Internet of Things in search of interoperability

By December 16, 2013
Allseen alliance

In order to drive forward the deployment of connected objects in a variety of sectors, the technology giants have formed an alliance whose purpose is to bring greater standardization to this expanding field.

Developers of connected objects, especially those with household applications, are increasingly working on projects designed to simplify the integration of complementary services and products. In this vein, California-based home automation company Nest Labs, one of the leaders in the connected smart thermostat field in the United States, recently announced the launch of a programme– expected to be operational in 2014 – aimed at developers. Its purpose is to enable companies and independent developers to integrate new applications and connectivity into the Nest network. Meanwhile, non-profit technology consortium Linux Foundation, in association with a group of major Internet of Things players, is pushing to speed up moves to open up developer kits, the basic idea being to set common standards. Standardization at sector level driven by the trend towards open source software should help to extend the IoT into a range of new sectors. This dynamic should also help to streamline manufacturing processes by enabling the modification of factory-floor machinery on an ongoing basis using a smart internal server able to integrate new protocols automatically.

Alliance inspired by Open Source initiatives

Players from various sectors that are all involved in some way with the IoT have come together to form the AllSeen Alliance, which includes giants of the electronics industry such as LG Electronics, Panasonic and Sharp, plus network and server specialists such as Cisco and the Linux Foundation. The initial framework is based on the AllJoyn open source project, originally developed by Qualcomm, which Qualcomm is now contributing to the new Alliance. This framework aims to enable connected objects to communicate with each other via WiFi, electrical networks, and Ethernet access. Led by Linux, these firms envisage extending the scope of the IoT towards an ‘Internet of Everything’ through open source development, which makes for greater flexibility and responsiveness. AllJoyn functions as a sort of lingua franca which allows programmers to orchestrate cooperation between connected devices. This first step is decisive, as Jim Zemlin Executive Director at the Linux Foundation and head of the project explains: “Without an agreed code, managed in a neutral way, the main players will not want to venture into investment on a large scale.”

Applications for the connected home

The move to implement common standards which enable greater interoperability between products from different manufacturers means that all these products can then be used together in a seamless, integrated manner. Immediate applications are on the cards, especially in the field of the smart home, in entertainment and in connectivity. Explains Rob Chandhok,President of Qualcomm Connected Experiences: “We envision that users will be able to add the benefits of ‘the Internet of Things near me’ to the cloud-based services they already enjoy.” For example, personal smartphone geolocation functionality could communicate with the server at a connected home to switch on the lights and prepare to automatically unlock the doors when the owner comes within range. Looking at the opposite scenario, the smart system would be able to react fast if there were a suspected intrusion, by turning on security lights and immediately transmitting video surveillance pictures. Solutions which are already on the market, such as Comcast’s Xfinity Homea nd are likely to benefit from this first wave of standardization in the home protection sector.

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