsomizable.

      And to a lesser extent Zwave, as it supports vendors extending new commands and parameters,although its more managed like USB & BlueTooth.

      So this exists ,but the big names have avoided it because it a) requires a second radio, adding costs b) requires following someone else's spec, and c) they can't control the products.

      Going to a wifi-based spec (aka Zigbee over IP) means these companies don't need that second radio. It means the bulk of validation becomes standardized, which can lower certification costs and hassles (which I'm sure is contributing to Homekit's woes), and they can still add an extra chunk of code that operates at the TCPIP layer to do non-automation functionality (i.e. voice assistant-y audio) as well as potentially being a "gatekeeper" so that HomeKit won't bother controlling anything that doesn't also have an iHome authenticator key.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

      ...No, they have to keep on doing it, only through the back door this time.

      That adequately describes the situation in more ways than one.

    7. Dal90

      Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

      Silly people think these things will go through a hub. Or your own router for connectivity...

      5G folks.

      The internet of things will have their own connections, unless you either live in remote location or build a Faraday cage around your house.

      We can't have the peons we're gathering data on do things like block our TVs from sending us back data on what they're watching and how often they have sex.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Connect directly to the Internet?

        Whispernets were a thing before 5G.

  3. sbt Silver badge
    Holmes

    you would be well advised to wait a year

    Nah, I'm gonna wait a heck of a lot longer than that.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: you would be well advised to wait a year

      A century might be better. What the heck, let's make it two centuries.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    I already have an IoT standard

    None of that crap gets into my house!

    I have yet to find or hear of anything that would be genuinely useful to me so it is easy to ignore the whole thing.

    A mate of mine is enchanted by being able to yell at Alexa ten feet away on his patio to change the music, personally I need the exercise of walking ten feet to go and change the music, maybe when I'm a bit older I could get Alexa to reorder my supply of teenaged blood injections.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: I already have an IoT standard

      I made a useful IoT device, with a Wi-Fi-capable Arduino board and a high precision temperature sensor board from Sparkfun. It's housed in a Stevenson Screen I 3D-printed.

      I have a cron job poll it every 5 minutes and stick the info into a sqlite3 database. A Python script using matplotlib makes pretty pictures. I already have an Apache instance running for other things.

      However, the basic reason for its existence is to help me decide what to wear on the motorcycle to work. I got tired of squinting at shitty thermometers, and the nearest weather.gov sites are 15 miles away and only updated once an hour.

      I was NOT going to pay $150 for an inaccurate "weather station" piece-of-shit from Acurite or Lacrosse. Those c*nts have captured the market here, and they suck.

      So it's "genuinely useful to me" and serves my purpose.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: I already have an IoT standard

        When I rode a bike, I just looked out the window before leaving the house It worked for most occasions, it just wouldn't let me know if it would rain on the afternoon or not. Best of all I could take my method with me, even on vacation..

      2. JDC

        Re: I already have an IoT standard

        I think my weather station cost 20€ from Lidl. Perhaps the outside temperature sensor is a degree off, who knows? But it's more than accurate enough to let me know if it's freezing out there...

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: I already have an IoT standard

          and if it wasn't, going outside certainly would.

      3. Timmy B Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: I already have an IoT standard

        This. this is what's wrong with the world. Spend some time outside. Look out of your windows and generally you'll be able to get a good idea of what the days weather will be. As a species we've managed to do that for thousands of years!

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: I already have an IoT standard

          Depends where you live. In some places (generally flat, open, places), you can look up, work out which way the clouds are moving, look at the opposite horizon and get an idea of what the weather is going to be doing for the rest of the day.

          In other places, looking at the sky will give you maybe ten minutes warning of what's coming, and the weather could be completely different by the afternoon. Yes local knowledge can help, but often all it can tell you is that "the weather is going to be changeable".

        2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Re: I already have an IoT standard

          Look out of your windows and generally you'll be able to get a good idea of what the days weather will be.

          But not so good for forecasting how the weather will be in the coming days, and sometimes not even the afternoon.

          Technology does have its uses, betters poking one's head out the cave and waggling a finger in the air.

          As for smart thermostats and the like; I don't see the point. I set my thermostats and tweaked my radiator valves a decade ago and have never changed them.

