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Qualcomm, the chip company that made its fortune in mobile connectivity had big visions beyond its CDMA and cellular radio heritage. It has entertained a focus on better displays, broadcast television and now, the internet of things. The chip firm has created an open source mesh networking platform called AllJoyn that connects nearby devices to each other, as opposed to connecting each and every device back to the internet.
At the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona this week, Qualcomm plans to announce four new implementations of AllJoyn that will allow for seamless notifications, audio streaming from and to any device, onboarding devices onto the network and AllJoyn platform and exporting the control interfaces for devices to other platforms on the network. So when you enter your home in an AllJoyn world your smartphone could send the song you’re listening to over to your home stereo no matter who makes the handset and who makes the stereo (or speakers). Same thing would happen if you wanted to ship the music to your car.
AllJoyn and Qualcomm’s vision for the internet of things
AllJoyn is tough to explain, in part because most of us aren’t that familiar with mesh networking. We’re far more used to having our radios send data up to the cloud and then have that data combine with other services while in a server off in a distant data center. Some companies are proposing we move that connectivity closer to home in some kind of smart gateway device ( in that case your data is sent to a box in your home and then combined with other data to perform a service).
Qualcomm, however, is thinking a bit differently. “I don’t need to control my light bulb from Tahiti,” says Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm’s Innovation Center. “When you have 1,500 connected devices in your house I don’t think you want all of them connected to the public internet.”
Instead Qualcomm has built a software overlay that can work on any processor and hopefully on any operating system. Right now it does this via an application, but Chandhok hopes that consumer electronics makers will integrate it into the firmware on their many devices in the future. He says Qualcomm already has customers, but he declined to name them. For consumers, the end result is that you can install applications on your smartphone that will work with AllJoyn compatible devices and control them from your handset.
The platform is nice, but the implementation will drive adoption.
Qualcomm has been working on the AllJoyn software development kit for a few years, and has released the basics. But today’s news tries to help speed adoption by offering not just the SDK and specs for the platform, but the implementations. It’s not enough to give someone a fishing rod, sometimes you need to teach her how to cast the line. With these implementations, especially the audio, which Qualcomm developed in conjunction with doubleTwist, it hopes to show developers and consumers how powerful the platform can be.
Chandhok expects that we will see more consumer devices hit the market at the end of the year that feature AllJoyn compatibility. When I asked him how it compared with other efforts to connect devices in the home, such as SmartThings‘ hub or Mobiplug’s gateway, he said that in many ways those companies are concerned with creating a way to get everything on the internet and then to control it. Qualcomm may work with those companies, and they can certainly incorporate AllJoyn, but again, he’s not convinced that every item needs to be online.
And if these new implementations work out and the big name customers Chandhok doesn’t reference start releasing products, he may be right. Most people don’t care if everything is online– they just want an experience and service that’s easy and provides more functionality without adding inconvenience. The next big question will be around the partners Qualcomm find to help contribute to AllJoyn, develop applications that work with it and embed AllJoyn compliant hardware and software into their devices.