IoT groups combine efforts in emerging fragmented market
All sides agree the IoT is encumbered with too many competing and overlapping platforms, networks, protocols and frameworks as the result of a land grab for what is seen as the next big thing. With the deal, OIC gets an edge over its closest rival, the AllSeen Alliance. However it’s not clear whether it gets the heft it will need to stand out against the two giants in this space — Google’s Thread/Weave and Apple’s HomeKit.
Proponents of AllSeen’s AllJoyn technology have been promoting the idea of a merger with OIC. Such a move is unlikely now that OIC is adopting UPnP’s service-discovery approach which is already widely adopted and functionally similar to the AllJoyn technology.
Currently, AllSeen has a lead in the market with more than 185 members and shipping products using its specifications. OIC, which has about 100 members, expects first products using its recently ratified spec to appear at CES in January. Both OIC and AllSeen are hosted by the Linux Foundation.
The UPnP deal promises to double OIC’s list of 100 members. UPnP has more than 1,000 members, but about 840 of them are at a basic level that pays no dues, something OIC does not support. UPnP members will be able to choose whether or not they will join OIC.
The asset transfer will be concluded by the end of the year. “We expect new OIC membership announcements through the first quarter as people review the OIC membership agreements,” said Richmond.
Perhaps even more importantly, UPnP gives OIC a base of software already used in “billions of devices” ranging from smartphones to TVs, said Richmond. AllJoyn is supported in Windows 10 but so is UPnP, which was originally formed by Microsoft and Intel to automate the process of connecting PCs and peripherals. “Almost every device with AllJoyn also has UPnP,” said Lofgren.
The merged group plans “first and foremost” to develop a plug in for OIC’s IoTivity software stack so OIC devices can talk to UPnP devices, said Scott Lofgren, president of the UPnP Forum. OIC also aims to use UPnP’s source code and test tools as part of its planned certification program.
Longer term, OIC aims to adopt UPnP’s capabilities for controlling Wi-Fi routers. “There are some scenarios for home automation where time-based scripts need to be in a device that doesn’t turn off or go into a power save mode,” said Michael Richmond executive director of OIC.
UPnP’s software is based on the Simple Object Access Protocol and the Simple Service Discovery Protocol, but the group “has been adopting Restful technologies such as Json over the last year becoming more similar to OIC — and both use XMPP,” said Lofgren.
OIC and UPnP also both support UDP for connecting resource-constrained devices. By contrast, Alljoyn is based on DBus a form of remote procedure call (RPC). Richmond suggested implementing DBus would require more resources at end nodes and not scale as efficiently as Restful APIs.
A former software executive at Qualcomm who spearheaded the AllJoyn effort said earlier this year that OIC and AllSeen need to merge to offer an open alternative to Google’s Thread/Weave and Apple’s HomeKit. “Without OIC and AllSeen merging nothing will be big enough to stand up to these two,” said Rob Chandhok, now chief operating officer of IoT startup Helium.
The senior director of IoT at the Linux Foundation who heads the AllSeen Alliance expressed similar sentiments in an interview several weeks ago.
“At a high level [AllSeen and OIC] are solving the same problem…[so] we would love there to be a single organization moving forward,” said Philip DesAutels. Without such consolidation “you end up with a fragmented market and frustrated users,” he said.
The OIC/UPnP deal was a good fit in part because Intel was a prime mover helping form both groups. AllSeen was originally a project of archrival Qualcomm.
As part of the deal, OIC will form a new UPnP Work Group to maintain the UPnP specifications, and certification tools within the overall OIC organization. OIC will offer legacy UPnP certification for a fee to companies who choose not to join OIC.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times