    2. a pressbutton

      Re: I already have an IoT standard

      The one useful use we have is on going away for 1 night or more

      we switch the heating off on leaving the house

      and about 2h before getting back home, remotely switch the heating back on.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I already have an IoT standard

      A mate of mine is enchanted by being able to yell at Alexa ten feet away on his patio to change the music,

      Sounds like my sister-in-law, and her husband.

  5. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Bronze badge
    Flame

    It's the most (energy) wasteful time of the year

    The only smart devices I care about -- don't own yet, but researching -- is automation for my Christmas lights.

    I've extensively looked at Light-O-Rama, but their proprietary wireless option is rather expensive on top of the core components. To avoid that, I'd either have one ugly and difficult Ethernet run (carrying RS485-like proprietary signals) or leave that area of the yard -- rather distant from the main bunch -- on it's current "dumb" timer.

    Recently I've looked at HolidayCoro's offerings. The idea of using open-source software (xLights), having the controllers use DMX-over-IP via Wi-Fi (if it won't reach I could use an extender, and DMX has definitely become a lighting industry standard), and the lower cost all make it a desirable option over LOR (I'd even donate some savings to the xLights team).

    Does anyone know of any other solutions?

    Specs: I run a max of 25A on 120Vac and require a minimum of 20 channels (16 + 4) with stretch goal of 32 (24 + 8). Maximum channel current would be under 3A. Using mostly plain-Jane incandescent "minis" (x50 or x300) or C9 (x50) strings, with some LED 7W floodlights.

    (And no, I'm not geek enough to design my own controllers. Solder one up from a kit, maybe. Buy a spool and hand-wire the copious extension cords I would need to pull this off, certainly.)

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: It's the most (energy) wasteful time of the year

      Probably too late for this Crimbo but AliExpress et al do loads of controllers for lighting a mate of mine had a set up for a complicated art installation that controlled a huge array of LEDs and actuators the controllers cost him a bit under 100 euros, they are probably cheaper now.

      Amazon do them and there are loads of Toobs instructional videos.

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: It's the most (energy) wasteful time of the year

      I assume you've looked at X10. I've never had occasion to use it. But it uses power line signaling, has been around for 30 or 40 years, presumably is reliable, probably can't spy on you, and doesn't seem to be outrageously expensive.

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: It's the most (energy) wasteful time of the year

      I'll channel Greta and just say no.

      Have less /no Xmas lights and help the planet

    4. Scene it all

      Re: It's the most (energy) wasteful time of the year

      $10 mechanical timer bought at Target, with the little plastic buttons you pull up or push down to select when you want it on. One for the inside tree and another weatherproof one for the outside lights.

    5. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: It's the most (energy) wasteful time of the year

      There's control protocols DALI and DMX (and probably others) which will control the lights - using off the shelf devices. You can (AIUI) also get wireless bridges for both - not necessarily needing the overhead of "over-IP".

      So equip your lights with DMX or DALI controls, use a wireless bridge from house to location of lights, run a controller on (for example) a RPi and job done. AIUI having looked around at what's available but not actually having implemented anything yet, what you are after should be easy to do with off the shelf bits.

  6. JassMan

    Will they go far enough?

    All well and good that they are talking open source but unless they also open the hardware drivers in the now (or to be shortly) obsolete gear in people's homes, they won't be doing their bit for the environment. The fires in Oz are a warning that unless we reuse rather than just recycle, we will all shortly be doomed.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Will they go far enough?

      That's actually not a bad idea, commercially.

      People who've already bought IoT tat are the most valuable market segment there is: early adopters. People who are curious or jealous or vain, or just have more money than they know what to do with. People like that are very likely to buy new gear anyway within the next year or two, even if their old stuff is still working just fine - so maybe there's little to lose, and much to gain (customer loyalty) in helping them to run their old equipment for as long as they like.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Will they go far enough?

      Fires in Oz. Most sparked by faults in a power grid that needed better maintenance and investment. The tinder created by extreme weather conditions, and yeah Australia is big exporter of coal to countries that make consumer goods.

      How to reduce load in power grid: Use more efficient devices. Use appliances that can turn off smartly to reduce spikes in demand. Use more local generation and storage. Note too that solar generation is now so cheap because if mass production in China.

      So, reusing instead of recycling is not always the answer.

      Can home automation reduce the power consumption of a home? Of course it can, if used wisely.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Will they go far enough?

        if used wisely

        So, we're fucked.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Will they go far enough?

