OCF’s IoTivity update includes increased security and cloud management

The OCF's IoTivity standard enables communications between connected devices across networks within the smart home. (OCF)

The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) has announced an update to its IoTivity specification that will enable more smart home IoT devices to communicate with one another. The OCF’s 2.0 specification includes new cloud features that allow end users to control their smart home devices outside the home and adds a layer of security for establishing secure interoperability across its 400-plus member ecosystem.

The update comes two years after the OCF released the first IoTivity spec, which at the time competed with AllSeen Alliance’s AllJoyn standard. The two groups merged in 2016 and made both standards interoperable.

The OCF’s expanded board of directors now includes members from Arris International, CableLabs, Canon, Cisco Systems, GE Digital, Haier, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Electrolux, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Technicolor SA. The OCF announced last week that Haier, Electrolux, Samsung, and LG Electronics plan to release IoTivity-certified products in 2019.

The IoTivity standard was designed to help remove one of the biggest obstacles to smart home device adoption: getting all the devices to work together without the need for multiple smart home “hubs.” It does this by creating standard data schemas that can describe connected devices and their properties to other devices. IoTivity-certified devices are thus able to communicate some information to other connected devices within the house, enabling developers to build solutions for cross-brand and cross-network communication for smart home solutions.

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The first iteration of the IoTivity standard lacked security features and was not supported on smaller devices with less processing power. The 2.0 version includes an IoTivity Lite version that can run on a wider spectrum of smaller devices. All told, IoTivity now covers 115 device types, ranging from home appliances, audio systems and lighting.

The standard’s new public key infrastructure (PKI) security model will make it easier for devices to recognize other devices’ IoTivity certification, which the OCF says will further strengthen secure interoperability among the consortium’s certified devices. According to IoT blog Stacy Knows Things, the security feature doesn’t govern how data is stored or transferred between devices.

The specification is part of a wider push to standardize more elements of the consumer-facing IoT and smart home market in hopes of removing obstacles that have stymied consumer adoption. CE heavyweights such as Samsung, Apple, Google, Amazon and others are vying for dominance in the smart home sector by creating device ecosystems, accessed through the smart hub. Standards such as the OCF’s IoTivity, Thread and others look to simplify that increasingly complex world of smart home ecosystems by offering communication and device discovery platforms that work across devices.

“The industry’s lack of a comprehensive compatibility program coupled with the unbounded growth of IoT is widening the gap created by compatibility challenges and limits the full potential of IoT among consumer, enterprise and automotive users,” the foundation said in a blog post. “With the introduction of an enhanced PKI security model and secure cloud management capabilities, the OCF is committed to closing this gap, envisioning a highly secure and open interoperable device ecosystem in which manufacturers are working together to establish a unified standard for developers, end users and everyone in-between.”