Smart homes and smart cities have become the buzzwords of tech companies around the world. But the idea has lacked the practicality that can make it really successful. And that is due to an obvious lack of standards, which essentially means everyone is doing their own thing and none of these spheres are really talking to each other. So while the idea is to connect all the devices in your home and make them talk to each other, since they are all made by different companies each has a different language which the other does not understand — bit like a world with no English or French.
This is where Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, senses an opportunity. Having been the back bone of modern telecommunications in many parts of the globe, it now wants to do the same when the Internet of Things start spreading its web around the world.
Huawei is thinking differently from other companies by trying to unify the languages in which these devices communicate, but at the network level and not the device level. It’s new Hi-Link network devices will be able to understand all the languages that connected devices use and be able to speak to each of them in their own language. In a way it will act as a translator, or provide the common language, for the billions of connected devices that have started populating our world.
This could mean each company could go on doing their own thing and as long as they support the Hi-Link protocol, they can be deployed anywhere and connected to anything. Moreover, Hi-Link will offer a five-layer security for the devices connected to it, as well as manage passwords for them.
While Huawei has gone ahead and announced an operating system called Lite OS for connected devices, it is clear that it will not be the $50-billion giant’s job to built devices. It has already roped in appliance maker Haier and connectivity company Broadlink to create devices and solutions that support Hi-Link.
Support is the keyword here. Despite whatever Huawei has in mind, the concept will work only if other companies want to become a part of it. It won’t be a surprise if some of them, already deeply invested in the connected home space want to do their own version of this. However Huawei says it “will embrace anyone who adopts the standard”.
But for now it is Huawei that has taken the leap of faith on what could be a sustainable plan for making the IoT segment practical. Given that the company is already a major player in wireless routers in most markets, it won’t be long before you are able to control devices connected to its routers using a single app, and not the multiple apps that are now required to calibrate everything from your lighting to the temperature in the room. If things go well, then the Hi symbol could become the Bluetooth of the IoT space.
The caveat, meanwhile, is that Huawei is also trying to create an ecosystem of its own. There will be other such aggregator ecosystems unless all of them sort of morph into a standard at the very outset.