          Yup, too many people believe the collective intelligence of our species is exhibited in all of the individuals.

          If my beverages come out of the fridge warm I'll not be amused.

  7. Tomislav

    Obligatory XKCD comic...

    https://xkcd.com/927/

  8. J. Cook Silver badge
    Joke

    Project Connected Home over IP brings a powerful tailwind that will help usher in the next phase of growth for IoT.
    (emphasis mine)

    Ithought something smelled gassy...

  9. J. Cook Silver badge

    In all seriousness, though...

    I would cheerfully implement a home automation system if (and only if) the server/hub/brain of the system was kept on prem. and be able to run with zero internet connectivity needed.

    1. The Specialist

      Re: In all seriousness, though...

      Step this way sir:

      https://www.home-assistant.io/

    2. Victor Ludorum

      Re: In all seriousness, though...

      Take a look at the Loxone kit. I installed their Miniserver-based system 4.5 years ago and it's still going strong. No cloud (or external) connections required (unless you use their subscription weather server).

    3. DasWezel
      Thumb Up

      Re: In all seriousness, though...

      OpenHAB is working very nicely for me.

      Mostly using Sonoff kit reflashed with Tasmota. Everything entirely on-prem. Bit of automation based on time of day, local Unifi controller etc.

  10. JohnFen Silver badge

    TCP/IP

    This is OK, I guess, although it does make me nervous.

    "It will be an IP-based protocol so it can connect directly to the internet rather than require a hub"

    But will internet access be required? That's a dealbreaker for any of these devices.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: TCP/IP

      As I read it, the protocol will not, in and of itself, require internet access. The IP connection could be to a LAN only, and the devices could then receive instructions from another device on the LAN. However, whether the manufacturers choose to let you do that is up to them. They could easily require a connection to the internet in order for the devices to pay any attention to commands and you couldn't do much about it. Still, if this gets implemented, there will probably be at least a few devices that don't require access online to be remote-controlable.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Be careful what you wish for

    Great, now all it will take is a single vuln and every device in your house can be pwned.

    1. Timmy B Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Be careful what you wish for

      "Great, now all it will take is a single vuln and every device in your house can be pwned."

      Well that's terrifying. Fancy if some miscreant managed to turn my lights on without me wanting!

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Be careful what you wish for

        "ll that's terrifying. Fancy if some miscreant managed to turn my lights on without me wanting!"

        Hang on a mo. If that same miscreant turned of your Freezer for a couple of hours, turned on your oven at full blast for 8 hours, distributed your live security feed to Youtube or Twitch, sold your login details to the local mafia etc etc etc.

        In fact there are many use cases that you really don't want to accommodate.

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: Be careful what you wish for

          So, you've had visitors with toddlers, then.

      2. Mine's a Large One

        Re: Be careful what you wish for

        It'd be like having a teenager in the house again...

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Be careful what you wish for

          >It'd be like having a teenager in the house again...

          Actually, I don't see these devices surviving in a home with teenagers...

  12. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Just so I'm clear...

    "...all those involved have promised that their current kit will continue to work..."

    So, does this mean that all of those currently-existing devices with hard-wired credentials -- or no inbuilt security at all -- will still be available as potential access points into the new consolidated network? Well, THAT'S a relief!

  13. vtcodger Silver badge

    That damn problem has to be around here somewhere

    IoT seems to me to be largely a greed driven solution to a non-existent problem. It isn't that there aren't use cases. There just aren't enough use cases to justify the cost of developing good solutions. So the development money is going into expensive, (proprietary), vulnerable, high-margin toys. Standards probably won't do any harm and might do some good. But really, I think probably home automation is going to be a rather minor market segment until we get affordable robots that can actually do complex jobs like taking the trash out and scrubbing the bathtub -- without accidentally killing the pets or throwing out the mail. I should think that'll happen. But maybe not for another three or four decades.

    And there really seem to be few good engineering reasons to make internet connection a core element to home automation rather than an optional feature.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: That damn problem has to be around here somewhere

      Having played around with a few IoT devices out of curiosity, I have concluded that a lot of it isn’t terribly useful. Some of it is; Internet connections to one’s heating system are useful. Being able to switch some stuff on and off is sometimes useful. Security monitoring is useful in principle.

