With buzz on connected devices starting to reach a fever pitch, tech companies are starting to jump on standards that have launched in recent months. The problem? There are a ton of them.
Don’t expect standards in the Internet of Things (IoT) space to come so easy.
In recent years, a number of proposed standards groups have arisen, attempting to build a single framework around a space that’s expected to become a bigger deal in the years to come. In fact, another one just launched this week.
It’s understandable why there’s such a rush for standards—if you have the winning one, the benefits are significant and can give you a leg-up in the marketplace.
It’s understandable why there’s such a rush for standards—if you have the winning one, the benefits are significant and can give you a leg up in the marketplace. (Think Sony and Blu-Ray.)
And while situations like this can get a bit messy as the marketplace moves behind a single standard, there’s always room to work together later. (A good example of this is the Alliance for Wireless Power’s collaboration with the Power Matters Alliance on wireless charging standards.)
Here’s a quick guide on some of the more high-profile IoT launches in the past few months, just so you don’t get confused:
The Thread Group
The key members: Google (though its Nest subsidiary), Samsung, ARM Holdings
The goals: The just-launched standards body hopes to take pre-existing technology and use it to build an overarching industry standard it calls Thread, which would add software-based tools to assist with security and device routing, among other things. “We wanted to use something off the shelf, but … we knew that we had to do something new to make the best products,” Thread Group President Chris Boross told PCWorld.
What’s going for it: The backing of Nest, a company that’s drawn a lot of attention for taking basic, somewhat boring household products like smoke detectors and modernizing them to make them more efficient. Boross works on Nest’s product marketing team.
What’s going against it: The group plans to rely on the 6LoWPAN technology, rather than the more prevalent Bluetooth Smart, which is already in many smartphones. The technology, based on the IPv6 standard, gives the group some future-proofing and will be able to work over longer distances, but it could be tougher to sell to consumers.
When it plans to ship: The new group hopes to have new products stamped with the group’s certification marks by next year.
Open Interconnect Consortium
The key members: Samsung, Intel, Dell
The goals: Starting first with smart home and smart office endeavors, the group hopes to build an open-source standard and certification program. “Our goal in founding this new consortium is to solve the challenge of interoperable connectivity for the Internet of Things without tying the ecosystem to one company’s solution,” Intel Corporate Vice President Doug Fisher said in a news release.
What’s going for it: Big names—especially Intel—and a promise to keep things open.
What’s going against it: The AllSeen Alliance (see below) is largely focused on doing the same thing with the same open-source goals. And it has a head start. But OIC doesn’t believe any organization currently fulfills all of the goals necessary for a comprehensive IoT solution. “Today, there are multiple forums driving different approaches to solve the challenge of IoT connectivity and interoperability,” the group says on its FAQ page. “Currently, we don’t see one single effort that addresses all the necessary requirements.”
When it plans to ship: The group is still working on its organizational structure but hopes to “ensure the interoperability of the more than [30 billion] devices projected to come online by 2020.”
The key members: Qualcomm, the Linux Foundation
The goals: The group, building on Qualcomm’s existing AllJoyn framework, hopes to help build a consistent industry standard for what it dubs “the Internet of Everything.”
What’s going for it: Open-source cred and help from a master of building backbone technology. You may not recognize Qualcomm’s name, but its chips are common in many tech devices, including the iPhone. And fittingly for an organization that shepherds an operating system, the Linux Foundation has a strong track record for maintaining open-source standards—which is why Qualcomm handed its in-progress AllJoyn project to the foundation last year.
What’s going against it: Despite having a significant head start and a roster that tops 50 members, AllSeen lacks buy-in from some of the biggest players in mobile. Microsoft, which joined this month, builds up its mobile strength some, but there isn’t a Google or Apple on the list, either. (On the other hand, it has big buy-ins from multiple TV companies, like Sharp and Panasonic, something other groups can’t claim.)
When it plans to ship: Technically, it already has shipped—you can download the code in progress right here. As for real-world products that integrate the standard, a few have already been announced, such as the Spotify-streaming Gramofon, which is on presale. The LIFX light bulb, meanwhile, is already on sale.