In a market where new products, applications, services and communication standards continue to emerge, a future-proof platform has to be qualified in several aspects.
Scalability and Stability
A service-oriented platform has to be built on a scalable and stable structure to adapt to the diverse situations in various projects.
In some cases, certain service providers, such as telcos and MSOs, may serve hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The servers have to be horizontally and vertically scalable so that new services can be added on a platform without causing end users any inconvenience. The quality of service should remain the same, while the number of subscribers continues to grow as a service provider expands its businesses to new markets. In addition, once a server is breakdown, the loading should be transferred to another one and the user data should remain intact.
“These features are crucial to service providers, and they rely on trutworthy platform developers to offer such a future-proof structure,” concluded Mina Wang, Director of Smart Network System Institute of III.
Many IT giants are all aiming at the market by creating their own platform standards which integrate a variety of network connections (wireless or wired), such as Allseen/AllJoyn, OIC/IoTvity, Apple/HomeKit, Google/Nest, Thread, IEEE/1905.1a, etc. “Almost every quarter a new platform standard is announced by a big brand!”says Chih-Hsiang Ho, Section Manager of Smart Network System Institute of III. These big players are applying their platform standards to smart home and drawing hardware makers and software developers into their own ecosystems.
However, the core competences and strategies of these big players differ. With powerful influence over consumer electronic market, Apple devlops its own Homekit game rule for third parties to abide by. Samsung also released SmartThings Open Cloud and the ARTIK platform, a family of multi-chip modules mainly for Samsung products. Google Nest’s Thread takes a more open stance and supports IPv6-based protocol which facilitates big data transmission. IEEE 1905.1a is supported by an extensible mechanism so that it allows ITU-T G.hn or other standards to work with the existing home network technologies (e.g. Wi-Fi, the most frequently applied and well-known wireless connection).
It is hard to predict if these giants will successfully take over the market any time soon, according to observations from some platform developers. “In general, it is to be expected that both, Google Nest and Apple Home Kits, will have some significant market share. However, this depends not only on their long-term investment but also on whether service provider portals want to integrate these offerings in their vendor portals,” says Daniel Schellhoss, Managing Director & Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing of ProSyst.
As a software provider, Raylios expresses that openness is the decisive factor for Raylios to decide whether to apply for membership or not. “There's little space for 3rdparty software to involve in Apple HomeKit’s closed system; Google Nest has shown their ambition to extend their control from air conditioner to other home devices, and we've been following their progress,” says Ray Yu, CTO of Raylios.
Ho even predicts that the “war” of platform standards will be a status quo in IoT world, and these leading players who excel in different verticals will hold their ground. “That is why our iFamily platform would rather focus more on ‘convergence’itself than emphasize our siding with certain alliances.”
Flexible in Nature, Niche Services
Under such a fierce competition, platform providers still have their way of thriving. They may partner with big players by supplying niche services which are desirable in those ecosys tems or in vertical markets. Or they may enhance services by integrating popular products into their platforms. And in some cases, customization are required.
For instance, with expertises in video processing, steaming and IoT connectivity, ThroughTek partners with Allseen by offering its IOTC and video related solutions; In-Snergy's iFamiliy, which specializes in energy management, has allowed Chunghwa Telecom to integrate its energy-saving solution into the telco’s platform.
To improve user experience, Icontrol has integrated the Nest Learning Thermostat, Philips Hue family of connected lighting and the Logitech Harmony Living Home lineup of remotes into its own ecosystem.
To Zonoff, whose software functions do not differ from market to market, it is still necessary to do modifications for clients. Targeting at a wide range of customers, such as retail stores, service providers, insurance, home construction and energy companies, Zonoff would offer customization in language as well as in measurement systems for localization's sake. For example, in a UK app, Zonoff would show home temperatures in Celsius.
In terms of vertical markets, platform providers also have to delve into specific requirements for service providers. As a partner of several telecos and utility companies, Sensing & Control understands their needs well (especially in energy management) and offers its scalable white label service and a solution tailored to those demanding industries.
Since the prevalence of mobile phones is the driving factor behind the bloom of smart home and IoT market, Stream has devised its IOT-X solution to address problems for mobile network operators. “We see MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) looking more for full stack solutions they are able to upsell to customers whom they already have a hook into,”says Allen Tait, CTO of Stream Technologies.
All these cases indicate that the ability to probe into “needs”and to provide niche services, which can be connectivity, VSaaS, alarm system or energy management, is the key point that leads these platform providers to sustainable business models. Most important of all, these platform companies are trying to be as flexible as possible. They do not object siding with other ecosystems, but at the same time, they would love to keep their own niche market and enhance their platforms for hardware makers and service providers.
For more information:
Born to Empower, Platform Benefits All Players in Smart Home Arena