      The thing I noticed though is that a lot of stuff is useless or very limited because it is battery operated. Eg security cameras in burglar alarms are rubbish if powered by 2 AA batteries. Smart radiator valves are very limited by being battery operated (they have to limit their operation, meaning that they’re suboptimal in controlling room temperature. And so on. A lot of these things are far better if they’re mains powered.

      And that’s where the standards come in. All this low power IP over weak radio is ok up to the point but really the standard should be Power over Ethernet sockets by every radiator, every corner of every ceiling, every curtain rail, etc, and IP over mains to every light socket, mains socket, etc. That way the devices would be able to work a lot better as devices, and we’d also then not need puny IP radio links.

      This is a none starter at present because no one has such extensive wiring in their houses. And they will continue to not have such wiring whilst the tech industry remains a closed domain.

      What Apple, Amazon, Google, etc should be doing is talking to the architectural / electrical / house building / government regulators about updating our archaic building standards so that new properties get useful data wiring built in from the beginning, and set out ways for existing properties to be updated without too much difficulty.

      That leads to a useful standard. This new effort from the tech industry does not.

      1. IsJustabloke
        Stop

        Re: That damn problem has to be around here somewhere

        "What Apple, Amazon, Google, etc should be doing is talking to the architectural / electrical / house building / government regulators"

        I'll pass thanks. if I want to fully cable my house I will but I certainly don't want any of those 3 having any input whatsoever into Building standards.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: That damn problem has to be around here somewhere

          Ha! Yes we don’t want buildings being designed by that lot, not if we want them to stay standing.

          I don’t think we have a wiring standard that’s appropriate. Ethernet / RJ45 is fiddly to wire up the connectors. A mains socket is too big and clunky, IoT devices don’t need 1kW of power. What’s needed is something that can be used for a decent data rate (good enough for video), needs two wires plus earth, supplies about 100W DC at 28V and has a small socket / plug that’s easy to wire up.

          Scatter those round a house as standard and that’s then very useful for all sorts of applications.

  14. karlkarl Silver badge

    They finally realized that in order to make the consumer suffer as much as possible, they have to work together!

    They also realize that if they don't share information with another; some important bit of private information might stay... *gulp*... private!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genossen, wir mussen alles wissen!

    So now your IoT Fridge will be able to gang up with your Doorbell against you.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Genossen, wir mussen alles wissen!

      I have a very smart doorbell.

      It only sounds for a fixed period, regardless of whether you stab the button or hold it in. It has an indicator (LED) to show it's active that goes out once you've pressed the button, and a fixed time before it will reactivate. Oh, and that fixed time starts from when you release the button.

      As you can imagine, it's a very complicated controller... using two transistors and one CMOS chip.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As I Have Mentioned Here OFTEN.....

    Quote: "... It will be an IP-based protocol so it can connect directly to the internet rather than require a hub...."

    So......this will require IPv6. And with IPv6 we have a fundamental problem with privacy......every one of these devices which gets connected to the Internet will be identifiable to a specific account, account owner....and probably location as well.

    ....and that's before we consider the lousy security delivered by most IoT devices....each one a potential gateway into each individual home.

    Who wants this? The NSA, GCHQ, the Russians, the Chinese.......???? And the people who buy this crap are walking blindly into a privacy and security nightmare.

    Welcome to the future!!

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: As I Have Mentioned Here OFTEN.....

      If you're using anything from Google or Amazon, privacy is not among your biggest concerns...

      Anyway the app you're using to control the IoT devices will probably give away your location - and even using IPv4 they have the router IP to work with, plus each device once connected can send a unique ID, so it really doesn't change much.

      What IPv6 can change is whoever can look at the traffic can see the origin even if the traffic is encrypted, and try to connect directly to devices if a proper firewall and its rules are not present. Still, not different from devices punching holes trough the firewall using uPnP or the like, to be controlled directly.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: As I Have Mentioned Here OFTEN.....

        There’s another angle to this. In the same way a Android mobile phone is Skyhooking - telling Google what WiFi SSIDs it can see and whereabouts it is - devices for home automation may start doing the same for whatever RF network they eventually settle on using. It’s only a small leap of the imagination that that RF network gets added to mobile phones.

        Then what will happen is that visitors’ mobile phones will be hoovering up details of your home automation network and relaying that to whomever. Probably. Which could be a very bad thing...

        Anyway, I can’t see that this new standard is going to do too much to deny its creators another data slurping opportunity...

  17. John Robson Silver badge

    Surely...

