The Language of Things

Connected devices need to be able to understand each other to create a digital ecosystem around us. How does the language of Internet of Things sound?

With Internet of Things being the hot topic for quite some time we’re starting to see more and more things around us that are connected and digitally interactable.

Everything from light bulbs, smoke detectors and locks to microwaves and coffeemakers now has an Internet presence and an app to control it. IFTTT right now has more than 50 channels for different types of connected home devices and it’s constantly growing.

This shows the definite need for these devices to talk directly to each other and you should no longer have to be the switchboard operator in the conversation between your lock and your light bulbs.

Introduction of Apple HomeKit

Last year Apple announced their HomeKit framework that offers the possibility to gather your devices in one place and group actions together to one single command, for example using Siri.

We’re just now starting to see HomeKit enabled devices on the market, and while HomeKit offers some nice features such as secure pairing and actually talking to your devices (Siri), we’re still missing the real possibilities to create custom integrations. We’re also relying heavily on Apple to create support for new types of devices.

Earlier this year Google announced their upcoming competitor Weave. Google is taking a different approach in that they open source the creation of the protocol, or language, for things. So far details around Weave have been pretty sparse, but it seems that Google is looking at a more collaborative way of creating a standard.

This would mean that everyone from dishwasher manufacturers to indie app developers will be able to take part in deciding on how that new language will be spoken. How big Google’s role will be in that process is yet to be seen, but at the very least they will have to facilitate that collaborative process.

An elite language, for the few

I strongly believe in a language created by everyone, over a constructed language. Esperanto, the largest constructed language today, is spoken by around 2,000,000 people, but only 2,000 native speakers.

To me this is very much what Apple is trying to do with HomeKit. An elite language only accessible by a few, whilst others have to interface with that language in strictly set rules. However, we need our devices to be native speakers, to be able tell them whatever we want and for them to talk directly to each other. We need to be able to apply AI that speaks that very same language, and that’s where I’m hoping Google is going with Weave.

As that new language are created we will need platforms and services on top of that to take care of features such as those in HomeKit. As long as the language is free and evolving I don’t see a problem with creating commercial services on top of that, but trying to capitalize on the creation of that language won’t be the way to go.

Let’s strive for a future where our smart watch can tell our coffeemaker how much caffeine we need, without us having to operate the switchboard, but where we can still listen in to the conversation.