At CES, let’s just concede defeat for an open standard for IoT

Let’s just get this out of the way, y’all. We are not going to see some kind of open standard or HTML-like universal language for the internet of things or the smart home at International CES in Las Vegas next week. Instead we’re going to get a bunch of different platforms that will strive to create walled gardens. Walled gardens that will be bridged — sometimes clumsily — in the clouds via services or hubs. So consumers will have to go all in on HomeKit, or Nest or iControl’s Open Home or Wink or whatever, or work a bit harder with services like If This Then That or SmartThings or others to make their devices work together.

With that in mind, here are the internet of things-related trends we’ll see at CES next week:

  • Apple will have HomeKit, and we’ll have a bit more, but still not all, the information we’ll want from vendors participating in the program.
  • The Works with Nest developer program will have several partners and devices that people should be excited about, although I’m not sure how many of those will be announcements versus actual implementations.
  • I think the iControl’s OpenHome and the Wink certifications will stay in the game and likely come out of this CES with some strong partnerships.
  • We’ll see announcements from one-off device makers that will see them supporting the major platforms through software integrations or even hardware or offer their own programs to help others support those platforms without having to invest development time and effort. This will be a tough area as only a few middlemen will make it.

The consolidation of many of home automation devices under a few platforms will be the major theme of the show, but there will be other internet of things-related trends worth exploring as well. Medical devices for the lay consumer as well as FDA-approved devices for diagnosing fevers and even various illnesses will also be demonstrated. I’ve also seen a variety of connected devices pitched to me related to conditions as varied as chronic pain, anaphylaxis (when you can’t breathe because of an allergic reaction) and diabetes.

As I’ve said, some of these are FDA-approved, while others are purporting to show connections between certain data points the consumer tracks in their blood pressure or heart rate or urine and their health. As more and more of these devices come on the market I’m growing increasingly leery of the claims being made, in part because the mix of statistics that the FDA looks at when evaluating and discussing the efficacy of a medical device and the marketing that the consumer looks at when deciding whether to purchase such as device are very different.

For an example of the disconnect between statistical relevance in the medical field and a consumer’s understanding of what that means, the Boston Globe’s reporting on fetal genetic tests offers a heartbreaking look at what happens when the dry world of math meets marketing. Marketing wins and it’s not always beneficial to the consumer.

The internet of things will also creep further into cars, beacons will provide more presence in our homes, we’ll see more Bluetooth devices and everything will get an algorithm. We’ll even have algorithms to manage our things’ algorithms and possibly a few services to manage our myriad things. Clearly the trends are still telling us that the internet of things and the smart home are still too complicated for most consumers.

But since this is the next big thing, both in terms of selling new gadgets and in terms of gathering ever more data from consumers, the industry is ready to put all of its muscle to figure out how to solve that complexity. Maybe it’s a bigger platform or a better algorithm. Perhaps a service or an app will do the trick. But one thing is for sure: It’s not going to be an open standard.