oneM2M and OIC CES demo bridges smartphone and cellular with smart home

The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and the oneM2M initiative used CES to unveil a demo that paired the cellular-backed oneM2M “super-standard” with the OIC’s IoTivity device discovery and control framework. For oneM2M, the smart home demo adds to the its success in the smart city, following its adoption in a Telecom Italia-backed smart city project in Turin.

The Open Interconnect Consortium leadership is comprised of Cisco, Intel, Samsung, GE, Arris, and CableLabs, with other leading members including Atmel, IBM, MediaTek and Dell. It is the main rival to the AllSeen Alliance and its AllJoyn protocol, and has been quickly catching up on the Qualcomm offshoot in the past year – which counts Microsoft, Philips, Sony, and LG amongst its premier members, with a few names cropping up on both lists.

While AllJoyn and IoTivity will battle it out for market share in the coming years, with AllJoyn currently in the lead (with its earlier launch) but IoTivity threatening to swiftly catch up, oneM2M has something of an unmatched position in the smartphone and cellular market. Aside from the 3GPP-backed protocols, WiFi, and Bluetooth, there isn’t another standard that enjoys as much support from the cellular industry – which is why it’s a little strange that more buzz doesn’t surround oneM2M.

As an industry, the cellular players (in particular the MNOs) missed the LPWAN boat, allowing players like Sigfox and LoRa to generate a lot of noise and early wins while cellular collectively put its faith in the emergence of an LTE-based alternative that they could bring to market as the 2G and 3G M2M devices were phased out. There’s still a fairly convincing argument to be made that the boat hasn’t already sailed, and that the MNOs could use NB-IoT and LTE-M to crush the life out of the LPWAN vision of nationwide public networks (dooming the smaller players to niche deployments of private network installations) but this is a fight that needs to play out for a few years before winners can really be named. But once the cellular community decides on a standard, it has a proven track record of sticking to its decision.

With the support of seven alliance organizations and five industry alliances, oneM2M should have a lot of weight to throw around in the IoT marketplace – although these are still early days for the protocol, as it has yet to (publicly, at least) gain a foothold in the ecosystem.

Founded some three years ago, the initiative aims to enable communications service providers by developing a common set of technologies to allow them to deliver applications and services to a diverse number of markets via a common M2M service layer.

The oneM2M project has 216 members, including standards bodies ATIS and TIA in the US, China’s CCSA, Japan’s ARID and TTC, Korea’s TTA, and Europe’s ETSI, as well as the Broadband Forum, the Home Gateway Initiative (in the process of winding down operations), the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), Continua (a connected health body) and Japan’s New Generation M2M Consortium.

But the more prominent names in its membership list reads like a powerhouse of the cellular industry – with the leadership team consisting of Cisco, Alactel’s Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom, LG, KDDI, Telecom Italia, Huawei, Intel, IBM, Gemalto, iconnectiv, and Sierra Wireless, alongside many of the aforementioned standards bodies.

After being ratified by ETSI in January, oneM2M released the first version of its super-standard the following month, itself containing ten separate elements that each covered the M2M building blocks. It uses technology sourced from its members, including the device management techniques of the OMA and Broadband Forum, as well as the familiar HTTP, MQTT and CoAP protocols.

SK Telecom based its ThingPlug IoT platform on those oneM2M standards, and launched it in June 2015, billing it as “an attractive one-stop development environment with diverse application-enabling features for developers.” IPv6 compatible, the SDK can be downloaded from its website, and as evinced by the CES demo, can sit comfortably alongside the IoTivity stack at both the device level and the cloud.

Speaking to OIC Executive Director Mike Richmond, we asked whether the demo was hard to set up, and how compatible the two protocols are. Hammond said that it was likely the smoothest integration he’d seen in his years, noting that not a single argument had broken out in the shared mailing list that was managing the project. The reason for this, according to Hammond, is that the two have made many of the same decisions regarding the techniques to use, with RESTful APIs being a key common ground.

In terms of general strategies, Richmond said that the OIC was mostly comprised of makers of things, starting from the device and building upwards to the cloud level. With oneM2M, the membership is dominated by service providers, which has led to a cloud-to-device progression. With the demo, the two groups have proven that their architecture choices mesh well when the two meet.

In terms of where the two protocol actually come together, Richmond noted that the two would typically encounter each other in the gateway – the midpoint between the service provider and the devices, which could be on-premises or virtualized.

Richmond agreed with our view that service providers are likely to be major players in the introduction of smart home technology to consumers and their households, but said that the OIC is also hoping to push IoTivity into industrial deployments too.

The recent merging of the UPnP Forum into the OIC, and the addition of Arris and CableLabs as two new board members, should go a long way towards helping the technology gain a foothold in smart homes, and with Arris as the largest set top manufacturer in the world (following its acquisition of Pace), that puts IoTivity in a strong position to begin being included in the CPE devices (set tops and home gateways) that are used by many of the largest pay TV operators and ISPs – the perfect candidates for pushing the smart-home-as-a-service offerings towards consumers, as a means of reducing churn and raising ARPU.

In the CES demo, SK Telecom, Samsung Electronics, the Korean Electronics Technology Institute (KETI), Atmel, and Axstone used oneM2M to enable a smartphone to control a Samsung refrigerator and TV running IoTivity, as well as devices powered by Atmel’s lighting and sensor development kit, using SK Telecom’s ThingPlug platform and a home gateway developed by Axstone and KETI. Richmond said that WiFi was the connectivity protocol used in the demo, noting that OIC is radio agnostic.