Why Intel and Qualcomm are getting in bed to build a single IoT standard

Finally conceding that fragmentation is hurting the development of the internet of things, a group of tech industry giants, including chip rivals Intel and Qualcomm, have joined forces to create a standards group called the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF). The new consortium includes Intel, Microsoft, Samsung and Qualcomm and will push the Iotivity standard for device discovery and communication.

What’s so notable about the creation about this group is its composition. In 2014, Intel created a standards group called the Open Internet Consortium founded with Samsung, Broadcom, Atmel and Wind River (an Intel company at the time). At the time I called it a “Qualcomm-free standards organization,” because it appeared like a direct response to Qualcomm’s AllJoyn device discovery standard, which is overseen by the AllSeen Alliance. Microsoft, Electrolux and Qualcomm are all premier members of the AllSeen Alliance.

Windows 10 devices like these Lumia phones, will natively interoperate with the new OCF standard. --Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Windows 10 devices like these Lumia phones, will natively interoperate with the new OCF standard. –Image courtesy of Microsoft.

However, in reading between the lines it appears that Intel’s standard has won. When asked about the fate of Iotivity and AllJoyn, a spokeswoman for the newly created OFC said via email:

Yes, Iotivity will continue to be the open source implementation of the spec, although it will now be sponsored by OCF instead of OIC. And for the second question, OCF has nothing to do with AllSeen. If you have any further questions on AllSeen specifically feel free to reach out to them directly.

I have reached out to the AllSeen Alliance to ask about the fate of AllJoyn, but it hasn’t gotten back to me yet. It looks like whatever software was used for the AllJoyn effort may be subsumed into the new OFC code. In a Microsoft blog post about the new organization it says, “The OCF standards will also be fully compatible with the 200 million Windows 10 devices that are “designed for AllSeen” today.”

Qualcomm also appears to be saying goodbye, writing in its blog post:

Qualcomm remains a member of the AllSeen Alliance, and in that capacity we will work with both organizations to help establish a single open standard for IoT. And when this happens, those of us who believe in an open, robust IoT standard for connectivity and interaction among products and services, will have gone beyond saying we believe in it—we will have accomplished it.

If there is a way to unify the devices that currently have AllJoyn code with the new standard for the OFC, then this is a great move for the industry. The internet of things has long been held back by the need to build device-specific integrations just to enable a light bulb to talk to a motion sensor or a smart home hub. The idea behind a standard like Iotivity or AllJoyn was that the code running on a specific device such as a lock could let any other device know that the device in question was a lock and what sorts of capabilities the lock had.

This would save time for developers trying to build scenarios for the internet of things because they could build generic interactions for locks and lights and have them work across a variety of different products. IT’s a similar idea to what Apple is trying to do with HomeKit and those device profiles, or what SmartThings is trying to do with its integrated development environment. Google is after something similar with Weave.

Of course, that means that even if the Open Connectivity Foundation is successful, in turning two standards into one, there are still several more out their to contend with. But it is still a start.