    For someone like lightwave it only needs them to release a new hub (or preferably a firmware update for the existing hubs)

  18. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    Hey geeks

    Does anyone know of a good IoT over mains wiring system? I used to use X10 but they are difficult to source now and the most recent ones I bought are crap. They also don't control lights of less than 60W so no LEDs!

    I have mains around the garden but as I'm in Somerset WiFi doesn't go more than three feet in normal weather and some of the buildings are stone.

    1. StudeJeff

      Re: Hey geeks

      You CAN control lamps that are less than 60 watts but you'd need to use a switched controller, not a lamp controller... and of course you wouldn't be able to dim it.

  19. David Roberts
    Big Brother

    Which version of IP?

    Presumably V6 so each device is uniquely identified and can connect directly to Big Brother.

  20. Giovani Tapini

    One question...

    Updates.... ?

    I trust there will be a common approach to these too, not just connectivity. The internet of disposable things is a significant issue too. ewaste vulnerability and limited function if if your mobile app stops being supported..

  21. Rol Silver badge

    Consumer standards set by the consumer?

    While I concede nuclear weapons are useful in maintaining a tentative peace, I wouldn't consider buying from the enemy a wise move. Similarly, while IoT have some varying appeal, I consider every current supplier of such gadgets to be the enemy.

    Letting the enemy define the standards that control your world is bonkers mad. Isn't it far better to have a consumer lead panel, that defines exactly how these things chatter amongst themselves, and presumably come up with a hub that maps device input to a predefined set of outputs. In that way, the consumer has full control over what potentially gets broadcast to the world, and can equally define what gets passed to the device. A robust command firewall, if you will.

    With little of importance being transmitted, there is little in the way of juicy data to mine.

    I appreciate the big players in IoT have been rubbing their hands at the income from selling on your data, and will raise every objection and obstacle they can to maintain that data income stream, but in a fair world they only get one vote each, and our collective 8 billionish votes should carry the day.

    I can see some areas where the command firewall idea will fail, and that is with those demonic voice activated assistants, so perhaps for them, they too have to go through the same hub, but encrypted to the hubs standard. The hub can then decipher the message, log it, so the user can review all the chatter, and then encrypt it to the receiving company's standard before sending it on it's way.

  22. JDX Gold badge

    DON'T WANT it to have to go via the internet

    I find it most frustrating that I have two devices in the same room and they have to send messages to each by bouncing them off the internet.

    I'm not sure if these new proposals will mean that or not - maybe things on the same network will discover each other?

    The other thing about all IoT devices being WiFi... hmm. Many IoT devices are deliberately very low-power and use RF to a hub to run for months off a AA or 2. I don't want a dozen radiator smart TRVs each connected to my Wifi...

  23. Cuddles Silver badge

    Brillo

    Internet-connected scouring pads? And I thought internet fridges and kettles were silly enough.

  24. FuzzyTheBear
    Flame

    Stick with the real stuff

    OK i preach for my own province being a programmer for amx and crestron but the shit works , been working for decades and wont let you down. plus it dosent spy on you . you can use the cell phone to do anything , control all your house , watch the front door cam .. open curtains , dim lights you name it . Sweet lord im tired of seeing Google Amazon and the likes taking you guys for fools and spying on you in your own home ! .. Seriously .. if you want to automate your life and home .. look at the well established hardware. im really sick and tired of hearing about their crap.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CTOS...

    YAY, real world watchdogs is that much closer!

  26. StudeJeff

    Miss my Homeminder

    Back in the 80's I had a gadget called a GE Homeminder. It used the X-10 system to control lights and whatever, I even came up with a creative way to turn the heat up and down. (Two thermostats, a controller, a relay, and a power supply out of an old radio).

    It was easy to control and program, with a GUI image of a house where you would put lights and appliances in rooms that corresponded to rooms in your house. Turn on the light on the Homeminder screen and the real light would come on.

    It was a great system, and with all our advances in technology since the 80's and that Z-80 powered machine I've yet to come across anything that is as flexible and easy to use as that bit of Reagan era technology.

    Maybe something like that will come out of this move.

  27. Danny 2 Silver badge

    I Want You, But I Don't Need You

    I bought my mum a google whatever for her kitchen, and my dad a amazon whatever for his living room. Neither of them can use them, and I sympathise because neither work as advertised.

