The first hurdle to creating the smart home is establishing a common “language,” so devices can talk to each other. Today, a welter of confusing networks and communications standards makes interoperability virtually impossible. There are many so-called smart devices on the market — to automate security, climate control or lighting, for example — but one company’s products don’t work with another’s. Worse, every so often a new alliance of companies claims a better communications standard.
Only a techie can sort it all out. Meanwhile, the average consumer isn’t buying.
As they have done in previous generations of products, the chip guys need to solve this problem with firmware and hardware.
Currently, several chipmakers are fielding wireless microcontrollers, systems on chip (SoCs) that integrate low-power microcontrollers with some level of wireless connectivity, in the form of RF transceivers. They come in as many different flavors as there are wireless technologies: Wi-Fi, ZigBee, 6LoWPAN, Bluetooth, ANT, etc.
We need silicon that’s even smarter. Instead of a chip for each standard, why not a “responsively configurable” transceiver, one that recognizes the prevailing wireless technology in the environment and automatically adapts the SoC to it. Firmware could be used to reconfigure an on-chip FPGA, perhaps. A connected device built with such a chip at its heart — an “adaptive” device — would be truly smart; it would automatically work with any network, any communications standard. Interoperability solved. Can it be done?