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Smartphones as IoT Hubs

May 19, 2015

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing collection of devices that are network connected. ABI Research predicts that 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. These are almost all siloed, sending data to dedicated servers that don’t allow the information to be shared with other services. Siloed experiences aren’t consumer-friendly because it makes managing different brands difficult, and attempts to lock them into a proprietary family of products. There is an opportunity for a central IoT hub, but who will fill that void?

IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, is a cloud-based platform that automates connections between online services. IFTTT supports nearly 200 services, each with their own triggers and actions. For example, every time you post to Instagram, you can automatically back up the image to Dropbox. IFTTT now supports Internet of Things (IoT) products like Nest, Phillips Hue, and Belkin’s WeMo suite of home automation products.

To better support these products, IFTTT has released Do Button, Do Camera, and Do Note for iOS and Android devices. Do Button allows users to interact with those supported IoT products in a range of ways with a simple virtual button. This could be switching appliances off or changing settings. Do Button is both device and product agnostic and has the potential to become the universal remote for consumer IoT devices.

Nest, owned by Google, offers smart, connected home thermostats and smoke alarms. The thermostat uses motion detectors and learns the settings you input to optimize temperatures and save energy. Nest also has a program called Works with Nest that brings other IoT devices into the Nest platform, sharing data and extending the experience beyond the home. One partner is Automatic, an IoT device for your car. Automatic can let the Nest thermostat know when you are close to home, so it can make your home comfortable when you arrive. These partnerships are limited at the moment, and mainly serve as data input for the thermostat.

Similarly, Apple has a home automation framework called HomeKit in its lineup, and is looking for developers to build apps and hardware on its home automation API. HomeKit will use the capabilities of iOS devices, including the voice recognition service Siri, to manage a range of apps and devices. This has the potential to act like an app store, where developers can build home automation services on top of a standardized framework. While HomeKit is an exciting development, it is part of Apple’s walled garden. It is only supported by iOS devices and apps and hardware need to go through their approval processes.

Whether people use the Do Button, HomeKit, or individual apps, it is clear that your mobile phone will become the control panel for all of your IoT-connected household devices. Phones have already given us the power of control over communications and software services. Over the next few years, we will see our control grow as we connect more hardware to our home networks and these hubs begin to become standardized.

is a President | Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.

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