Tech Giants Come Together to Steer the IoT

by Daniel Mandell | 04/09/2015

The rising wave of embedded market opportunities is being carried by the Internet of Things. Technology leaders are quickly coming together to ensure their organizations (and hardware solutions) are compatible with new standards and third-party vendors. Open industry groups and alliances will be instrumental in accelerating the development, deployment, and support of end-to-end IoT products and solutions through the next several years - though this will not be the only approach.

The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and AllSeen Alliance are examples of similar yet different IoT groups. While both of their Linux-based open source projects, IoTivity and AllJoyn respectively, promote interoperability across a wide variety of vertical markets and use cases, they differ in technical implementation, licensing policies, and overall progress. For instance, the OIC, with founders including Dell, Intel, and Wind River, calls for companies to “license the technology contributed to the group”. The consortium plans to publish a standard this year and has just released a preview of its IoTivity project. Meanwhile, the AllSeen Alliance recently (January 2015) modified its IP Policy so users must comply with a patent pledge, does not plan to publish an open standard, and is preparing to release the third version of its AllJoyn protocol.  With dozens of members joining every month, founding organizations such as Microsoft and Qualcomm, and an upcoming third project release, AllSeen is currently ahead of the OIC in terms of development and membership base. However, with a soon-to-be finalized standard and its newly formed liaison with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), we expect the OIC to gain much more momentum this year. 

Another group gaining traction is Thread Group, founded by ARM, Nest, and Samsung, which has a similar goal as OIC and AllSeen, but focuses solely on connected home appliances. Unlike the OIC and AllSeen Alliance, which consistently promote the openness of their IoT projects, Thread Group is a closed ecosystem of various organizations. Thread’s lack of openness will ultimately hinder its membership growth and potential expansion into new verticals, but will allow for more central control of the roadmap and supporting protocols and technologies. Regardless, membership is currently growing and Thread plans on releasing a product certification program later this year.

The Industrial Internet Consortium, founded by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM, and Intel, runs on a different purpose and recently formed a liaison with OIC to exchange “its use cases and architectural requirements focused on industrial markets”  for OIC’s promise to meet the requirements in its specification and IoTivity. This liason will “help to accelerate the delivery of an industrial-grade IoT architectural framework.” With almost 150 members, the IIC identifies “the requirements for open interoperability standards and [defines] common architectures.” Within a year, the IIC has already released its first energy-focused testbed and will release its reference architecture in the coming months. IIC’s new releases and partnership with OIC is a solid formula for an increase in members and development support this year. Despite its partnership with OIC, which is extremely open, the IIC only allows its members to view any of its contents. 

Founded by more than 10 companies including Cisco and Atmel in 2008, the IPSO Alliance promotes IP as a solution by documenting its use in technologies defined at standards organizations like the Internet Engineering Task Force. IPSO is currently working on an IoT architecture guidelines across multiple vertical markets with an emphasis on facilitating the usage and sharing of IP. Despite IPSO’s age and recent publications, the group’s membership growth seems to have reached a plateau at 44 companies. It is hard to see any further development from this alliance despite its duration. IPSO publishes all contents on its website, however it also requires a membership to be able to view its technical guidelines and use cases.

Focused solely on building a “strong and sustainable market advantage” through solutions based on Intel architectures, the Intel IoT Solutions Alliance is driven by “creating hardware, software, firmware, tools, and systems integration”. The group was formerly named the Intel Intelligent Systems Alliance. Intel’s alliance is steadily pumping out new solutions with a total of more than 2,500 currently available from its 250+ members. The Intel IoT Solutions Alliance primarily competes with ARM’s mbed initiative and supporting architecture partners.

Hoping to bring together different industries, sectors, and companies in Europe, the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) was launched less than a month ago on March 24th, 2015. With support from the European Commission, the AIOTI is gaining members quickly even in its early stages.

As the IoT industry is booming, so is the number of IoT-driven alliances being formed and looking to steer the [embedded] market. While the growing number of IoT consortia, specifications, and projects will help improve various different connected solutions, all groups are driven to unify  organizations by creating universal technologies, standards, and frameworks. But with each tech giant partaking in different alliances and creating standards in the hopes that others will adapt to theirs, the IoT is running into early fragmentation with a clashing of alliances fighting for their technology to be the one used by all. As most groups are in their early stages, much of the IoT has yet to be defined (and controlled). 

View the 2017 IoT & Embedded Technology Research Outline to learn more.

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