A number of the industry groups working to create standards that will enable the billions of devices that make up the Internet of things to more easily connect and communicate with each other were on hand at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show this week to announce recent milestones in their efforts.
The AllSeen Alliance unveiled more than a dozen products for the connected home that are the first to be certified for interoperability using the group's AllJoyn technology. In addition, the consortium—which launched in late 2013 and includes such tech heavyweights as Microsoft, AT&T, Cisco Systems, IBM and Lenovo as members—also announced at CES that 14 companies recently joined, bringing total membership to 200.
For its part, the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) unveiled a partnership with the ULE Alliance, which promotes the adoption of the new Ultra Low Energy wireless technology aimed at the Internet of things (IoT). The two groups are working to enable connected devices to run OIC's IoTivity code over ULE and to create a bridge that will connect existing ULE and IoTivity networks, according to Avi Barel, business development director for the ULE Alliance.
At the show in Las Vegas, the OIC and ULE Alliance demonstrated devices using both technologies working together.
"With this active liaison, the Open Interconnect Consortium and the ULE Alliance are taking an important step toward broadening the adoption of IoT," OIC Executive Director Mike Richmond said in a statement. "Interoperability and cooperation between standards organizations is of paramount importance in enabling practical implementations of IoT."
Cisco officials expect there will be more than 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020, and for the IoT to work as promised, interoperability between many of these products will be important. A number of the new AllJoyn-certified products highlight such interoperability. For example, LG Electronics' Smart AC WLAN Module for its air conditioners can be controlled by users' smartphones, while LIFX offers smart light bulbs—Color 1000 B22, E27, BR30 and E26, White 900 BR30, and White 800 E26, B22 and E27—that also can be controlled through smartphones or other connected devices.
In addition, products like smart light bulbs can communicate with other smart devices to turn on when the doorbell rings, or trigger a smart thermostat to start up when someone turns the light on.
"To realize the incredible potential of the IoT, we need something very simple: a common open framework that everyone uses to make their products, apps and services connect and interact," Philip DesAutels, senior director of IoT at AllSeen, said in a statement.
An array of industry groups is looking to enable that interoperability. Along with AllSeen and OIC, there is the Thread Group and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), among others. The rise in the number of such groups has fueled worries that a fragmentation of efforts could slow down interoperability efforts, though there are an increasing number of examples of some groups working together. Most recently, the Thread Group and ZigBee Alliance announced a partnership this week to enable ZigBee-based devices to use the Threat protocol.
That followed similar agreements, including the IIC and OIC forming a strategic alliance and ZigBee saying it is working with the EnOcean Alliance, a group launched in 2001 that has developed a protocol for sub-1GHz energy-harvesting devices used in commercial buildings.
AllSeen, a project under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, is developing a connectivity framework based on AllJoyn, a technology initially developed by Qualcomm but that has since become open source. There already are a number of products on the market that use AllJoyn, but the ones announced at CES are the first to be tested and certified by the consortium. Among the companies with certified products are Fon Technology, Heaven Fresh, Two Bulls and Microsoft (with its Windows 10 Professional operating system and Surface Pro 3 device).
The OIC a year ago launched the first release of its IoTivity software framework for device connectivity. Its membership of more than 120 companies includes Cisco, Intel, Dell, IBM, Samsung and Huawei Technologies, and the group also lists the Thread Group, IIC and EnOcean among its liaisons.