Software for user’s army of gadgets

Pentagon officials announced further development of their drone program more than once this year. Small fly surveillance drones (project PERDIX) have been developing at MTI laboratories since 2011.

The current stage of development comes to software rather than to the micro UAV itself. Facing the challenge of handling a group of drones as a single object, the developers are to involve artificial intelligence groundwork performing the task. Dozens of small independent devices gathered in a flock require a different approach to the control and management system.

The approach aligns the methods applied to smart objects of the contemporary Internet of Things (IoT). The development of the widespread interoperable environments for the ‘intelligent objects’ looms in the mind of not only military experts but occupies developers of software and hardware giants. Microsoft, for instance, estimates the average number of connected devices beyond 50 per household in a few years. And this army of the Internet-enabled home equipment gadgetry needs a warlord.

What not to do

The present fragmentation of user experiences inherent to current competition of brands and ecosystems tends to continue. Software leaders realize the problem reaching little by little the conclusion that their walled garden approaches should be left behind for more jovial community garden ones. The Smart Home market provides a prominent example of where the well-integrated solutions should prevail winning the hearts (and wallets!) of customers.

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However, the fits-to-everyone platform or ecosystem is still remaining rather desirable than soon-expectable. The communication of all and any connected devices requires protocols covering various brands and systems despite the certification applied. The notorious HomeKit from Apple looks promising and comprehensive with Siri-driven personal assistance and famous quality Apple always provides. The problem lies in a humble minority of the Apple-certified hardware adaptable for integration with HomeKit. The elimination of hundreds available smart devices from compatibility is hardly appealing to consumer expectations.

 chess game user vs computer

What to do

Another hurdle the universal solution may stumble upon is the variety of communication standards available and competing. Of course, not all those Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, WeMo, ZigBee, Thread and others are mutually exclusive. However, the attempt of establishing a universal open communication standard has been made by Google with their Weave (Works with Nest). The idea was to combine all possible home appliances, smartphones, cloud services and APIs into the entire ecosystem via IPv6 network wireless connection. Working on a combination of Tread and Wi-Fi protocols, Weave can arrange compatibility for different devices beginning from light bulbs and locks up to fridges and laundry machines via some Nest device acting as a core hub. Thus, the number of possible nods in a smart home can cover about 200 devices, which is impressive and sufficient for even the most tech-savvy customers. Taking into consideration Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice service working well with Nest and gaining outstanding popularity (particularly in the US), Google seems to be a leader of interconnectivity nowadays.

Selecting a sergeant

Leaving the complexity of proliferating smart home appliances to tech giants, the matter of simple and reliable handling of day-to-day applicable gadgets remains unsettled. The mobile application developers could carve a particular niche between global software players and gadget manufacturers. Even today, an average number of gadgets in use of a single user can consist of one-two smartphones, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop, a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, and specialized professional devices in different ranges. All of them in most cases are controlled by a joint operating system. It means a human who is still the most intelligent OS ever operating the gadgetry. A user oneself is to interconnect all and any devices creating the interoperable environment. In one’s own head.

Often such an activity is distressful being time-and-effort consuming. The necessity of keeping different gadgets’ peculiarities in mind annoys. Hence, the task for developers boils down to selecting a core device able to act as a hub for other gadgets along with developing a relevant application for it. The most appropriate gadget for being a warlord of a private digital platoon of devices seems to be a smartphone thanks to its technological sufficiency and psychological omnipresence.       

 cat sergant

Personal cloud

Using a smartphone with a specially developed cross-device application, a person could be able to combine both current daily tasks and the universal access to all gadgets one owns. The idea does not mean the entire interchangeability of all devices that is hardly possible. This accords rather with already existing apps allowing to control smart home IoT such as door locks or security cameras with a smartphone. Although cloud-based data repositories have already proved their feasibility, many among us keep their super-private files on their home desktops. The cross-gadget application could provide access to such files from a mobile device making the desktop somewhat of a private cloud. If nothing else, an application, which enables categorizing files and applications of all available devices for the ‘work’ and ‘private’ environments is worth considering.

Corporate monitoring

The highly specialized mobile apps for corporative practice could be in a certain demand too. Big organizations with large staff come to think about fitness trackers implementation in their workflows. In order to monitor the health condition or emotional state of a team, the corporate HR manager could follow up the fitness trackers’ data remotely with a smartphone or a tablet along with ability of sending the reports to a corporate server. Needless to say that such an application would facilitate both the HR manager’s routine and the corporation workflow effectiveness. The aggregation of corporate data keeps remaining an intricate process. Its capacity is constantly overburdened, and thus diminished in function on many occasions. The cross-gadget tools could optimize and simplify the process.

KISS

On which factors and trends should developers pay their attention considering applications for a heterogeneous environment of devices? Gartner predicts at least 30% of screen-less web sessions by 2020 and 10 million home-based voice assistants by 2017. Whereas the majority of software giants have opened their SDKs and APIs for third-party developers, the integration with Siri or Alexa voice services should not be ignored.

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The complex solutions will tend to untie customers hands and relief their eyes. Voice control functions are turning from modern-day gizmos to a fundamental contemporary approach slowly but steadily. Customers extend their browsing experience making such activities as driving, walking, cooking, or socialization coherent to voice interactions more and more. Regardless OS or wireless protocol, the devices should cohabit well with each other. This hints at the simplicity of user experiences expected by customers. The famous KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach is to prevail being applicable to every aspect of life as Microsoft heads suggest. The developers of multi gadget environment should be confronted with an average general consumer, not an IT expert.

 Alexa and Siri

The financial predictions regarding business and consumers profit of implementation of IoT solutions in general reach $1 trillion by 2022. The amount includes cross-gadget interoperable environments and applications that are waiting for their hour. Indeema dares to speculate none of them would be a silver bullet. That means there is plenty of room and time for those developers who can recognize the chance to participate in sharing-out of the investments. For this reason, we urge colleagues as usually: “Consider this, fellows, and get your hands on!”  

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