NEW RESEARCH SUGGESTS that progress of the Internet of Things (IoT) is being slowed by proprietary systems and interoperability issues.
The 'State of Play' report by audio engineering firm CSR set out to examine the user perspective on home audio, and in doing so made some interesting discoveries about the nature of interconnected tech.
The INQUIRER spoke to Chris Havell, CSR's senior director of audio, about the results, who told us that although the understanding of streaming audio had improved, there was still a long way to go in convincing people of its value.
"I was intrigued that one of the feedbacks was that 43 percent of respondents still had trouble with streaming, but that's a huge step from, say three years ago when that figure would have been more like 90 percent," he said. "The question is how to bring that down even more."
It's a challenge, but one that Havell believes the industry will rise to.
"As the consumer becomes more and more familiar with the concepts of networking, I believe that networked audio will take off in general terms.
"Sonos has lead the way, Airplay has helped a little too, but over the course of time I would see wireless streaming audio as the norm - whether its over Bluetooth or WiFi, we'll just be looking for the best available bandwidth of the time."
That IoT mentality represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry, and a lot of it surrounds the complexity of interfaces that allow devices to interact.
"Although seventy percent saw themselves buying streaming audio in a ten year window, only around 35 percent saw themselves doing so in the next year. Part of that is down to price but also inter-operability."
But anyone who finds that it takes twenty minutes just to stream an album via Bluetooth or DLNA should take heart. It's getting easier.
"The other thing that has improved in that time period is an improvement in adjacent technology to the audio streaming," Havell said.
"There's NFC as a mechanism to easily bring devices into the home network, and mobile apps. Both allow me to easily attach a speaker that doesn't have a display. Consumers are getting more and more familiar with that, but its an area we continue to look at - how to improve that out of the box experience."
Havell goes on to empathise with the frustration involved in being stuck with a choice of non-intercompatible technology.
"It benefits some manufacturers to have their own proprietary system because you get locked in. The new and upcoming brands of product are more interested in inter-operability. They are looking for a value add and a common standard could be it. There is a need for that inter-operability to be addressed in the home network."
But surely, we ask, the technology is there to create a multi-room system from existing equipment. It's just noone has built it yet? He chuckles, "I think "yet" is the interesting part of your sentence. Consumer adoption of speakers has rocketed in the last couple of years, so it's bound to happen."
In spite of the suspicion, 62 percent of survey repondents said they believed that all music would be digitally delivered within 5 years, and that physical formats would be obsolete.
Another off-putting aspect is the pace of change standards. We've seen formats come and go over the years, and many are holding back to ensure they get behind the right format. But even futureproofing has its problems.
Havell explains, "69 percent have expressed an interest in futureproofed products, but what if it's a new codec to improve sound quality? The manufacturer may have to pay a licence fee and pass it on to the customer."
In other words, even if your all singing all dancing multiroom system comes with an interface that anyone can understand, with firmware to add functionality that anyone can upgrade, and at price points that is accessible, there is a risk that you may end up paying down the line for future enhancements.
In other words, when it comes to IoT a lack of built in obsolesence could come with a financial penalty instead.
For more on the Internet of Things, visit the Intel IT Center. µ
Tabs to more Ctrl and less Win. Such Fn.
Either that or it's a really intense holiday