    I'm going to stop buying things for other people. I'll maybe buy a GPS tracker and put in a parents jacket. Or two. Sweet surveillance.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I Want You, But I Don't Need You

      Hate to think what would happen if they end up lending the jacket...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    API

    I've just wanted a heating control with an API I could address from one of my already-running rPi machines. I'd run a cron job every 15 minutes that would set the temperature *BACK* to where it's supposed to be, and not where some other household member has decided to jack it up to (or down to, if it's summer).

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: API

      How do you deal with SWMBO, then? SWMBO's have ways to retaliate if they don't get their way.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RFC

    I'm sure everyone who was using the internet back in the 70s and 80s, and even some of the 90s, is now smirking wryly at the realisation that these johnny-come-lately newcomers have finally (re)discovered the concept of RFCs (Requests For Comments) in order to co-operatively develop and work out universal standards so that everyone can play nicely, rather than have each of them storm off in a huff with their own specially shaped ball that nobody else can play with.

    But what is somewhat depressing is that you would have thought that each of those companies would either still have a few wise old wizards still lurking around, or, at the very least, would have learned from the knowledge passed on and inherited from them...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RFC

      "[...] at the very least, would have learned from the knowledge passed on and inherited from them..."

      Many people who consider themselves "developers" appear to have a mindset that precludes them learning from other people's prior work. They always want to develop from the ground up based on their own ideas - rather than build on, or tweak, something that does most of the job already.

      In my support career there were several times when I had to rip out someone's large "blister" patch that created new problems by fixing symptoms rather than the root cause. I would then take the time to identify the root cause - and often it merely needed a small code tweak to fix it elegantly and permanently.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: RFC

        Problem is, many people don't have that time. They have a too-tight deadline and a DIE directive.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: RFC

        >Many people who consider themselves "developers" appear to have a mindset that precludes them learning from other people's prior work.

        That is a very common problem and its not at all new. But learning from others' work means developers should also take notice of the existing industrial ecosystems and standards. We've been connecting 'things' to networks for many years and a lot of the reinvention of these particular wheels comes merely from people who don't know what's available, what does and doesn't work and because they can't conceive of a programming environment that's not Web based. Industrial control and monitoring systems ("SCADA") are well known and there's any number of sensors and actuators around that communicate with the supervisory system and its associated firewalls. You don't need anything sexy for home use -- a PiZero would probably do but if the hub was built into an Echo that would provide the robustness and low power operation that's needed. The rest just comes from using published protocols. (If you're into IFTTT then PLC/open is the logical next stepl I don';t like it as a programmer but its a standard and its designed like IFTTT to be used by non-programmers.)

  30. Il'Geller

    Of course not! IoT is my property.

  31. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Boffin

    Cake and eat it?

    How about getting two cheap PAYG phones, and leave one at home wired up so you can read it's display and also fake button presses.

    The other one you'd use to call it and send text messages of unique codes for various operations, with the home one then returning confirmation messages. You could apply some kind of encryption but even without it snoopers would have a struggle working out what you were doing.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Cake and eat it?

      Many of those PAYG phones don't keep their time/SMS allowances unless you top them up on a regular basis. Got anything turnkey, set-it-and-forget-it solutions for Joe Stupid?

  32. Il'Geller

    IoT data becomes unique being explained by texts, while now they are either not explained in any way, or annotated by rows-and-columns of SQL tables. However, an IoT record can only be found (for future use-and-reference) if it's unique.

    There are two possibilities for standardizing IoT data:

    1. Rows-columns of SQL tables,

    2. Using the method of Artificial Intelligence annotations, namely clarification by texts.

    The just text annotations do not allow AI to operate based on the true meanings of patterns, they provide only contexts and almost no correct subtexts; while dictionary-and-encyclopedic definition AI annotations allows the AI to literally understand the patterns' meanings.

  33. Colin Bain
    Unhappy

    Finally I'm an old fuddy duddy

    Having been THE tech person since dial up for family and work, I am afraid that the IOT is the line in the sand for me. I had thought is would be a fad and a nice thing to have if you had a couple of brains cells.

    Having seen the massive data breaches and the utter failure of anyone to do big IT systems and make peoples lives insecure and in many cases miserable for years (Horizon in UK, Phoenix in Canada, any hospital, any medical system aiming at integration, etc) my fear level is now exceeding my excitement for idealistic possibilities.

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