The Internet of things is on track to be a $71 billion industry by 2018. A future where your refrigerator knows when you’re out of milk and your thermostat can adapt to your personal preferences and behaviors is no longer far-fetched. But it’s still far from a sure thing.

For manufacturers, the bulk of the challenge now lies in two areas: collaboration and standardization. For both of these, the key to success isn’t going to come from new technological advances; it will come from partnering with the right people.

The Internet of Things Needs Collaboration

Your ceiling fan could be watching you sleep. That may sound terrifying, but thanks to a recent partnership between Jawbone and Big Ass Fans, it’s actually a sign of progress.

These smart fans will now pair with Jawbone’s sleep trackers, adjusting their speed in relation to how much you toss and turn throughout the night. And when it’s time to get up, your Big Ass Fan will slowly brighten the room with its built-in LED light.

This kind of collaboration is a major step for the Internet of things. Partnerships are going to be necessary for the IoT to achieve its potential as the next biggest area of growth. This is something that Jawbone and Big Ass Fans understand and are making a reality with their alliance.

It’s estimated that in less than 10 years, the IoT will consist of 26 billion devices. Right now, it’s like the Wild West out there; rules are lacking, and there are many things ready to trip developers up if they don’t take advantage of the right knowledge sources. That’s why partnerships also need to exist when establishing standards.

The Internet of Things Needs Standardization

Back in 2008, OnStar faced a major PR problem when it announced that pre-2003 versions of OnStar would stop working after a transition from analog to digital was completed. Because the design of those modules didn’t allow for upgrading, it rendered them completely useless.

Without dominant standards, the IoT could face similar challenges in the future. Proprietary networks are pervasive, with everyone from Apple to Nest trying to control the home network. As these standards compete, they’ll change rapidly, and consumers will be the ones left behind with obsolete devices. This could, in fact, begin now as the shutdown of 2G is well underway.

Companies with fantastic ideas won’t rise to the top if they don’t have the foresight to build with regulations and carrier requirements in mind. These oversights will derail business and kill ideas. Companies must work with common languages, platforms, and hardware to enable this ecosystem to thrive.

In these early stages, people’s needs will dictate which devices succeed, not the machinations of a corporation. Without collaboration in terms of standards, the IoT will fail. Home automation is a wide-open field with room for everyone. It’s neither the time nor the place for cutthroat competition that will only leave everyone bloody.

To survive, companies have to be willing to communicate. For the IoT to achieve its potential, the brightest minds will have to collaborate. During the Space Race, huge innovations were achieved because of this, and something even more dramatic could be on the horizon in the IoT.

John Horn is the president of RacoWireless and will soon become the executive vice president and chief strategy officer of KORE. Connect with John on Twitter and Google+.

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