After launching last July with a press release and promises of taking on the problem of device-to-device communication and discovery, the Open Interconnect Consortium has launched the initial version of its internet of things certification and standard. Called IoTivity, the technology will act as a way for connected devices to share what they are and what they can do.
So any light bulb that runs the IoTivity code will be able to tell any television or washing machine running the IotTivity code that it is a light bulb and it can turn on and off, dim and perhaps change colors. Armed with this knowledge the washing machine might send notifications about loads being ready to go into the dryer to a bulb by forcing it to blink. The TV might use the IoTivity information to dim the lights when it turns on.
The plan is for IoTivity to sit between the radios such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and the higher level apps the device uses. It’s middleware that aims to make things run smoothly without a lot of user or programmer intervention. The biggest rival to IoTivity is AllJoyn, the Qualcomm proposed protocol that is overseen by the AllSeen Alliance. Both standards have similar goals and similar technological approaches to those goals in terms of building out a middleware layer between the radios and the application.
Both even sling the word “open” around a fair bit and have organizations under the Linux Foundation. The difference is how the two are handling the IP and potential standards. In fact, Broadcom left the OIC over an issue on how it handles IP rights late last year.
The issue appeared to be over how the OIC called for companies to license the technology contributed to the group. It uses a provision that requires participating companies to offer a zero-rate reasonable and non-discriminatory license to their code for member organizations, according to an OIC a spokesman at the time. The AllSeen Alliance does not. In fact, at a press conference at CES, Qualcomm President Derek Aberle confirmed that while AllJoyn is open source, Qualcomm hopes to make money licensing technologies built on top of it such as the media streaming tech AllPlay.
Mark Skarpness, chair of the IoTivity Steering Group, says that IoTivity should become a finalized standard and certification by the middle of the year. The standard is what will be implemented on the devices, while the certification will be what is tested and then advertised as proving that two IoTivity-labeled devices work together. We should see devices that implement the standard and are certified by the second half of the year he said.
There are already devices in the market that use AllJoyn, but plenty of companies are waiting to see what the OIC had been working on. Others are happy to implement both if they have to. All end users will care about is that their myriad connected devices will “just work.”