Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: CES 2020: The Big Trends for Business

CES 2020: Open Connectivity Foundation reveals first open IoT standard devices

Vendors show off the first generation of Open Connectivity Foundation-compatible Internet of Things devices.

Xiaomi to invest $7.2 billion in 5G, AI, and IoT over five years Xiaomi is facing stiff competition in its core smartphone business as other Chinese Android-makers, especially Huawei, continue to erode the market shares of smaller players.

There's about 26 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices today. All too many of` them have no compatibility with each other. The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) wants to fix that with its OCF's 2.1 specification. This is more than just another standard. At CES 2020, numerous companies showed off their beta OCF compatible devices.

Also: More CES coverage at CNET

The OCF 2.1 specification is meant to enable the development of vertical IoT devices for both smart homes and smart commercial devices while maintaining fundamental interoperability between device architectures. It's meant to be scalable from resource-constrained to resource-rich devices.

The OCF architecture is based on the Resource Orientated REST architectural style. It's also designed to bridge the gap between existing IoT ecosystems. So, it provides detailed implementations for Bluetooth, EnOcean, Zigbee, and Z-wave network protocols.

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In particular, OCF 2.1 includes a specification to work with the existing cloud. This is important, said Scott Harkins, Resideo's VP and general manager of Connected Home, in a statement. "The smart home today is anything but smart, there are too many apps and competing communication protocols to make it happen, and homeowners are increasingly frustrated."

So, he said, "the OCF Universal Cloud Interface standard will greatly simplify and reduce the work associated with IoT Cloud to Cloud communications. By implementing this as an industry standard, we'll reduce the need for one-off, cloud to cloud connections, streamlining our development work, and helping simplify the smart home experience for consumers."

Hyogun Lee, Samsung Electronics's head of R&D, Visual Display Business, agreed: "We anticipate that the OCF Universal Cloud Interface can resolve the current IoT market fragmentation and thus build the unified IoT ecosystem."

"Different configurations of the same OCF UCI can simplify collaboration between device manufacturers who wish to produce IoT devices but do not have the ability to develop and support their own cloud applications," explained John Park, OCF's executive director. It "can also help companies that have cloud applications and wish to expand the number of devices that can connect to them," Lee said.

At CES, the first fruits of this effort were shown. BSC Computer GmbH, COMMAX, SURE Universal, Haier, LG, Resideo, and Samsung all showed off a wide variety of beta OCF 2.1 compatible devices. These ranged from TVs to robot vacuums to tablets to air conditioners. 

Will OCF-compliant devices be able to overcome the lead from proprietary and vertical IoT devices from Amazon and Google? It may seem like they're outmatched. Stay tuned. Historically, open standards beat closed ones.