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Open Interconnect Consortium takes on Qualcomm's Allseen

Jul 8, 2014 — by Eric Brown 2,446 views

Intel, Samsung, Broadcom, Atmel, and Dell have launched a consortium that will develop open source standards for Internet of Things connectivity.

In December when Qualcomm, the Linux Foundation, and several major consumer electronics companies announced the open source Allseen Alliance for standardizing Internet of Things connectivity, we wondered at the absence of major semiconductor companies. Well, here they are, starting up their own rival IoT group called the Open Interconnect Consortium. Intel, Samsung, Broadcom, and Atmel have launched OIC along with computer manufacturer Dell and Intel’s embedded software provider Wind River.

The OIC members will “create both a standard specification and an open source project to address the challenges of connecting billions of IoT devices,” according to the OIC FAQ. The organization says it will create a “standard for interoperability across multiple vertical markets and use cases,” starting with smart home and office markets, followed by automotive, and later moving to industrial and health applications.

Open Interconnect Consortium project scope
(click image to enlarge)

In addition to releasing a standard, OIC will submit an “open source implementation,” says the group, as well as a certification program for wirelessly connecting devices. OIC will focus primarily on “secure and reliable device discovery and connectivity” over networks including WiFi, WiFi Direct, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Ant+. OS support will include iOS, Android, Linux, Tizen, “and other Real Time Operating systems,” says the FAQ.


Why another IoT standard?

Before we go on, let’s break for a little industry dirt, served up by that scandal-chasing tabloid, The New York Times. “According to people in the consortium, who asked not to be named in order to sustain relations with AllSeen members, many of the other chip companies did not trust Qualcomm to fully part with its intellectual property,” writes Quentin Hardy of the Times.

Hardy goes on to suggest that Intel and other chipmakers, none of which have signed on to Allseen, were not happy with the fact that the initial software development kit was based on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn spec. While Allseen and AllJoyn are both open source, as well as OS and hardware agnostic, some of the first announced Allseen/AllJoyn designs such as the OpenWRT Linux based Q lighting system from Belleds Technologies have been built around Qualcomm’s MIPS-based, WiFi-ready Atheros AR9331 system-on-chip. Qualcomm, of course, is also a leader in the mobile SoC market with its ARM-based Snapdragon processors.

It is notable that the OIC press release prominently features a testimonial from Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, the host of the rival Allseen Alliance. “Open source is about collaboration and about choice,” stated Zemlin. “The Open Interconnect Consortium is yet another proof point how open source helps to fuel innovation. We look forward to the OIC’s contribution in fostering an open environment to support the billions of connected devices coming online.”

Allseen, which also counts IoT focused Cisco, as well as D-Link, LG Electronics, Panasonic and Sharp, among its members, recently announced that Microsoft had joined its ranks as the 51st member. The idea of Microsoft joining an open source organization seems more plausible now that Redmond is releasing an Android phone and has also announced a maker-oriented Windows on the Internet of Things project, which will initially run on Intel’s Galileo open source hacker SBC.

OIC priorities

The OIC standards will define specifications that “make it simple to remotely control and receive notifications from smart home appliances or enterprise devices using securely provisioned smartphones, tablets or PCs,” says the consortium. Other noted applications include remotely controlling household systems to save money and conserve energy. In the enterprise, meanwhile, “employees and visiting suppliers might securely collaborate while interacting with screens and other devices in a meeting room.”

The enterprise and security mentions here suggest that Samsung’s Knox security technology might be part of the mix. Samsung, which has been the belle of the Android ball for years, yesterday announced that its second-quarter earnings would fall $1.4 billion short of analysts’ expectations. The consumer electronics giant has begun to tout its once smartphone-focused, Linux-based Tizen OS — another project that involves both Intel and the Linux Foundation — as an Internet of Things platform. We’ve seen Tizen cameras, appliances, and soon, automotive in-vehicle infotainment system by way of the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux project. However, any buzz surrounding Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear 2 smartwatch introduction has been diluted by the recent introduction of a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch running Google’s Android Wear platform.

Intel is not only a leading force in Tizen, but also has its own grand IoT ambitions. In April, announced the availability of its Linux-ready Intel Gateway Solutions for IoT. The gateway can be ordered either with an Intel Atom E3800 or a Quark X1000, the low-energy processor found in Intel’s Galileo hacker board. The gateway runs the Linux-ready Wind River Intelligent Device Platform from Intel subsidiary and OIC member Wind River.

Growing IoT standards diversity

While the presence of Intel and Samsung suggest a Tizen connection, the two other chipmakers in OIC — Broadcom and Atmel — have nothing to do with the platform. Broadcom, which like Qualcomm, is also a member of Imagination Technologies’s Prpl consortium for standardizing open source MIPS code for a variety of applications including IoT, offers a wide variety of ARM and MIPS-based embedded chipsets. These include the ARM11 SoC driving the Raspberry Pi. Earlier this year, Broadcom announced a BCM4771 GNSS SoC for the wearables market.

Atmel is primed to be an early IoT winner with its low-power, Linux-ready ARM9 and Cortex-A5 SAM-branded SoCs, as well as its RTOS-focused microcontrollers. Yesterday, Atmel announced it was acquiring Newport Media, which makes WiFi-enabled SoCs such as the NMC1000.

While OIC, Allseen, and other standards groups vie for prominence, more informal standards are emerging from various groups like Revolv, SmartThings, and the new Wink home automation system. Wink, which offers a Linux-based Wink Hub and an Android and iOS-ready mobile app, went on sale at The Home Depot this week, and announced 15 partners and 60 compatible devices, the biggest of which is The Home Depot itself. The Hub, which is needed to control most of the announced products, sells for only $49 through the end of the summer, and the free app controls a number of WiFi-ready smart devices directly.

Google is building its own ad hoc, Linux-based home automation ecosystem via its acquisition of Nest Labs, which recently acquired Dropcam. Last week, Nest opened up its API to developers. Major development partners include Whirlpool, Mercedes Benz, LIFX (smart lights) and fitness tracking firm Jawbone.

In other IoT developments, Apple last month announced a HomeKit home automation platform that will launch with iOS8 later this year. There are also numerous lower-level IoT interoperability standards underway such as the HyperCAT discovery and interoperation standard being pushed by ARM, IBM, and British Telecom. The UK government backed project aims to create a JSON-based hypermedia catalog of devices and their available sensors and services.

Further information

The Open Interconnect Consortium is open for new members. More information may be found at the website.

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