Home & Office

Smart home stack needs interoperability as specification groups proliferate

Three groups are aiming to improve smart home and office interoperability. The takeaway: There's a lot of plumbing that needs to be hooked together before the Internet of things delivers on its promise.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google's Nest and Samsung are the headliners in a group called Thread that aims to enable devices throughout the home---smartphones, tablets, TVs, thermostats and appliances---to talk to each other easily and securely.

Sound familiar? It should. There's a bull market for vendors banding together to work on Internet of things interoperability and Thread is just the latest. Last week, Intel and Samsung led the forming of the Open Interconnect Consortium. In December, the AllSeen Alliance was created with premier members---LG, Haier, Sharp, Panasonic, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Cisco---that cover a large home footprint.

The good news: The tech industry realizes that interoperability is critical for the Internet of things to become reality. The initial focus tends to be on connecting the smart home and office, but the real business returns are likely to be delivered in retail, healthcare, manufacturing and the supply chain. The bad news: The formation of three groups in just a few months indicates there is a lot of technology plumbing that needs to be built before smart homes are seamless.

For Thread, the group noted that it is a wireless protocol that is already embedded in Nest products. AllSeen and the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) revolve around software platforms. Samsung is a member of Thread and OIC. The goals of all three groups are the same: Create interoperability with low energy consumption.

Here's Thread's take on the Internet of things:


And here's the OIC view:


The visions clearly rhyme. 

Here's what is likely to take place. AllSeen has the broadest base of vendors and a Linux and open source approach. That group seems to be the most mature of the three. OIC can also be promising, but needs more than Dell, Atmel, Broadcom, Samsung and Wind River on board.

For now, Thread is all about Google and Samsung with chip players such as ARM and Freescale being leading members.

Add it up and there's likely to be open source mixed with a bit of proprietary protocols to network the Internet of things together. Going forward these various vendors will have to line up behind one set of specifications and then focus on what'll really matter: The applications and analytics tied to the Internet of things.

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