You know how your phone works on wifi, everywhere? You don’t care what kind of wireless router Starbucks or the airport or your office has, or who their ISP is. And those places don’t care if you have an iPhone or Android, or who your carrier is. Imagine if you could only call other people that had an iPhone, or only people on Verizon?
WiFi works with everyone because of an 1997 agreement, or standard, called IEEE 802.11. All the relevant parties agreed to make their stuff work with each other. Now, as we move toward an Internet of Things, they will be many more players. Will they lay nicely together? IEEE Spectrum investigates.