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Interoperability is the key to IoT success

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This week at the Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas, Cisco made a couple of big IoT platform announcements. The networking giant showed off upgrades to its Cisco Jasper platform with Jasper Control Center 7.0, and it introduced Cisco Kinetic (and discussed a partnership with IBM).

The new IoT platforms seem great, but do they really address the elephant in the IoT room: interoperability? As far as I can tell, the Cisco platforms offer improved ways to manage IoT devices in a wide variety of use cases. But they don’t deal with what many observers call the biggest challenge facing the Internet of Things. As Altimeter puts it, “IoT requires standards to enable horizontal platforms that are communicable, operable, and programmable across devices, regardless of make, model, manufacturer, or industry.”

What that means, essentially, is that it shouldn’t really matter what devices, applications, operating systems, networks and platforms you use. Unless all of these can communicate with one another seamlessly in an “any-to-any” fashion, the powerful network effects of the billions of IoT devices being installed will not be fully realized. In fact, some estimates claim 60 percent to 70 percent of IoT efforts are currently failing. That’s not good, and lack of interoperability is a prime culprit.

New IoT interoperability incentives needed?

The problem, as many observers have noted, is that vendors are currently incentivized to capture as much of the IoT market as they can in their own proprietary ecosystems, making interoperability something of a red-headed stepchild. While there is plenty of talk about open APIs and open-source solutions, it should be no surprise that these approaches hardly seem to be the top priorities of the top vendors.

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