Clearing the Way for the Consumer in the IoT

Tobin Richardson, President & CEO, ZigBee Alliance
Tobin Richardson, President & CEO, ZigBee Alliance

Tobin Richardson, President & CEO, ZigBee Alliance

As each new market study indicates, the age of the Internet of Things has found monumental success and is gathering strength quickly. Gartner Group pegged current usage of connected things at nearly 4 billion in 2014 with a forecast of 25 billion by 2020. McKinsey puts the market value of the IoT market as high as $11 trillion by 2025. The IoT is not limited to one market segment, either. Utilities, businesses, industrial companies, cities, retail stores and homeowners around the world are already realizing the benefits of this connected phenomenon. So what should we do with this massive connected device takeover? What opportunity waits in the coming wave of innovation headed our way? Most importantly, what’s stopping this lucrative industry from fully realizing success?

“Consumers, companies, and governments are ready to adopt the IoT today, and they cannot wait for several years while a new standard works out kinks and nurtures adoption.”

Seemingly every other day, another organization announces a new wireless standard for the IoT, the “answer to all our problems.” These untested and usually proprietary solutions are natural but insufficient answers to the dire need for consolidation around an open, global, and proven wireless standard for the IoT. The industry is overwhelmed, and product developers are finding themselves certifying their products with a vast number of standards and ecosystems, attempting to be interoperable with as many products as possible. This time-consuming and inefficient pattern is a hindrance to innovation and a costly process for product manufacturers, delaying consumer and professional benefits alike.

While there are many opportunities to improve or develop the IoT industry, the most urgent and pivotal need today is the requirement for a universal wireless network that connects IoT products seamlessly. An open, global, and established wireless standard is the key to a truly interoperable and limitless IoT.


The reason for an open standard is simple. Rather than paying for membership from one company that can dictate cost and standard guidelines unchecked, an open standard allows companies to come together, choose the best solutions for the membership as a whole, and use membership fees not to build a company, but to promote a standard for the mutual benefit of the whole market. Decisions are made to benefit the end-user and consumer, not the founding company.The world has seen open standards work successfully in the past, and the IoT is another industry that will benefit from this model now that the market has proven viable.


TechNavio's analysts have predicted that the IoT market in China will grow at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 32 percent over 2014-2019. By 2020, China’s market is expected to reach $166 billion. A European Commission Study has predicted that the market value of the IoT will be over one trillion Euros in 2020. In a Forrester Consulting study of Latin American companies, 60 percent of respondents reported already having IoT implementations. In the United States, more than two thirds of consumers plan to buy connected technology for their homes by 2019. What do all these statistics indicate? They are tangible evidence of the strong and rapidly growing adoption of connected devices. The world is ablaze with companies eager to participate in this industry. It is unreasonable to expect that such a global industry can be supported by regional standards when so much of the world economy relies on global manufacturing and distribution.


This industry will wait for no one. Consumers, companies, and governments are ready to adopt the IoT today, and they cannot wait for several years while a new standard works out kinks and nurtures adoption. What this industry needs is an established standard, the result of years of development by experts from a variety of companies invested in the IoT. For long-term growth and success, this foundation will be critical to serving a global consumer base, whether based in industrial, commercial or consumer applications.


There is another key component to the ideal standard that will connect IoT devices seamlessly. The security of connected devices is an important feature of a market ready IoT Standard. The need for secure device-to-device communications in the IoT needs to be balanced against the ease of installation/use by the end consumer. A global, open standard is the right forum for this balance between security and usability to be achieved. Having representatives from all market players ensures that the final solution meets the needs of all stakeholders.

Moving Forward

Is there an open, global, and established standard that can handle the innovation and immediate growth of the IoT? A standard built by thousands of industry experts that will support a variety of thriving industries around the world? The ZigBee Alliance and its recent efforts to not only develop core standards, but also to collaborate with several other organizations builds on the years of effort made by its hundreds of member companies to develop open, global standards for the IoT. I believe it will be the key to unlocking all the potential of the IoT. In five years, we might really see the IoT grow exponentially; in fact, we might just exceed even those predictions made in the last few years. Now is the time to experience this monumental growth by choosing an open, global, established standard as a solid foundation for the IoT; the innovation unleashed will provide excellent solutions and services to consumers of every market segment.

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