The announcement by Intel, Dell, Samsung and others of another consortium aimed at creating an open standard for the Internet of things could add to the fragmentation in a burgeoning market where interoperability will play an increasingly important role.
It also could illustrate the high level of competition among chip makers as they look to position their silicon in a part of the industry where analysts and vendors are expecting tens of billions of new devices and systems to connect to the Internet and each other. The potential for tech vendors that gain a lot of traction in the Internet of things (IoT) is huge. Cisco Systems officials have said that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and IDC analysts have said IoT revenues worldwide could hit $7.1 trillion by that year.
The companies on July 8 announced the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), with the aim of creating an industry-standard specification that will help drive interoperability and define connectivity requirements in the billions of systems that will make up the IoT. The spec will enable the devices to communicate regardless of what they are—whether a tablet or a car or a home appliance—what operating system they’re running or what wireless service they’re running on.
“The rise and ultimate success of the Internet of things depends on the ability for devices and systems to securely and reliably interconnect and share information,” Doug Fisher, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group, said in a statement. “This requires common frameworks, based on truly open, industry standards.”
Jong-deok Choi, executive vice president and deputy head of Samsung’s Software R&D Center, agreed.
“In the Internet of things era, everything—from PCs, smartphones and tablets to home and industrial appliances and new wearable form factors—should effortlessly connect and communicate with each other, regardless of who makes the device,” Choi said in a statement.
Joining Intel, Dell and Samsung in forming the consortium were chip makers Atmel and Broadcom and software maker Wind River, a subsidiary of Intel. Officials reportedly said they expect the first version of the spec will be released later this year, with devices support the standard hitting the market in 2015.
The new group finds itself some seven months behind the AllSeen Alliance, which was formed in December 2013 and boast more than 50 members, including such top-tier tech vendors as Qualcomm, Cisco, Panasonic, LG Electronics, HTC, Symantec, and—most recently—Microsoft. It also boasts companies from a range of verticals, such as automotive.
The alliance is a project of the Linux Foundation and is creating an open framework for the IoT based on the AllJoyn open-source code originally developed by Qualcomm. The group earlier this month announced the latest beta version of AllJoyn, Version 14.06, which proponents said offers enhancements that improve security and performance through the use of elliptic curve cryptography and features that simplify machine-to-machine interactions, reduce power use and optimize publish/subscribe use cases, such as sensors.
Liat Ben-Zur, who chairs the AllSeen Alliance, told eWEEK that the new group affirms AllSeen’s belief in the need for broad interoperability between the various connected devices and systems and that the “Internet of things need to have one … standard that spans across all of these. In today’s world, lines are blurry. The same services I use in my home are the same services I use in my car.”
However, there’s a danger in having too many specs, she said.
“At the end of the day, fragmentation only hurts all of us,” Ben-Zur said, adding that she is hoping that the two groups can work together to ensure such fragmentation doesn’t occur.
Intel, Dell Ramp Up IoT Standards Competition with New Group
In an email to eWEEK, an Intel spokesperson said both the OIC and AllSeen are looking to solve the same problem, but there are differences in the approach.
“The proven way to drive participation & adoption and the fastest path to market requires both an industry standard specification as well as an open source implementation,” the spokesperson wrote. “Additionally, the ultimate solutions need to be able to scale from home automation to enterprise, automotive, industrial, health and beyond. The common thread that spans these verticals is authentication and security. OIC has made security and authentication foundational to both the standard and open-source project.”
She said Intel and other OIC members decided that AllSeen “doesn’t address the market needs in a manner that will drive broad participation and adoption,” adding that the group is open to working with other groups to accomplish its goal of interoperability.
Competition among chip makers may also have played a role. Qualcomm, Intel and Broadcom all are making major IoT plays—for example, Intel has launched a new family of processors, Quark, aimed at the IoT, and has created a business unit dedicated to the market segment—and AllSeen is making Qualcomm’s AllJoyn code the basis for its framework.
In a post on the Qualcomm’s Developer Network blog in June, Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms and senior vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, tried to address concerns any other vendor may have about the chip maker’s intent in taking its internal project and moving it into the open-source community.
“What we want is for AllJoyn is to grow into a true open-source platform, governed openly by a broad industry Alliance,” Chandhok wrote. “This Alliance should include partners and competitors who together feel that the value of the ecosystem is something bigger than each member company. And for those concerned about our intent with intellectual property, it is not Qualcomm’s intent to monetize, through a patent licensing program, our code contributions to the AllJoyn open-source platform made in the Alliance.”
AllSeen and the OIC are not the only ones working to create technologies that will help the various connected devices in the IoT communicate. There also is the Industrial Internet Consortium, of which Intel also is a founder, though the group does not intend to develop any specs. Other vendors, like Apple and Google, also are working on ways to get devices running their software to interoperate, and a startup, Spark Labs, recently received $4.9 million to help fund its efforts to develop Spark OS, a cloud-based, open-source operating system for devices built using the company’s hardware development platform.
However, the competition in the open-standard IoT framework arena has just ramped up, and AllSeen’s Ben-Zur believes her group is doing what needs to be done.
“Two of the ways I measure the success of an open-source project is the critical mass supporting the effort and the value of the technology itself,” she wrote in a post on the consortium’s blog. “I’m excited to be a part of an initiative that can tout both.”