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The Language of Things and IoT

The Language of Things and IoT
Saratchandra Kakarla - Associate Manager | April 13, 2015
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When I was in high school, I was good at math and science, scoring more than 95% in both consistently. Probably, this was a way to compensate for my lack of understanding languages.

I was trained as an engineer, which meant my language comprehension skills worsened and I continued to struggle even after getting married. PK (The Alien) cautions his fellow alien friends in the movie: “Don’t go by the literal meaning of what humans speak. For example, when a person says, I love fish, or I love chicken, he doesn’t mean that he loves being with fish or hens. What he actually means, is that he likes eating them for lunch.“ (Translation Credits: Saratchandra’s NLP engine called the brain).

So, when we are struggling with a problem of communicating among us 6 billion humans, do we really expect to solve the communication problem between 212 billion devices? (By 2020, Source: IDC estimates)

To solve the puzzle of creating standards, IoT behemoths have created a few alliances and partnerships. The two popular ones are, AllSeen Alliance and Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). Both have the same objectives of creating what we call, the lingua franca of IoT. AllSeen Alliance has over 120 companies in its members list, with Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sony, Electrolux, and others as premier sponsors. On the other hand, OIC boasts of over 50 members with Cisco, GE Software, Intel, Mediatek, and Samsung as Diamond Sponsors.

AllJoyn is one such open source project from AllSeen Alliance, providing a common software framework for enabling interoperability among connected products and applications. OIC’s IoTivity project is a similar open source software framework for connectivity of the Internet of Things.

While English is becoming the language of the world and all non-English speaking nations are painstakingly investing in training their citizens, why can’t simple English be that common language of communication between THINGS? This makes everything designed for human communications work for the communication of THINGS as well? (I understand that English is not actually simple. E.g.: Android on my phone supports five variants in English (U.S., UK, India, Australia, XA-Not sure what this means!).

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Figure 1: Screenshot of English variants supported on the Nexus 4 Mobile running Android L

For example, it would enable a connected car, which is about to break down, to call a roadside assistance company’s contact center and say, “Hey, this is Dave’s car calling. I think my engine might get knocked-off within the next 100 miles; can you please send your technician?  I am on NH45 East at the 55 mile mark currently. Thank you. “

Going a step further, here is a brief illustration of how a social network of things might look if English becomes the language of things. How easy it would be for Facebook to just open a registration page for devices and leave everything else in-tact.

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Figure 2: Modified version of HCL’s internal social networking platform: Meme

I am looking forward to the day where these standards mature and not only connect things to each another, but also connect things to people and enable them to communicate with each another and understand.

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