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July 17, 2014

6 emerging standards battling it out for the Internet of Things

Which group will solve the interoperability problem?

By Amy-Jo Crowley

1. The Thread Group

Developed by Google’s Nest Labs, ARM and Samsung, Thread is designed to build a low-power mesh network as an alternative to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more.

Thread, which uses 2.4GHz unlicensed spectrum, is built on existing standards, such as IEEE 802.15.4, IETF IPv6 and 6LoWPAN, meaning that existing devices which use ZigBee / 6LoWPAN etc. can easily migrate to Thread.

It doesn’t rely on a central hub, unlike other smarthome platforms, even though it already connects more than 250 products on the market.

Nest already uses Thread for its smart thermostat and smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, and has also partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products too.

"The Thread protocol takes existing technologies and combines the best parts of each to provide a better way to connect products in the home," said Vint Cerf, VP and chief internet evangelist for Google and advisor to the Thread Group.

Freescale, Big Ass Fans, Silicon Labs and Yale Security are other founding members.

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2. Open Interconnect Consortium

Unlike Thread, the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) is still defining the wireless connectivity requirements that would enable billions of devices to connect with each other.

Set up last week by Intel, Samsung, Dell and others, OIC is looking to build up on existing technologies, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Zigbee, with plans to reveal its own open-source software by the third quarter of this year.

The organisation is currently focusing on smart home and office technologies and then plans to target vertical sectors like automotive and health care. It also plans to certify devices that are compliant with its standards.

Other Members include Atmel, Broadcom and Wild River, which are expected to contribute software and engineering resources to develop protocol specification and an open source framework

3. AllSeen Alliance

Led by the Linux Foundation and Qualcomm, the alliance includes big names like LG, Sharp, Panasonic and Cisco.

The group is working on an IoT standard based on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn opensource code, which members can use in their products for free.

There are now 51 organisations in the alliance, which last week welcomed software giant Microsoft.

"Microsoft’s strong presence in the home via computers, tablets, phones, gaming platforms and their strength in the consumer, enterprise, education, industrial automotive sectors, uniquely enables them to accelerate the adoption of the AllSeen Alliance’s AllJoyn open source code across a very wide swath of products and verticals," Liat Ben-Zur, chairman of the AllSeen Alliance, said in a statement.

A blog for the New York Times last week quoted Imad Sousou, Intel’s GM of opensource technology, as saying: "It’s [AllSeen] not being done in a way that will drive widespread adoption."

It added that other members of the Interconnect consortium said that many other chip companies did not trust Qualcomm to fully donate its intellectual property.

Reuters also quoted Intel’s VP Doug Fisher as saying the group were hoping to focus on security and other matters that AllSeen is failing to address.

4. HyperCat

A group of 40 UK-based companies, including IBM, ARM and BT, have developed an Internet of Things (IoT) standard called Hypercat.

Hypercat is a thin interoperability layer that allows devices, such as lamp posts and smart meters, to interact with each other.

Like an address book, it lets applications ask data hubs what types of data it holds and what permission it needs to ask them, making sense of it without human involvement.

Hypercat can browse machines, searches by metadata and uses standards such as HTTPS, Restful APIs and JSON as a data format.

"Imagine a very simple app that just knows how to plot temperatures into degrees centigrade against time. It can then go and ask a service ‘do you have any temperatures in degree centigrade?’ and, if so, it can find them," said Pilgrim Beart, CEO of IoT startup 1248.

"What Hypercat does is it unlocks the ability to Google IoT data effectively."

Hypercat, which officially passed the first phase of development last week, was developed by 40 UK-based tech firms, including IBM, Intel and ARM, startups and universities that banded together 12 months ago thanks to a £6.4m grant from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB)

5. HomeKit

Apple announced a software platform it claims will allow devices, such as locks, lights and thermostats, to be unilaterally controlled from one app.

Homekit, unveiled last month at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, will be part of the next version of the iOS 8 operating system, which would work with smart devices in a user’s home.

The wireless protocol also works with Siri so that a single voice command would ensure that all lights are turned off, the doors are locked and the air conditioning is on.

Apple said the interface will save users from having to access different home devices through the manufacturers’ respective apps. Manufacturers can also now label their home devices as ‘Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod.

There are 17 Homekit partners so far including Philips, which makes the Hue connected light bulb, iHome, Osram Sylvania, Texas Instruments and more.

6. Industrial Internet Consortium

Intel, IBM, AT&T, GE and Cisco formed the Internet Consortium Alliance, an open membership group, earlier this year

Managed by the Object Management Group (OMG), the group is focused on "industrial internet" apps in markets including manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, healthcare and transportation.

The group is likely to collaborate with other research organisations and standards bodies that are already conducting research activities in the IoT space.


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