What is the word most hated by kids? “No.” Can I have another cookie? No. Can I go outside and play? No. It’s a defeating word. The same is true in the tech world. Can I use system X, Y, Z? No. Can we use devices manufactured by ________? No. It was a depressing word as a child, and it’s even more depressing for companies trying to advance their businesses.

That’s where the wonderful word “Agnostic” comes in. But what does it mean?

The root ‘gnosis’ is a Greek word meaning knowledge, and in classic Greek grammar, to put an ‘a’ in front is to imply opposite.  “A-gnosis” means non-knowledge. It was popularized as a philosophical term in the 19th century by Thomas Henry Huxley to describe people who believe that certain metaphysical questions cannot be known, such as “Why do I exist?”. Agnostics believe there is “no-knowledge” on the subject; it can’t be known.

In the tech world, and especially IoT (Internet of Things), agnostic technology carries a completely different meaning. But it’s used as a double-negative, which makes it confusing. Whereas ‘agnostic’ used to imply that information cannot be known, today it implies that something is not limited in what it ‘knows’. In other words, and here’s the confusing double-negative: It doesn’t not know.

And because double negatives cancel each other out, it should look like this: It doesn’t not know = It knows.

Enough of the philosophical jargon. Here are some real world examples.

Platform Agnostic:

There are multiple IoT platforms on the market today, such as Amazon, PTC, Microsoft, and while they all have their unique advantages, and some with more significant disadvantages, to be platform agnostic means to be capable of using any platform a customer chooses.

Protocol Agnostic:

There is certainly an issue of protocols in the world of IoT (see here, here, and here). How can devices communicate effectively if they’re speaking different protocols? How can data from multiple protocols all pool into a communal place like Salesforce? Like the famed tower of Babel, one of IoT’s biggest hurdles is to help devices, protocols, and data sets all work together on a common protocol, or with translating brokers, to make communication happen seamlessly. Therefore, to be protocol agnostic is to not not know a protocol: To be flexible to know, and use, any protocol a customer chooses.

Device Agnostic:

You’re probably starting to figure this out and Device Agnostic isn’t any different. Just as protocols and platforms pose a problem for interoperability and communication, so do the devices themselves. To be device agnostic means that one isn’t limited to one type of device. To be device agnostic is to be flexible to use any device a customer chooses.

To be agnostic with modern technology is to not not know. Although it’s a little confusing at first, it’s a very good thing. It means to know everything, work with anything, and be limited by nothing.

At ThingLogix, we are happy to say that we are platform, protocol, and device agnostic. We are not limited to a specific platforms, protocols, and devices because we are open and flexible in making sense of your data with whatever platform, protocol, and devices you choose.



Jake Smeester

Director of Marketing for ThingLogix and an IoT evangelist. He's also a professional pianist.

  • Follow: 

Leave a Reply