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15 January 2015

As we feared, OIC IoTivity is going head-to-head with AllSeen

When the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) launched last summer, the prominent backing of Intel inevitably sparked speculation that this would be a rival to the Qualcomm-led AllSeen Alliance. Its statements were too vague, however, to be clear that it would be a rival, not a complement, to AllSeen. But now it has released its first code, it is clear that the Intel-Qualcomm war has well and truly moved to the critical device discovery layer of the internet of things (IoT).

Both the OIC’s new IoTivity platform and AllSeen, which is based on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn technology, seek to standardize the way that connected devices discover one another and set up communications in a peer-to-peer environment. The OIC’s approach is similar to that of its more established rival, creating a middleware layer between the application and the radios, and thus remaining neutral to device or connection type, or to cloud/apps platform.

Any device incorporating the new IoTivity code will be able to find other devices on its local or remote network, also supporting the code, and tell them what it can do. GigaOM gives the example of a lightbulb informing a television that it is a light and can turn on and off, or dim – the TV could then use that knowledge to dim the lights when its screen turns on.

Mark Skarpness, chair of the IoTivity Steering Group, says that the specifications will be ratified as a full standard, with a certification process, by the middle of this year, meaning that approved devices should be on the market in the second half of 2015. This timescale is well behind that of the AllSeen Alliance, which already has compliant devices and moved further into device management last week, when it unveiled its Gateway Agent at the Consumer Electronics Show. However, many ecosystem players are likely to support both standards.

The OIC was set up with the rather nebulous mission statement of “defining the connectivity requirements and ensuring interoperability of the billions of devices that will make up the emerging IoT”. It was founded by Atmel, Broadcom (which quietly dropped out over IP licensing disputes), Dell, Intel, Samsung and Intel subsidiary Wind River, and now has about 50 members.

Meanwhile, the AllSeen Aliance was formed when Qualcomm open sourced AllJoyn and now has over 100 members. Qualcomm itself puts out a steady stream of products incorporating AllJoyn, and plans to make money from its open source framework in this way, and AllSeen is set to be part of Microsoft’s Windows 10.

The new Gateway Agent sees the group moving up the stack from its roots in discovery to the management of apps and devices. An extension of the AllJoyn framework, the Gateway Agent provides a common and secure remote access method for AllJoyn gadgets and apps to connect to the cloud, the internet, and other external services or personal area networks/device clusters. Interoperability is extended to a far wider range of external networks and remote services, by supporting protocol connectors that plug into a standard AllJoyn Gateway Agent API. This connector approach also enables connectivity, interaction and integration over a variety of protocols including REST, XMPP, MQTT and TR-069.

Both AllSeen and IoTivity are hosted by the Linux Foundation, and so are overseen by independent steering groups, though their approach to IP licensing differs, perhaps betraying the different philosophies of Qualcomm and Intel in this area. The OIC insists that participating companies offer all members a zero-rate Frand (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licence to their code, while AllSeen does not.

Developers who want to get involved with OIC can access RESTful-based APIs and submit code for peer review through the project’s Gerrit server.