AllSeen Alliance to Standardize Internet of Things

The Linux Foundation on Tuesday announced the formation of the AllSeen Alliance, a cross-industry consortium working on a standard of interoperability among devices connected to the Internet of Things.

Alliance members include LG Electronics, Panasonic, Sharp, Silicon Image, Qualcomm, HTC, Cisco, D-Link and Sears Brand Management. LG will incorporate the Alliance’s technology into the smart TVs it offers next year.

The alliance’s technology framework is based on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn open source project. It runs on regular and embedded versions of Linux, Android, iOS and Microsoft Windows.

The code base has a standard set of services and capabilities device manufacturers already can use, and “the Alliance and open source community members will work to define more services capabilities and create the code to enable them,” Linux Foundation Director Mike Dolan told LinuxInsider.

“This is very similar to what Tim Berners-Lee has been trying to do with the semantic Web for the past 10 years,” Philip DesAutels, vice president of technology at Xively, told LinuxInsider. “It’s a very worthy initiative that requires a trust broker among devices that are communicating.”

Inside the Alliance Framework

The framework consists of a code base of modular services that initially will enable fundamental activities such as discovery of adjacent devices, device pairing, message routing, security, user notifications, a common control panel and audio streaming.

Products, applications and services created with the AllJoyn open source project — on which the AllSeen Alliance Framework is based — can communicate directly over WiFi, power lines or Ethernet without having to go through the Internet.

The framework’s cross-platform capability lets devices communicate regardless of the manufacturer or operating system.

“AllJoyn was created from a blank slate to address issues that all other connected technology protocols and efforts to date have failed to address,” the Linux Foundation’s Dolan said. It “is designed for backwards compatibility, and is extensible to support services on innovative future devices.”

AllJoyn can be extended to support legacy technologies because of its modular and open architecture, he suggested.

AllJoyn’s Long and Winding Road

Qualcomm began working on the AllJoyn open source project two years ago, with the idea of eliminating concerns over which transport layer to use.

For various reasons, however, the company’s partners did not build service notifications as it had hoped they would.

In February, Qualcomm extended AllJoyn with a new software layer that let devs easily expose and query capabilities for any device, as well as send notifications and simple commands. It also rolled out an open source wireless audio streaming protocol.

The product’s slow march to acceptance is understandable.

“It takes time to get production-ready code that other companies are willing to bet their product road map on,” Dolan pointed out.

IoT Challenges

“Security was one of the key principles Qualcomm was keen to address in AllJoyn,” Dolan said. “Anybody will be able to read and offer suggested improvements to the code base.”

On the other hand, “you’re talking about a service layer that’s going to become extremely intrusive,” Mike Jude, Stratecast program manager at Frost & Sullivan, told LinuxInsider.

Reports that the NSA is spying upon World of Warcraft players and Xbox Live users do not help matters.

Nor does Cisco’s recent unveiling of new surveillance technology for the Internet of Things.

The degree to which growing unease over the NSA’s surveillance activities might impact acceptance of connected devices is yet unknown.

However, “the goal over the next five to 10 years is to embed as many sensors as possible in devices at home or at work to feed back data, and whether or not we like it, the momentum towards that vision is very strong,” Aravindh Vanchesan, research program manager at Frost & Sullivan, told Linux Insider.

“The impact of the NSA’s surveillance on demand for the Internet of Things will depend on how the public debate is played out,” Vanchesan continued, “and the response of lawmakers.”

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