Intel, Samsung Electronics, Broadcom and other wireless and technology players joined forces to create a new group aimed at coming up with an open-source standard to connect devices to each other across operating systems and wireless protocols as part of the Internet of Things.
The new group, the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), will serve a similar purpose to the AllSeen Alliance, which uses an open-source implementation of Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) AllJoyn framework to connect devices to one another regardless of their underlying proprietary technology or communications protocols. AllSeen has been mostly focused on the connected home, while the OIC wants to broaden its scope to include the automotive and workplace settings.
Atmel, Dell and Wind River are also founding members of the OIC, and according to Intel executives the group is actively pursuing members that are leaders in their respective market segments.
Imad Sousou, vice president and general manager of the Intel Open Source Technology Center, said that the OIC will have two "key pillars." One is to develop a standard for device-to-device connectivity that is modeled on other successful universal standards, such as USB, so that it is "one of those things that you don't think twice about whether this is going to work or not." The other is to create a standard that is a "truly open source project that is done with mainstream open source licensing" and has shared governance and allows members to use the standard to create products.
The OIC aims to announce a roster of large "Tier 1" members in the third quarter, and by then it also hopes to release its initial open source code. By the end of 2014 or in early 2015 the group aims to finalize the specifications of its standard so that other companies "can start working on their own implementations," according to Gary Martz, wireless product line manager at Intel.
Martz noted that Intel and other OIC members have been working separately on their own implementations of device-to-device connectivity for several years. Intel's version, called the Common Connectivity Framework, is an SDK for developers. However, he said in April the OIC members came together and "started to see the need clearly and realize that the only way to address" the issue was "a standards-based approach as well as the open source implementation."
So why didn't Intel just join the AllSeen Alliance? Setting aside the fact that Qualcomm is a major rival, both Martz and Sousou said that Intel evaluated all existing IoT consortia and found that they did not meet the needs of the market in terms of creating a standard for device-to-device connectivity that could scale.
"We came to the conclusion that there is nothing out there that addresses the market need and does it in a way that would drive the broader adoption," Sousou said. He said Intel would like to see the new standard created with broad participation and that the founding members have some protocols and software that already overlaps. The effort over the next several months will be focused on picking the best implementations.
AllSeen now counts 51 members, having recently added Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), a major Intel partner. Other large members include Haier, LG Electronics, Panasonic and Sharp. "I would imagine that there might be companies that join both [groups] and see how it plays out," Martz said.
"There's a lot of major companies that have yet to join AllSeen," Martz said, Intel and Samsung among them. He said that some big companies that haven't joined AllSeen told Intel that "they needed this to scale it beyond the home" and needed to feel comfortable with the standard and the security behind it. Martz said the OIC "would love big carriers to join. We feel we are addressing it in a manner that we feel their customers would be comfortable with."
As for whether the OIC will create more fragmentation in the IoT market, Martz said the group will focus on making it easy for developers to add device-to-device connectivity to their applications regardless of the operating systems or wireless protocols involved. He said OIC's goal is to make things simpler for developers, not more complex.
Liat Ben-Zur, a Qualcomm executive who is the chairperson of AllSeen, said that some of the criticisms of the AllSeen Alliance don't quite "add up." She told FierceWireless that "it cannot get more open source than what we've done with AllSeen," noting that the whole project is run by the open source Linux Foundation. Qualcomm has stated explicitly that it doesn't intend to "monetize, through a patent licensing program, our code contributions to the AllJoyn open source platform made in the Alliance."
Ben-Zur said the dozens of companies in AllSeen span numerous verticals, including industrial, retail and automotive, not just the connected home. "I think the last thing we need right now is more fragmentation," she said. "By working together our goals should be interoperability."
She added that AllSeen enables companies to tinker with the code and add in security capabilities or APIs that will help their specific businesses or use cases. "If there's anything that any company feels is missing we want them to come and add it," she said.
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Article updated July 8 with comment from Qualcomm.