HyperCat Spec Aims for Internet of Things Interoperability

The specification was developed by an English consortium that includes IBM, Intel and ARM as well as various UK startups.

Hypercat IoT

A U.K.-based consortium of tech companies that includes IBM, Intel and ARM has developed a new specification for the Internet of things that is designed to make it easier for connected systems to automatically find and make sense of data.

According to the group, which was funded by almost $11 million by the Technology Strategy Board—the innovation agency in the United Kingdom—the HyperCat spec will help fuel the drive toward the Internet of things (IoT) by enabling connected machines and sensors to more easily break out of vertical silos and discover data and resources across the Internet, and to do so with minimal human intervention.

With HyperCat, systems and sensors that will make up the IoT will be able to see what data and resources can be found on a specific data hub, or can search for particular types of data anywhere on the Internet. As an example, the consortium pointed to an application that only understands temperature measurements. With HyperCat, connected systems running the application would be able to find that type of data from among the massive amounts of unrelated data that's on the Internet.

"HyperCat has been designed to move us from the Internet of Silos to the Internet of Things," Pilgrim Beart, CEO of IoT startup 1248, said in a statement. "Previously, applications were vertically-integrated, working only with specific services, which confines data to narrow vertical silos. HyperCat enables apps to discover data across all services, freeing machines from the human programmer bottleneck and allowing a many-to-many relationship to develop, which is the key to IoT."

More than 40 tech vendors in the United Kingdom—including such established vendors as BT and startups from 1248 to Flexeye—are part of the consortium that developed HyperCat. Andrew Tyrer, digital lead specialist for the Technology Strategy Board, said in a statement that the creation of the spec not only is a tribute to the efforts of the vendors involved and offers the potential to make the IoT much more workable, but that HyperCat also holds the potential "in the future to put the UK at the forefront of IoT development and deployment."

The group joins a growing list of open consortiums working on the Internet of things. The AllSeen Alliance, which was launched in December 2013 by Qualcomm, Panasonic, LG Electronics and others, is a project of the Linux Foundation and is working to develop an open IoT framework based on the AllJoyn open-source code originally developed by Qualcomm. It now has 50 members. Another group, the Industrial Internet Consortium, was founded earlier this year by Intel, IBM, Cisco Systems, AT&T and other vendors to help accelerate the growth of the IoT. Its membership also recently grew beyond 50.

All these groups are looking to bring open standards to the IoT to enable better communications between the rapidly growing numbers of systems and devices—from tablets and smartphones to cars, manufacturing systems, home appliances and health care products—that are gaining intelligence, communicating with each other and generating massive amounts of data that organizations can leverage to become more efficient and to arrive at business decisions more quickly.

Vendors and analysts expect the IoT space to grow quickly. Cisco officials predict there will be 50 billion connected devices and systems by 2020, and IDC analysts have said the market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.

"The forces for the modularization of IoT are creating a groundswell that will bring radical changes to the computer industry," Flexeye CEO Justin Anderson said in a statement. "As new entrants to the IoT market strive to deliver revolutionary solutions at an extraordinary pace, HyperCat will help ensure that these players can securely speak a common language."

HyperCat also will make it easier for companies of all sizes to participate, according to John Davies, head of semantic technology at BT.

"While there is still the need for applications and services to agree on standard ways to describe data—so-called ontologies—HyperCat offers a common approach to describing the information held on data hubs, thereby allowing people to find data relevant to their specific needs more quickly and easily," Davies said. "This will drive commercial use of the hubs and lowers the barrier to participation, particularly for [small and midsize enterprises]."