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19 December 2014

IoT blocs shift, as OIC adds members, LG Uplus joins Z-Wave Alliance

The industry bodies and organizations that claim to be steering the direction of the IoT have been largely quiet since their inception. While many were quick to pick sides and flock to the member lists, there has been scant visible progress from the emerging power blocs. Nonetheless, their member counts continue to grow, with the Open Interconnect Consortium adding 15 new names, and the Z-Wave Alliance has a new premier and board member, in the guise of South Korean telco LG Uplus.

Turning first to Z-Wave, the proprietary mesh networking technology from Sigma Designs launched in 2003, and it seems that LG Uplus is a strange fit for the board of what is most commonly used as a smart home connectivity platform.

The evidence and implications then suggest that Uplus is planning some sort of smart home platform based around one of its broadband or IPTV packages, but nothing in the announcement provides any clue as to why the company has chosen to get involved.

However, parent company and controlling owner LG has a strong interest in selling smart home devices via its home appliances, home entertainment, HVAC and mobile divisions – and is a premier member of the AllSeen Alliance to boot. It could well be the case that Uplus will be representing the wider LG strategy.

ChangSu Ryu, LG Uplus’ Home Solution Department Director, said “we are honored to join the Z-Wave board of directors. We believe strongly in the technology and are confident that it will continue to lead the way in smart home innovation, not just with consumers, but with service providers, device manufacturers and retailers. Joining the board will allow us to provide input and feedback that will help keep Z-Wave at the forefront of the industry.”

Moving onto the OIC’s announcement, which grows its membership by some 30% and adds to the 27 new members added back in October. Founded by Atmel, Broadcom (which quietly dropped out over IP disputes), Dell, Intel, Samsung and Intel subsidiary Wind River, the OIC has a rather nebulous and vague mission statement, which we’ve still to witness the fruits of: “defining the connectivity requirements and ensuring interoperability of the billions of devices that will make up the emerging IoT.”

The OIC’s most notable additions are ADT, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), HP, Lenovo and Siemens AG. The other 11 new members are Cable Television Laboratories (CableLabs), Cadence Design Systems, DT&C, GE Software, ENEA Netbricks, EXO U Inc., Lab IX (Flextronics), Real-Time Innovations (RTI), WigWag, and Works Systems.

Cumulatively, the new businesses represent a diverse range of specialization, with HP and Lenovo joining rival computing OEMs Dell and Acer, alongside silicon businesses including Intel, MediaTek, and Atmel. Siemens brings its electricity and grid management portfolio to the table, and is something of a unique offering in the OIC – given that GE’s focus in on software rather than its Energy divisions.

Notably, GE founded the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), the most direct rival for the OIC in the IoT, alongside Cisco, Intel, IBM and AT&T, with Qualcomm’s AllSeen Alliance so far biting at their heels. Google-led Thread is another emerging power bloc, which aims to unite vendors around the Thread 802.15.4 protocol. Between just this handful of organizations, there is a lot of overlapping membership.

RTI’s main product is a communications platform for the Industrial IoT, called RTI Connext, for real-time data sharing and easier development, while GE Software is the division in charge of the Predix industrial platform. Cadence Design Systems focuses on electronic design automation software, with other design and verification programs available to customers, and EXO U peddles a similar ware of enterprise software, app development and systems integration.

On the M2M side of things, Works Systems develops network management systems for telcos, and has developed a cloud-based M2M platform, Netbricks, a French software company acquired by Nordic cellular software specialist ENEA, brings its portable cellular protocol software stacks to the table.

CableLabs, the prominent research non-profit consortium of the cable industry and DOCSIS developer, complements the work of ETRI, a Korean government-backed research institute, which is also joined by the Korean standards organization DT&C.

There’s even a smart home platform from Wig Wag, whose Relay system features a universal sensor hub that incorporates WiFi, BLE, ZigBee, Z-Wave and Insteon. We’ll be keeping tabs on that one, and to finish this overview off we have home security veteran ADT, and hardware development accelerator business Lab IX, which promises to get your design from the drawing board and into the factories.