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.