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Summary:

Qualcomm has handed its AllJoyn protocol for the internet of things over to the Linux Foundation in hopes of establishing a universal standard. The effort has legs, but still has a ways to go.

img-about-alljoyn
photo: Qualcomm

Qualcomm has signed over the source code for its AllJoyn protocol to the Linux Foundation to create a new standard for the internet of things. Meet the AllSeen Alliance, 23 companies that have pledged to use the code underlying Qualcomm’s AllJoyn protocol to build products that will not only be able to talk to each other but offer a more automated programming environment for the devices in your life.

The creation of the AllSeen Alliance is a big step for promoting some type of interoperability for the internet of things, but it’s also only the first step. So far a middling array of consumer brands has signed on including LG, Sharp, Haier, Panasonic and Sears Brand Management Corporation. Other members include Silicon Image, Cisco, TP-LINK, Canary, doubleTwist, Fon, Harman, HTC, Lifx, Liteon, Sproutling and Wilocity.

AllSeen Alliance-certified products will have some level of ability to talk to other AllSeen/AllJoyn products and offer up the ability to control the device. While Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation and Rob Chandhok, president, Qualcomm Connected Experiences were unclear on exactly what the protocol would be called — AllJoyn or AllSeen — the underlying code today is Qualcomm’s AllJoyn protocol.

As I wrote last week when LG said it would use AllJoyn, the idea behind it is to let devices made by different brands interoperate. Today, the primary use case is around sharing media across devices, like playing music from doubleTwist on your television. But the big idea is to eliminate the current mess of protocols and mix of user interfaces that make it impossible to control a bunch of connected devices in one app or without a hub.

“We want to eliminate the concern over the transport layer,” said Chandhok. “It’s like what HTTP and HTML did for the web. It didn’t matter if you had Ethernet or Wi-Fi or what physical layers. Everyone could build for the web.” Qualcomm’s hope is that by handing over the code to the Linux Foundation more companies will build on top of AllJoyn, offering for example, a lighting control code, thermostat controls and user interfaces and a variety of other common connected devices.

In an AllJoyn/AllSeen home if you want to set up a rule around washing your clothes, the devices know what they are capable of and only your washing machine could “volunteer” for the job. That would happen because the washer had shared it’s capabilities with the other AllJoyn devices and whatever home app you are using would recognize it on the network. That means the user doesn’t have to mess around with laying out the capabilities of all their devices, it happens at this lower layer in the stack.

Right now, developers at companies like Revolv, SmartThings, Lowes, Zonoff, Arrayent and others are building that functionality device by device. It’s a lot of work and the end user experience requires a hub or a custom app for each device. That’s a terrible way to implement wide-scale home automation.

However, I asked a few people in that community about AllSeen. For those in the hub market, it represents a threat to their way of business, because it eliminates the hub and app functionality they are building by hand. And so you might never see one of those companies joining the Alliance, although if it makes it big I do hope these firms would eventually implement the protocol on their hubs, if only so I could add my car or television to my existing network.

Meanwhile, we have this effort to create some kind of interoperable standard for the internet of things. Will it work? I don’t know, but I do think if it, or some other standards effort could pull through, it would benefit consumers and provide a solid platform for some real information — much like the web did for the internet a few decades back.

  1. I certainly hope we see a dominant standard soon. There are way too many individual players, like Webinos, all with great ideas but all different. When I can buy an appliance, like a dishwasher, that is automatically recognized by my home hub, becoming another smart device I can communicate with, schedule, query for faults, all without knowing intricate technical details, I will be very happy. Its crazy that my home network, my home alarm system, my automated watering system and my boiler/air conditioning system all have proprietary interfaces, and none talk to each other!

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  2. I’m not sure one should assume vendors with hubs as part of their solution wouldn’t want to participate. The effort to create a semantic layer for every “thing” has been a decade-long effort; maybe more. The Zigbee Alliance and Bluetooth have both done a reasonably good job at creating interoperable semantics (as opposed to interoperable transport).

    Hubs will still be needed because of the physical transport incompatibility. But, companies with a lot of experience with a ton of different devices — like Revolv — will have a lot to contribute about the semantic differences between, say, a lock and a motion sensor.

    I personally have always said that 20-40% market penetration of smart homes happens when we invent the equivalent of the URL. It’s not the equivalent of HTTP — that’s just more transport. The URL and HTML provided semantic interoperability so that any piece of content could be parsed. At the end of the day, a motion sensor – whether talking BTLE, Bluetooth, WiFi, Insteon, Zigbee, Zwave, 6low-pan or any other physical layer — has to be able to advertise its capability (range, periodicity, sensitivity, battery level, directionality, etc…) in some “standard” form. Revolv will end up offering that kind of standardization because we can communicate with all of those transports — and we’ll be actively involved in the right standards setting group.

    I’ll personally be watching Allseen very carefully; it may be just the group that can convene a very diverse set of interests.

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  3. Nicole Roccaforte Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    I thought MQTT was the standard …?

    Could somebody please explain the difference?

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    1. Take a look at this link on Quora: http://qr.ae/I99o1

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  4. Here is an answer I posted on MQTT on Quora: http://qr.ae/I99o1

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  5. AllSeen in its current form is a Peer to Peer, Client/Server technology and primarily for devices/things connected using Wi-Fi. It does not address ZigBee or Z-Wave or Insteon.

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  6. OpenHAB has been doing this for a while.

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  7. The biggest problem at the moment is almost none of these protocols support any level of encryption. I love how you can perform a replay attack and open my garage or dead bolt.

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