UK develops new, easier way for Internet of Things to communicate

The Internet of Things – tech developers’ dream future scenario where all our stuff, from our fridges to our cars, are online and communicating with each other – only continues to become more of a possibility for all of us, but it’s bringing up a lot of concern about privacy in the process, especially the steps involved in setting up security that could easily be bungled by human error.

Now, a group of 40 British companies has developed Hypercat, a new way for interconnected machines and their associated apps to ‘talk’ to each other. At the moment, software engineers need to write an application programming interface (API) to specify how different systems should communicate. HyperCat will provide one standard way for gadgets to work together, without the need for new software each time. But instead of requiring all companies to work in the same way, it simply translates the diverse ways various companies work into the same language.

So in future it should be possible for one machine to find out what data another machine is allowed to share without the need for further software or any actual people to get involved. Pilgrim Beart is chief executive of start-up 1248, one of the companies involved, and he told the BBC: ‘An example would be if an application understands temperatures, Hypercat would provide a uniform way the application could ask any service if it has temperature data… and ask to get hold of it.’ That way different brands’ products could work seamlessly together.

Some big corporations were involved in developing Hypercat, including BT, Intel, and IBM, and the government awarded the project £6.4 million of UK Technology Strategy Board money. But in order to succeed, it will need to be widely adopted by the leading names in connected home technology, Apple and Google. Their enthusiasm might be muted by the fact that they don’t necessarily want their systems to play nicely together, even if it is all organised by something that has ‘cat’ in the name.

Diane Shipley

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