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What if … the Internet of Things (IoT) is not based on open and interoperable standards?

Squabbling Siblings: Why My Light Bulbs Refuse to Talk to My Light Switch

Remember when technology was going to make life easier? Picture all those advertisements with smiling people tapping on devices that "just worked". OK, life’s not like that. But must it be so complicated? Must I spend hours fiddling with control panels to make all the different parts of my house work together, and hours on the phone to customer support when they don’t?

A month ago, I changed my energy supplier. The new one promised a lower rate and said there would be no problem replacing my smart metre with theirs. Now, I have indeed saved the price of a cup of coffee per month on my energy bill, but three mornings out of five I awaken to a cold shower.

You see, silly me, I should have known that my boiler would get offended and refuse to speak to the new smart metre. Then the smart metre would react by trying to bully the boiler into submission. Then the boiler would go on strike altogether. Ergo, no hot water for me and the only savings on my heating bill coming from the fact that my radiators no longer work!

In technical terms, I am patronisingly told by my IT-literate teenaged son, the operating systems are incompatible. They are based on different and proprietary protocols developed by each company I deal with. Whatever that means. Is it unreasonable to expect the manufacturers to set aside their dreams of global dominance and concentrate on making products that, oh, I don’t know, work?

Now, my son tells me, I must change the light bulbs. Soon they won’t work with the new system either. Oh don’t mind me. I’ll just sit here in the dark.

This story shows us how the Internet might evolve. But the path we take is up to us.

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