The Open Interconnect Consortium is taking another step toward consolidating industry efforts to standardize interoperability for the Internet of things by acquiring the assets of the UPnP Forum.
The two groups announced the deal Nov. 23, with officials for both groups saying it will benefit their consortiums as well as the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT) space.
"It should be good for everybody," UPnP President Scott Lofgren told eWEEK. "It should be good for the industry [and] it should be for the organizations."
The IoT is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years as more devices, systems and sensors—from wearables and smartphones to home appliances, automobiles, industrial systems and medical devices—connect to the Internet and to each other. Gartner analysts say that by 2020, there will be 21 billion IoT-connected devices in use; Cisco Systems officials put that number at more than 50 billion.
By that time, there needs to be an accepted, common standard in use to ensure that these devices can communicate with each other, according to officials with the Open Internet Consortium (OIC) and the UPnP. Over the last several years, there have been several industry consortiums—including the OIC, AllSeen Alliance, Industrial Internet Consortium and Thread Group—created to deal with various aspects of interoperability. Those groups joined others—such as the ZigBee Alliance and the UPnP Forum—that have been working on connectivity and interoperability issues for systems and devices for years.
The UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) Forum has been around since 1999, dealing with network connectivity and adapting its efforts as the industry has evolved. The UPnP architecture is a distributed, open networking architecture that uses TCP/IP and the Web to offer pervasive peer-to-peer network connectivity of PCs, intelligent appliances and wireless devices.
Now all the group's assets will be transferred to the OIC, which in turn will offer membership to members of the UPnP Forum. In addition, the OIC will form a new UPnP Working Group that will maintain the UPnP specifications and certification tools. Legacy UPnP certification will be offered for a fee to companies that choose not to join the OIC.
Lofgren and OIC Executive Director Mike Richmond told eWEEK that the work of the two groups complement each other and that both share a large number of members. Richmond said he expects the OIC, which currently has 100 member organizations, to double its membership through the deal. In addition, the OIC—which was founded last year by tech vendors, including Intel, Dell and Samsung—will get a large number of experienced technologists and programmers into the fold.
"It's like having a basketball team that's young and athletic and then you bring in some veterans," Richmond said. "It's going to make us a lot stronger."
The agreement also is an important step in the process of consolidating and streamlining various standards efforts around the IoT, he said. As more such groups crop up, worries mount how fragmentation might negatively impact the development of the IoT.
"There are so many groups that have started up in the last two or three years with various degrees of scope and ambition," Richmond said.
Over the past year or so, there has been some movement to bring the disparate interoperability efforts more closely together. In February, the OIC and Industrial Internet Consortium said they planned to work more closely. Two months later, the Thread Group and ZigBee Alliance announced they were partnering to enable ZigBee's application layer protocols to run over Thread-based networks.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to state that Legacy UPnP certification will be offered for a fee.