Problem: The IoT is Young and Unstandardized
As our lives become increasingly connected with the smart, networked “things” of the IoT, our interactions with technology are changing. Content, data, status, and device functions are now exchanged in an almost continuous stream. Devices can be actively or passively controlled, by us or by other devices, and operated manually, or automatically. We may be watching a movie while a wearable monitors our wellness, and the home adjusts energy, and the laundry intelligently cycles itself. All these “smart” exchanges happen concurrently, usually through more than one enabling technology. Most of them are meant to be invisible, or at least unobtrusive to the user.
Because the IoT represents such a large opportunity, many competing technologies have entered this promising market. Many more will no doubt follow in the years to come. Today, at the very beginning of the USD $4-11 trillion IoT market that McKinsey predicts, there are already thousands of products, and dozens of protocols and languages to run them. Naturally, there are many incompatibilities. Separate software applications for each of these devices, and proprietary hardware, have been the primitive work-arounds in these early days of the IoT. “Incompatibilities have been the biggest roadblock to consumer adoption for smart products and services,” says Viktor Ariel, CEO and Founder of SURE Universal (formerly Tekoia). “There are many useful technologies, but they have not been able to speak and work together. Until now, this has have made the user experience into something too complex for most consumers.”
First Answer: A Universal Language for Connected Devices Emerges
In a landmark in IoT history, a method for a universal communication between smart devices has been agreed to by the Open Connectivity Forum (OCF). This consortium is led by dozens of the world’s largest and most influential global technology leaders, and represents hundreds of IoT-facing companies. The group has developed a framework that can exchange commands and data across different IoT devices. At the same time, the OCF framework can understand any enabling protocol, and is brand agnostic. This breakthrough has opened up new avenues of possibility in the user experience. The concept of a single controller that can run all of our connected IoT devices has finally became achievable.
First Solution: The Software Universal Remote Control (SURE)
The first software-based universal remote control to take advantage of the Open Connectivity framework is the SURE Universal remote. Already a popular download worldwide for home entertainment control, the SURE Universal app recently became the first mobile client application to receive the vaunted OCF certification. This positions SURE Universal as a control platform for virtually any electronic device, regardless of its application, functionality, location, or enabling technology. Users can now interact with any of them through a unified experience, through their most familiar technology of all, the smartphone.
Consumers increasingly look to their smartphones as the logical controller for their digital lives. Smartphones routinely feature some of the key enabling technologies for the IoT, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Various hardware converters exist to bridge smartphones with otherwise incompatible devices, and older, pre-IoT electronics. These work-arounds are necessary today, but will eventually become irrelevant, as legacy electronics go the way of the VCR.
In approaching the market, the first application for SURE Universal is entertainment and media control. A conventional entertainment setup typically features multiple brands and multiple remote controls. Adding further complexity, many of today’s entertainment systems also include computers, tablets and phones, along with wireless components such as Bluetooth speakers and media servers. In addition, legacy, non-connected TVs and cable boxes must be controllable as well, resulting in even more remote controls for the user to operate. A single smartphone running SURE Universal can manage all of these devices. Through an accessory infrared (IR) bridge, SURE Universal can control legacy IR devices, thus becoming a complete whole-home controller.
Because it can already speak with any IoT device today, and to any upcoming device the lives within the OCF framework, the SURE Remote application is future-proof. Through this feature, and its ability to control legacy, non-IoT electronics from a smartphone, SURE Universal can rightfully claim to be the first genuinely universal remote control for all user-accessible electronic devices.
For consumers, SURE Universal is also the easiest way to control smart appliances; a product category expected to reach USD $37.2 billion by 2020, according to Markets & Markets. As our home appliances, from kitchen to washroom to laundry room, increasingly incorporate smart, controllable features and wireless IoT connectivity, SURE is the only universal remote solution that gives consumers an intuitive way to control all of the appliances in their homes, without having to learn dozens of different applications and technologies.
What’s Next: Embrace and Extend Throughout the Home
SURE Universal’s emergence as the first unified remote control for connected objects has placed the company at the forefront of IoT development. Moving further, SURE Universal offers a cloud platform and smart device server, which together with the SURE Universal remote, comprises a complete software solution for smart appliance vendors. For appliance manufacturers, SURE is able to provide the only off-the-shelf, OCF-compliant solution for connecting these household devices, and integrating them with unified remote control.
Working in close cooperation with leading appliance manufacturers, SURE Universal has developed a smart device server, which is a software component running on a smart component that provides connectivity, device discovery, authentication, and security based on the OCF protocol, as well as models for device functionalities such as temperature control, video monitoring, and other smart home tasks. The SURE Platform includes cloud infrastructure for data analytics and monetization, as well as future services using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
The IoT is ripe with many opportunities such as health and medical applications, home security, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and automotive electronics. SURE Universal’s technology will ultimately extend into these promising verticals.
SURE Universal’s introduction of the complete software solution for IoT marks a turning point in human-machine interaction. It is not difficult to imagine the benefits of unified user control as the markets for virtual reality, digital health, and population-scale big data mature. Regardless of application, all electronics will always have human intelligence or behaviors to control them. The “remote” will always be the interface between us and what we desire from our technologies. SURE Universal has made the interface universal. The interface is us and our smartphone, and incompatible technologies are no longer in the way. SURE Universal makes smart simple, as it should be.