You’re trying to decipher the alphabet soup of home automation. You’ve read up on the protocols, technologies and the seemingly endless company announcements and feel that you have a handle on what is going on in home automation, until …BAM, another acronym manages to seep its way into your computer via an innocent looking press release or a news article. Now what? How do you handle it? How do you figure out the complex inter-dynamics of this new acronym with the dozens (if not hundreds) of others you have crammed into you mental database? How do you find out if this is the one acronym you can’t ignore (or should)?

Viking Electronics
Acronyms, by nature, provide an easy to remember moniker for technologies, products and concepts, and are meant to make our lives easier. But nowadays companies tend to introduce new acronyms to promote their offering as though they represent the law of the land. It seems having an acronym for your technology or product automatically signifies it as the best choice.

So how do we stay afloat in this sea of acronyms? We all gather, organize and analyze information in our own unique way. But there are a few common techniques you can use to help separate fact from fiction, meat from gristle, hype from news…well, you get the idea. Here’s my version of the RAAT (Redundant Acronym Analysis Tool), a series of questions you can ask yourself to help you qualify a new acronym.

* Is it real?

This is probably the toughest question to answer since the very purpose of introducing an acronym is to give life to something that may not deserve it. Common tricks used to fake “realness” are the use of such words as “low-cost”, “simple”, small” and “fast”, perfectly good but very subjective qualifiers. Remember that it’s almost impossible to disprove attributes for a product or technology that doesn’t exist yet.

* Is it being used?

The best test of the viability of a technology or a product is to see if is being used in real applications to solve real problems. This is one of the reasons why companies take the wait-and-see approach when trying to make a decision on a new technology. Take a lesson from these companies and check to see who, if anybody, is using the technology or product you’re considering and what kind of experience they have had. Of course this assumes that the technology or product has been around long enough to have users. And needless to say, if a technology has been around for sometime and still does not have a significant user base that should be an obvious sign of a dead fish (this usually is not a problem for products since they don’t last if they don’t sell).

* Is it truly open?

We all know the importance of having an open technology. No company in their right mind these days would come out with a technology that is not open. The problem is that there are different definitions for the word “open” out there. What I mean by open is this: is the technology you’re considering truly available to any and all who want to use it without discriminating any particular group of users? There’re many alliances and industry committees that get formed to establish “open” standards these days. Look carefully to see it one company is really pushing the effort or if the partner companies have a true stake in seeing results. Just because there are many big name companies involved doesn’t mean that they are all rowing in the same direction.