Why the internet of things needs ‘curated openness’

Good news if you’d like to live in a world where our phones talk to our cars, which in turn talk to our homes, and where apps follow you from device to device and even vehicle to vehicle: The technology to do these things is here today. But there’s also a little bad news: It’s not going to actually work together for quite a while.

Speaking Friday at our Mobilize conference in San Francisco, Research in Motion (s RIMM) Senior Vice President of BlackBerry OS and QNX Engineering Sebastian Marineau-Mes told the audience that although ubiqutious computing is many people’s ultimate dream in a wireless world, it’s not going to happen without standards that don’t yet exist. Although he painted a beautiful picture of his phone telling his car about a doctor appointment, leading to a chain of automation that included navigation, prescription-filling and his house’s air conditioner kicking on at just the right time as he finally made his way back home, “The big barrier to really achieving this level of integration,” Marineau-Mes said “… is really the interoperability of all these types of data sources.”

And to all the Apple (s aapl) and Android (s goog) diehards out there, Marineau-Mes said that neither of those platforms are the answer. iOS is too closed, he explained, while Android is so open it tends to create silos of developers who just go off and do their own thing. The answer is something he calls “curated openness” — essentially the standardization of a few core functions to ensure that data can move freely between apps and that apps can move freely across our devices, whether those are phones, tablets, refrigerators or cars.

The automobile industry, Marineau-Mes said, is already trying to standardize around HTML5 to ensure that drivers can get largely uniform experiences regardless what cars they’re driving, but even that effort is still in its infancy. Questions such as how to translate a mobile app to a car’s interface and how controls will work (e.g., touchscreen or voice-control only while driving) still need to be answered. “The key is abstracting that so the application developer community can build it once and deploy it across the industry,” he said.

Clearly, though, an industry-by-industry approach will only result in more silos as each settles on its own set of standards. Rather, Marineau-Mes said, it will take something akin to an internet of things version of the World Wide Web Consortium to really drive cross-industry standards. But that approach has worked for the web and the internet, and it should work here, too.

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2012 coverage here, and the live stream can be found here.