< New non-profit foundation dedicated to IoT standards development
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New non-profit foundation dedicated to IoT standards development

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February 22, 2016

We just learned this morning that a new non-profit foundation dedicated to creating open standards for the Internet of Things (IoT) has just been created.

There's already several so-called non-profit in existence also dedicated to open standards for the IoT. Most of those foundations have been created in the last four to six months. Let's hope they all agree on the same standards.

Dubbed the 'Open Connectivity Foundation' (OCF) it says its main goal is to "help unify IoT standards so that companies and developers can create IoT solutions and devices that work seamlessly together."

It is being founded by big-name technology companies including Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and Samsung.

The foundation is an expansion and a rebranding of a previous non-profit foundation that sought to achieve the same goal – the Open Internet Consortium – but in its new guise covers more markets and so has a greater chance of gaining broad acceptance for the technology it develops.

The new foundation also includes Microsoft, Qualcomm and Electrolux as well as other companies that cover processors, software, platform and products, all of which need to be on board with standards to achieve what many claim is the potential of the Internet of Things.

The OCF hopes to have certified products on the market by the end of 2016. But there is one significant barrier for that work: other IoT foundations that have already been created to do the exact same thing and using the same standards.

There is, for example, the IoT Security Foundation (IoTSF), which boasts a similar broad range of members. Its stated goal is to be "a collaborative, vendor-neutral, international initiative which aspires to be the expert resource for sharing knowledge, best practice and advice."

Under that specific goal, it doesn't necessarily conflict with the Open Connectivity Foundation, but it is notable that of the IoTSF's 50 and the OCF's 150 members, there are only three companies in both.

And despite being a founding member of the IoTSF, Intel is now leading the OCF, and its rival ARM has joined the IoTSF.

Here's a small abbreviated list of the IoT foundations already in existence:

  • The Thread Group -Focused around Google's plans for IoT and smart home standards, including Weave.
  • The Industrial Internet Consortium - Its focus is on testing standards but whose members clearly intend to influence new standards.
  • The AllSeen Alliance - Headed up by the Linux Foundation and also plans to develop an interoperable platform and certify products to work with it.
  • Apple's HomeKit self-contained eco-system.
  • The PRPL Foundation - Has just released secure embedded computing guidelines.
  • The IEEE 2413 project, also working on a standard framework.
  • The IETF, which has a number of working groups looking to develop new IoT standards.
  • The members of these different groups vary widely. Some are exclusively within one group whereas others – especially Samsung and Qualcomm – seem to be in almost every one.

    One of those companies, Imagination – which is a member of at least three of the groups – told us: "We are members of these groups and others to help drive open, interoperable standards and APIs, since we believe that openness and flexibility are key to driving innovation in IoT. And security is an increasing challenge that the entire industry needs to come together to address."

    There are also various alliances between several of the groups. First example – the OCF plans to interoperate with devices that come through the AllSeen Alliance through another project-- IoTivity.

    In short, it's not so much VHS versus Betamax, as VHS versus Betamax versus DVD versus Laserdisc versus MPEG4 versus Blu-Ray versus DivX... You get the idea!

    They all share the same vision-- billions of connected devices communicating with one another regardless of the product, its operating system or chipset or manufacturer. It's just that no one can agree on how that communication will work or who gets to decide what and when.

    For the good of all, let's hope that all those companies and individuals agree on the same standards and same security protocols, no matter what the alphabet soup looks like.

    Source: The Open Connectivity Foundation.

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