How can we improve interoperability? Perhaps the answer lies in the cloud—or, better yet, the fog. Chuck Byers, principal engineer and platform architect, Cisco Corporate Strategic Innovation Group, suggests fog computing, which was coined by Cisco, is having a significant impact on smart cities and it is changing interoperability.

Interoperability, he says, is the ability of two or more systems or applications to exchange information and to mutually use the information that’s been exchanged. He identifies the challenge with interoperability today, the solution, hurdles, and opportunities for the future.

Challenge: There are somewhere between 350 and 900 different platforms. He asks: how are you going to achieve interoperability if there’s 900 different flavors of how you do IoT (Internet of Things) data abstraction, and interconnectivity. If there are 900 different variants, how are you going to pull that together?

Solution: We need to figure out how to come up with a common language, some mechanism where, for example, a smart-city IoT application can take a bunch of data from various sensors and run that through the smart city, he suggests.

Another answer is fog computing. Enter the OpenFog Consortium. “We’re particularly concerned about what it means to interconnect and sort of referee all of this Wild West of interconnected space. We’ve got a taxonomy that kind of blows out how things talk to the network, and the first split is wired versus wireless.” Wired includes things that are delivered on fiber or copper. Wireless could be dived into three different methods: unlicensed spectrum (Wi-Fi), licensed spectrum (cell network), and Li-Fi, {light fidelity) the free space optical communications world.

Hurdles: Security. He admits quantum computing is a threat to IoT security, but he believes the arms race is going to get won by the good guys. Still, the stakes are much higher in the IoT world than in the traditional information technology world. This is because as soon as a hacker can gain control of the physical world, the stakes are elevated.

Another hurdle is that some companies don’t want to participate in standards because “they think that they’ve got the power to influence the industry all by themselves.”

Opportunities: One of the advantages of standards is it improves the “ferocity of the ecosystem.” People who are in the standards community are going to start taking a look at what’s written in those hundreds of pages of documentation that organizations like OpenFog generate, and use that as guide posts for their product road maps, and their product development.

Case in point: A smart city and smart transportation. Byers says his favorite conjunction of those two use cases is a drone delivery service. So think about a drone delivery service, is that a transportation service? Is it a smart-city service? Is it a retail service? He explains that it is all of the above, and it is the interoperability between those various verticals that allows the drones to transit safely through the smart city.

“Without interoperability, we’re never going to have any chance at all of that system working the way we all know it needs to be,” he says.

Byers joined Peggy Smedley, host, the Peggy Smedley Show, live in the studio for a one-on-one personal discussion to talk about the term fog computing. Byers and Smedley take a deep dive into the status of interoperability in the IoT (Internet of Things) today and what the industry is doing in terms of the multiple platforms, standards, and the lack of standards.