What are Interoperability Guidelines?

April 25, 2012

A lot of new portable devices have been released in recent years. Software apps which you can download to run on these new devices are growing by the day. Devices in your home which can be controlled by these apps expand giving you conveniences and information you never had before.

All this sounds great, but you don’t want to have to use a different smart phone to control your security system, than what you use to control your home automation. Kind of like today where we have multiple remotes for different TV’s, Blu-Ray players and other set top boxes.

Different electronic manufacturing companies have realized the difficulty of making sure different devices communicate with other brands. Many of them have worked together on developing standards so that interoperability is a reality.


DLNA is an example of this kind of collaborative group. DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance. It consists of more than 200 companies with the goal to ensure that sharing audio, video and images between network-enabled devices is simple and reliable. The result is that any two (or more) “DLNA-certified” devices should easily share information between each other over your home network.

DLNA achieves this goal by developing communication standards between different types of devices. When a manufacturer develops a new product, they have it certified by DLNA and then the product receives a DLNA certified logo so that consumers know when they purchase it that the product meets these standards.

The devices DLNA certifies include every kind of media related device in your home. An example given on their website is a DLNA certified refrigerator, which has an LCD screen. If one of these is in your home and you also have a DLNA Smartphone with pictures of your kids’ soccer game on it, then you are able to wirelessly send these to the refrigerator appliance’s LCD screen for display.


AirPlay is Apple’s version of DLNA. Originally it was called AirTunes, when it was for audio only. It also is a “stack” or “suite” of standards for communication between their different media devices. They have also licensed parts of this to different manufacturer s so that they can use the technology in their products and be assured that they will communicate with Apple iDevices.

Consumer Flexibility is the Goal

The end result of interoperability certification for consumers is that they can make a purchase of media devices and know that each device will work with a different media device from another manufacture. This prevents the consumer from being locked into one specific brand, allowing competition to provide them with lower cost devices.

Standards Organizations and Certification for Professional Installers

While DLNA and AirPlay are great for consumer media devices, there also exists standards for installation best practices carried out by professional installers. Groups such as CEA and CEDIA provide certification for professionals so that you can be assured that their work meets established standards in the home entertainment industry.

These groups provide standards and best practices for installations including home theater design, residential speaker systems planning, smart grid devices, connector color coding for home television systems and multi-room cabling standards.

Complete whole house media investments such as home theater’s, and multi-zone audio can be expensive so you want it to be done right. Knowing that a contractor meets these vigorous industry standards by having been certified can give you confidence they will do the job right.

Along with the installation quality you can then be assured they will sell and install the right equipment so that “A successful home theater experience will realistically reproduce images created by the director and allow the viewer to become fully immersed in the program material,” said by Dave Pedigo, CEDIA senior director of technology.

Standards for the Future of Media Technology

Imagine the chaos and frustration for you if electricians did not follow a standard when wiring your new home, or remodeling an existing one. With standards, your lights and appliances you already own may or may not work with the new home you just purchased. There are also safety considerations involved as doing the work improperly could result in harm to your family.

Whole house multimedia technology is also heading in this direction. It’s still a relatively new industry, but it’s growing at an increasingly faster pace. Interoperability guidelines will help to insure that different manufacturers’ home media devices communicate with each other and to provide a more enjoyable experience for the home owner.