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11 October 2016

OCF swallows AllSeen as standards bodies entwine

It has finally come to pass – the Open Connectivity Foundation and the AllSeen Alliance have agreed a merger, which sees their rather similar standards efforts combined inside the Linux Foundation. This is very big news for the device discovery and communication frameworks, which operate above the radio layers of the stack and hope to link IoT devices together in the wild.

This is good news for the IoT as a whole, as there were many stakeholders who suffered from moist-brows with the prospect of entrenched and protracted standards wars. When the OIC first burst onto the scene, in the days before its rebranding to the OCF, the prevailing narrative was that the IoT’s fractured state wasn’t going to get any better with competing standards bodies drawing battle lines.

However, the past two or three years have seen considerable consolidation within the IoT, especially at the cloud/platform level and in the semiconductor space. With this merging of bodies, some much-needed unity is being injected into the market. The seeds of this union should find themselves housed in fertile soil, as the groundwork needed to bear fruit in the IoT seems to be falling into place.

AllJoyn had something of a head-start on IoTivity (it is older, after all), as it is already shipping inside Qualcomm chipsets that power consumer devices – with a notable presence in home audio systems. The OCF recently ingested the UPnP Forum, which has a strong history and plethora of experience when it comes to device discovery in consumer electronics, and has also signed a working agreement with the Thread Group, to more closely pair IoTivity with the mesh networking protocol.

By coming together as one group, we are able to make the IoT a more seamless, secure experience for everyone involved, from developers to end users,” said Danny Lousberg, the AllSeen Alliance’ Chairperson. “The AllSeen Alliance and the OCF have been working closely together closely to deliver a technologically comprehensive solution that makes sense for the industry and our members.”

The two standards are pretty similar in their functionality – aiming to allow a device to more easily discover nearby devices and then communicate with them, by providing the software framework to do so. Differences in the underlying code aside, the more notable difference between the two is that IoTivity is “IP-native” and can communicate directly with devices elsewhere on the internet, while AllJoyn would require an IP bridge to do so.

Both aim to be transport-layer agnostic, and they play above the ongoing battle between IoT-focused radio protocols (Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave, BLE, WiFi HaLow). For chipsets, it should now be fairly straightforward to add the IoTivity stack to the devices and pass them through to OCF certification labs – after which they can use the OCF branding in the marketplace.

Headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon, the OCF will absorb AllSeen, expand its board of directors, and work collaboratively on future OCF specifications (which are then used to implement the open source IoTivity spec), with the OCF sponsoring further work on both the IoTivity and AllJoyn projects inside the Linux Foundation.

However, both of these projects will collaborate to support the future version of the OCF specification, “in a single IoTivity implementation that combines the best of both technologies into a unified solution. Current devices running on either AllJoyn or IoTivity will be interoperable and backward-compatible.”

The new board membership will comprise staff from; AB Electrolux, Arçelik, Arris, CableLabs, Canon, Cisco, GE, Haier, Intel, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Technicolor. The writing for such a consolidation was on the wall when Qualcomm joined the OCF, and conversations that RIoT has had with various industry figures have suggested that such discussions have been taking place for a while now.

We’re incredibly excited about this unification, as both groups have been working diligently to make this possible,” said Mike Richmond, the executive director of the OCF. “As we forge onwards towards this shared goal, we are focused on building the most robust open IoT software solution to achieve our vision – complete interoperability within the IoT.”