Updated: Apr 22
General view of the Pont du Gard, etching by Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1804)
When standards and silos sail canned
The shortage of standards does not seem close to affecting Information and Communications Technologies in general, and the Internet of Things in particular (see the figure below). What strikes first? Their number: who can boast of having read them all? And to have understood them, really, not cheating?
At second glance, it is the presence of silos that stands out. Shells, fences, borders, ditches ... seem to definitively bury the utopia of an ecosystem unifiable in its principles, if not yet unified in its reality. Internet of Things, really? With a big S at InternetS, then.
Of course, there are very good reasons for each of these initiatives. They mobilized energy and intelligence with cohorts of engineers and technologists full of good intentions. To finally build walls, or at least reinforce those that preceded them.
(source: AIOTI WG03 - IoT Standardisation)
Walls and bridges are birds of a feather
"The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people, all of whom having been replaced" said George Clémenceau. The same goes for standards and time will sort it out. But there is a good chance that the walls will remain, walls of technology, habits, ready-to-think: while an enclosed space encloses, it also protects.
Bridges are not built on sand, they need a solid foundation. Complex and long-term networks and infrastructure must be accurately defined and stable enough to allow for widespread deployments with long periods of use.
But once in place, the use of these infrastructures must be left to the free imagination of editors, manufacturers, service providers and especially the users: a bridge does not presume the identity of the one who crosses it, the goods that she takes with her, where she comes from or where she goes.
Let's be fuzzy
The grammar of a natural language "standardizes" the materials (words) and the assembly rules (syntax): it is the foundation of a language. But this grammar leaves everyone free to express information, instructions, ideas, requests, according to their needs and situation.
Natural language is a fuzzy standard. Oxymoron? Perhaps at first glance. However, when we take a closer look, we get used to it very well in our daily lives. Our language allows us to interact with people we have never met, to tell the same story in a thousand different ways, to express new concepts from old words.
The malleable nature of language is a guarantee of its effectiveness and the freedom it gives. What if natural language was the bridge IoT needed to emancipate itself?