Google will keep its options open when it comes to supporting Internet of Things (IoT) protocols, according to the firm’s VP of cloud platform, Brian Stevens.
Stevens explained that the technology giant has a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) team focused on the Internet of Things and that there is also a whole Google-wide effort on IoT.
“There is a lot of traction on the device-level, Android-level, and things like cars,” he told Internet of Business.
Standards & protocols
As part of its focus on IoT, Google has switched its Pub/Sub middleware product to using the open source MQTT protocol.
“Pub/Sub now speaks IoT… the protocol called MQTT enables devices and hubs to ingest their data through Pub/Sub and then run analytics on it,” said Stevens. This is just one protocol that Google is using, and the IoT space is crowded with a number of competing standards. Experts believe that IoT will only be able to exploited fully when standards can be converged.
Quocirca analyst Rob Bamforth believes that standards convergence is a big challenge because it involves multiple layers.
“We need standards for interoperability, which is fundamental to communications, but we also need innovation. Abstraction and layering with open interfaces (APIs) helps, until the abstraction models fails…or until large forces gather and try to steer things in their own proprietary direction,” he said.
Google’s Stevens hopes that the use of open source standards such as MQTT can be one of the solutions to interoperability issues. He added that Google would participate in forums, where IoT standards are discussed, but he maintained that the firm would inevitably support multiple protocols for the time being.
“You’re going to end up supporting multiple protocols for a while because not everything is going to converge,” he said.
Vendors “could be waiting forever”
But Bamforth believes that an issue for vendors keeping their options open is that they could be waiting forever.
“In the 1990s, in early years of Java, Sun Microsystems published an open standard for the interoperability of spontaneously connected ‘things’ called Jini, which ran over internet protocols – 20 years on and we’re still discussing how to get things talking to each other,” he said.
He believes that standards which have momentum – from both mass (ie. a large group or commitment from a significant player), and velocity (ie. moving quickly), are critical.
“Companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon can kick off these sorts of things as they have market presence and power, but to gain real momentum they have to drum up adoption and momentum quickly. It’s not just about being ‘first to market’, but ‘first to volume’,” he said.