HyperCat protocol will make or break the Internet of Things


The idea of connected devices means far more than wireless webcams and televisions that are connected to the internet. The Internet of Things is a buzzword, but it’s also a real, tangible thing. Consumers and businesses alike are looking to the ways in which connected devices can help to make life easier, more efficient, and more profitable. In many ways, this is Internet 2.0 -- we've had Web 2.0, now the Internet is being taken to the next level -- as the benefits of getting ever more devices not only online, but also communicating with each other, are realized. But just as with the web, the IoT needs protocols to ensure compatibility between devices, and this is what HyperCat hopes to bring about.

A collaboration between dozens of UK technology firms, HyperCat is… well… let's allow it to introduce itself. "HyperCat is a media type for the web allowing servers to list catalogs of resources. It is designed to make discovery of IoT services and assets easier". It's a protocol, a specification, a standard. It's an attempt to define the semantics of the Internet of Things, helping to level the playing field and start everyone off on an even footing. As we saw with the VHS and Betamax battle, and the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD format wars, there are just no winners when there are two or more competing formats. It makes perfect sense to pin down how the IoT should work as early as possible, and this is precisely what HyperCat aims to do.

It's very difficult to predict just where the IoT will be in 5, 10 or 15 years -- ten years ago it would have been all but impossible to predict that the internet in general would be where it currently is -- but if protocols are defined from the beginning, it will certainly help to ensure that growth is rapid and that the world of M2M technology is open to as many players as possible. By pushing for an open, accessible standard, HyperCat is helping to ensure that the IoT is made available to the most innovative players and not just those companies and individuals with the most money.

A large part of how the IoT will evolve will depend on how data is stored and accessed -- this is what defining a standard will help with. Information that is created and stored by one device should be accessible to and usable by other connected devices. HyperCat will help with the interoperability of devices by allowing for data to be stored in the cloud in standardized formats and made available to connected devices.

"For example, if an application only understands temperature measurements, HyperCat provide a means to search for and discover this type of data -- buried amongst other data that the application may not understand," explains the consortium.

The standard will, of course, have to include security and authentication options built in, but the underlying idea is to avoid the need for proprietary APIs. Nest is one set of IoT devices that allow data to be accessed through special APIs -- and when this is the case there is far greater scope for charging for access, something that will only stifle growth.

An open standard not only lowers the cost of getting involved in the IoT, but also helps speed up development. At the moment, HyperCat is still in the fairly early stages of development, and the big names -- like Google -- are yet to get involved, and this could be the pivotal point. HyperCat has the potential to make or break the Internet of Things. The big players need to get involved or we could end up with yet another format war.

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