Languages aren’t just for people; computers are also busy working away in hundreds of different programming languages, day and night. And just as people don’t always speak each other’s language, sometimes computers also need a bit of help when it comes to translation.
The exponential growth of the Internet of Things has made the situation even more complex and the need for a plan to ensure our technology can communicate has never been such a high priority.
But as yet there is no clear solution. So what’s going on? And can the human world learn anything from the machines?
What is the Internet of Things?
The term ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), put simply, is the concept of connecting any device to the internet. In the consumer world, this can refer to anything from mobile phones to coffee makers, lamps, wearable devices and even washing machines.
For businesses it’s about connecting up every stage of a supply chain or each machine within a manufacturing company, so that each component is aware of what stage its ‘colleagues’ are at in production. It’s a trend that’s transforming industry, but there is a huge question hanging over its future as more and more companies, brands and machines are brought into the mix: what language will these machines talk?
The Problems with a Global IoT
When it comes to B2B devices the real problem with a global setup is the lack of a unified programming language. Essentially, not all machines and devices are created equal; some will talk to those produced by other manufacturers, while others will work exclusively with their own kind.
This lack of standardised protocol language is causing problems for manufacturers who are having to choose a language for themselves and risk losing interest from potential clients working with an alternative, or denying themselves the option to work with a new design or product. This issue is exacerbated when it comes to international operations, with country protocol preferences meaning the wrong choice can make it almost impossible for a device manufacturer to break into or work with certain markets where an alternative protocol dominates.
Aware of the problem, many companies are working hard to develop a unified solution to help push technology development forward. Over the past few years a number of competing standards groups have been launched, which has helped reduce the number of competing protocols, but on a global scale, there are still challenges to address in how these different groups to connect.
The AllSeen Alliance is one such group, and boasts among its members Microsoft, LG and Sony. The organisation has created a system called AllJoyn, which aims to provide a universal software framework to enable interoperability among connected products across manufacturers.
A second group is the Open Connectivity Foundation, which includes backers such as Intel and Samsung. Similar to its rival, the organisation’s mission is to develop standards and certification for IoT devices to provide easy discovery and reliable connectivity between devices.
Organisations like these are beginning to work together to establish a single standard, but they are still only reducing the number of competing protocols, rather than moving towards a single option. A lack of interest from global giants including Amazon and Google is also a cause for concern. Additionally, many companies have expressed worry about the technical challenge of developing a way to actually implement this interoperability once an agreement is made and furthermore, how to market the result to benefit both businesses and consumers.
Communication via the Internet of Things
For companies tackling these technical challenges, one of the overriding issues is obviously that of inter-company communication. Without a shared technical language, development and the potential for collaboration are held back. For companies operating across continents, the lack of a shared human language creates similar difficulties for teams struggle to communicate.
Product designers and manufacturers rely heavily on communication to ensure success, but they don’t always share a language. It’s not unlikely that each stage of development will take place in a different country, so manufacturers need top quality technical translations to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the designer’s vision – whatever language they receive it in – and further down the line, marketers need to know just what the potential of the device is that they’re trying to promote.
Add the different technical protocols to the mix as well as the variety of human languages and the challenge is even greater, as teams look to transform all the different inputs into a coherent vision and ultimately a successful product.
While eagerly awaiting a resolution on the technical front, many companies are working with language agencies to produce translated product briefs, technical translation and translated support guides to ensure each stage of the development process is completed without conflict.
The creation of standardised groups to reduce the number of protocols at play is a start in streamlining the future of the Internet of Things. But until a single decision is made on a global level, the Internet of Things will continue to face difficulties when it comes to linguistic differences and inter-compatibility.
It’s reflective of the struggles that businesses face on a human level the world over, different people using different languages to communicate and move things forward, only for people, there’s the added challenge of ensuring a deeper understanding of culture, history and unspoken meanings.
While there is no perfect answer for man or machine, we can learn from the technical world just how important it is to work together to understand different languages. Enabling any protocol language to talk to another will help drive innovation and progress, streamlining business and providing the opportunity for greater technological advancement in the process.
For humans, the opportunities of globalisation are huge. Businesses that make the effort to understand their audiences and work with teams the world over will reap the benefits, both in their finances and their company culture. Speaking each other’s language creates new ideas and chances that we can all benefit from, if we just take that extra bit of effort to understand each other.
Bubbles offers technical translation from highly specialised experts. While we can’t help you when it comes to ensuring your devices are running inter-compatible languages, we can help your team when it comes to ensuring that anyone in the world has the right information to install and maintain your devices.