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Open source IoT alliance taps Qualcomm AllJoyn

Dec 10, 2013  |  Eric Brown

The Linux Foundation announced an “AllSeen Alliance” for the Internet of Things built upon Qualcomm’s open source “AllJoyn” IoT interoperability framework.

The AllSeen Alliance taps into the growing buzz about all things Internet of Things (IoT), or as the AllSeen Alliance calls it, the “Internet of Everything.” The alliance is designed to promote an AllJoyn open source project for IoT interoperability that originated at Qualcomm.

Despite the backing of the Linux Foundation, this is a cross-platform effort, supporting all major desktop and mobile operating systems, initially including Linux, Android, Arduino, iOS, OS/X, Windows 7/8/RT, the Unity game engine, and “thin clients.” Missing here are the many controller-oriented real-time operating systems (RTOSes) that will initially dominate IoT at the device level, but Allseen appears to be looking at the long haul and the higher end of the market. Advanced OSes like Linux and Android are expected to increasingly move into controller-like, low end embedded duty as demand increases for greater intelligence and Internet connectivity.

Premier members include Haier, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, Silicon Image and TP-LINK. Community members include Canary, Cisco, D-Link, doubleTwist, Fon, Harman, HTC, Letv, LIFX, Lite-on, Moxtreme, Musaic, Sears Brand Management Corporation, Sproutling, The Sprosty Network, Weaved, and Wilocity.



AllJoyn client, service, or peer architecture (left) and daemon architecture
(click images to enlarge)

 

Notably missing from the list are any major semiconductor vendors beyond Qualcomm, especially ARM and regular LF partner Intel, which is pushing its own IoT solution family built around its new Quark, as well as the Atom E3800 (“Bay-Trail-I”). Like Qualcomm, most of the vendors appear to be working with ARM-based systems, or — also like Qualcomm — developing no-OS devices like Qualcomm’s Toq smartwatch.

The alliance has managed to sign up major consumer electronics firms like Haier, LG, Panasonic, Sharp, and HTC. One interesting addition is Cisco, which has its own major IoT initiative. One early Qualcomm partner was doubleTwist, which helped develop the audio stack for AllJoyn.

The goal of the AllSeen Alliance is to expand IoT “functionality and interactions across various brands and sectors, such as the connected home, healthcare, education, automotive and enterprise.” Members will contribute software and engineering resources to collaborate on the AllJoyn open software framework.

AllJoyn is intended to enable hardware manufacturers, service providers, and software developers to create interoperable IoT devices and services, says the alliance. In particular, it is said to enable “ad hoc systems to seamlessly discover, dynamically connect and interact with nearby products regardless of brand, transport layer, platform or operating system.”

The AllSeen Alliance will produce developer tools and “verify correct implementation through a compliance program.” Initial workgroups include Multimedia, Compliance, Basic Services, Core, and Developer Tools.
 

All about AllJoyn

After several years of development at the Qualcomm Innovation Center, Qualcomm announced AllJoyn in February as a mesh networking service to offer automatic discovery and communication of devices including smartphones, A/V equipment, and home automation devices. Qualcomm’s AllJoyn was intended to avoid the need to add an IoT hub or gateway, while still enabling connectivity, even when each device is not connected to the Internet. Earlier this month, LG announced support for Qualcomm’s AllJoyn protocol, which it plans to implement in smart TVs due in 2014.

AllJoyn offers an object-oriented approach to making peer to peer connections. It enables compliant products, applications, and services to communicate over a variety of transport layers, including WiFi, power line, or Ethernet, “without the need for Internet access,” says the alliance.

AllJoyn could enable, for example, a smart door lock that could “seamlessly” connect to AllJoyn-compatible smart lights and security cameras, says the alliance. Unauthorized entries would trigger the lights to flash, and the camera to take a photo of the intruder. The photo would automatically be uploaded to a compliant smart TV. In the industrial world, AllJoyn could help develop heterogeneous IoT systems that can adjust dynamically via a “self-aware” network that constantly learns what new equipment has been added and what capabilities or interfaces are available, says the alliance.

AllJoyn is written in C++, with multiple language bindings including Java, and supported with an open source SDK and APIs. The stack is “not just” a low-level communications protocol, but capable of solving “higher-level problems,” says the alliance. Designed to span physical layers and “bridge ecosystems,” AllJoyn is said to react to dynamic, ad-hoc network changes, enabling connections to persist as devices join and depart.

AllJoyn features include core building blocks and contributed services for discovery, connectivity management, security, and management of ad-hoc proximal networks among nearby devices, says the alliance. Additional capabilities are said to include service-level discovery, capabilities broadcasting, remote procedure calls, interface sharing, WiFi security, and message marshaling.



Information flow in an AllJoyn network
(click image to enlarge)

 

AllJoyn is built around the concept of the “Bus,” defined as the connection between applications, including details about lower level data flow. To create an AllJoyn stack, developers create a BusAttachment, and connect to the Bus (see the diagram above). They can then register listeners, and optionally implement a BusObject, which enables application data exchange and implements the BusInterface. The next step is to Join/Bind a session, and execute Bus methods or Signal methods for device communication.

AllJoyn was previously distributed under the Apache 2.0 open source license, with certain portions distributed under BSD. It is now licensed under the ISC (Internet Systems Consortium) license, a permissive, free software license that is very similar to simplified BSD, and has been adopted by the OpenBSD project. No binary SDKs are currently available from the Alliance, but they can be found at the original Alljoyn.org website.

AllSeen is not alone in trying to establish interoperability frameworks, but it appears to be the largest open source, cross-platform, multi-company effort. Other commercial IoT and home automation frameworks in addition to Intel’s and Cisco’s include Revolv (formerly MobiPlug), SmartThings, Echelon’s Industrial IoT (IIoT), and the Ayla Networks Ayla Platform.

“The AllSeen Alliance represents an unprecedented opportunity to advance the Internet of Everything for both home and industry,” stated Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. Seven other member testimonials may be found in the AllSeen announcement.

 
Further information

Much more information on the AllSeen Alliance’s open source governance may be found at the AllSeen website, and technical information is available at AllSeen’s AllJoyn web page.
 

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