Jun 21, 2015

IoT alliances and interoperability

I have recently been consulting on the topic of IoT Platform strategy with a particular focus on the recently issued oneM2M standard. As part of this work, I researched the activities of different IoT alliances and industry groups because there is a lot of industry discussion about competing standards.

In discussions with company executives, a recurring theme is that nobody wants to take a bet on any single ‘standards’ approach. As a result, many companies choose to hedge their bets and participate in multiple initiatives. Having examined several of the leading initiatives from different dimensions, it’s debatable whether companies are getting a strategic, product-development return on their participation (setting aside brand-building and corporate networking benefits).

There are many different ways to look at each of initiatives. For this post, let’s begin by concentrating on their mission and primary objectives.


The following list paraphrases information from the different initiative websites:

  • Allseen Alliance: “Drive adoption of IoE products, systems and services with an open, universal development framework supported by a vibrant ecosystem and technical community”.
  • FiWARE: “Create a sustainable ecosystem to grasp the opportunities that will emerge with the new wave of digitization caused by the integration of recent Internet technologies”.
  • HyperCAT: “Drive a secure and interoperable IoT for industry, enabling data discovery and interoperability. Create an inclusive, one-stop shop of best practice IoT implementation through sharing of knowledge of processes and applications”.
  • Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC): “Identify requirements for open interoperability standards and define common architectures to connect smart devices, machines, people, and processes”.
  • LoRA Alliance: “Standardize low power wide area networks (LPWAN)”.
  • oneM2M: “To develop technical specifications for a common M2M Service Layer that can be embedded within various hardware and software, to connect devices with M2M application servers”. 
  • Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC): “Establish a single solution covering interoperability across multiple vertical markets and use cases”.
  • Thread Group: “To create the very best way to connect and control products in the home. Not a standards group but one aiming to create market awareness”. 

From these statements, it should be clear that some of these alliances are not in the standards business at all.

All of these initiatives are striving for inter-operability with a domain focus. That is to say, they may focus on inter-operability within a portion of the technology stack (e.g. networking, data exchange etc.) or a class of IoT applications, such as the connected home (see one of my older articles [1] on ‘Place as an IoT strategy’).

Setting aside the technical merits of the different alliances, one informative way to compare them is in terms of the life-cycle to commercial standards. It is one thing to have a ‘standard’ but what is the alignment of eco-system, implementation and commercialization factors necessary to create a mass market?

The following view of the different initiatives maps out a simplified ‘go-to-market’ process. It begins with requirements and the specifications that lead to a standard which can then be tested and certified before eventually being brought to commercial fruition via market-development and commercial-incubation activities. The illustration also maps the different initiatives along a basic applications stack formed of four components: networking; connectivity management; M2M/IoT application enablers (i.e. horizontal platforms); and, IoT applications.


This depiction shows that some alliances (left-hand side of graphic) focus on the early-stage process of specifying IoT-application enablement requirements. The IIC, for example, began by developing a set of requirements, which have led to a reference architecture, while also launching test beds for its initial use cases.

Others alliances (right-hand side of graphic) are building off existing standards, such as HTTPS, JSON, REST, 802.15.2 and LoRAWAN, and prioritizing evangelization and market-development activities. The European Union supported initiative, FiWARE, stands out because it plans to seed the market via a EUR80m commercial incubation fund targeted at start-ups and small businesses.

Within this context, the issue for companies is not so much a matter of picking the ‘winning’ standard as much leveraging the largest interoperability footprint. The Korea Electronics Technology Institute [2], for example, recently demonstrated a oneM2M platform that allowed Alljoyn, Google Nest (Thread Group), Philips Hue and Jawbone platforms to communication with one another. This is a milestone accomplishment from a country at the forefront of mobile innovation and services.

It puts a new complexion on the kind of interoperability that will underpin affordable solutions (via economies of scale) and innovation (by exposing new application and revenue-generating opportunities from cross-silo application and data sharing).

[1] ‘Place” as an IoT Strategy - http://www.more-with-mobile.com/2013/08/place-as-iot-strategy.html 

[2] Business Korea - Tech Compatible with Different IoT Platforms Has Been Presented http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/article/10864/internet-many-things-tech-compatible-different-iot-platforms-has-been-presented 

20 comments:

  1. 7 July 2015 update

    Thanks to one of my readers who recommended that I include a reference to the OPC Foundation as part of this post.

    https://opcfoundation.org/about/opc-technologies/opc-ua/

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  2. 20 October 2015 update

    The EnOcean Alliance and the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) are collaborating to deliver seamless, inter-operable connectivity for the IoT. The cooperation will result in solutions using both technologies – the EnOcean energy harvesting wireless standard and the OIC specification.


    http://openinterconnect.org/oic-news-releases/open-interconnect-consortium-and-enocean-alliance-announce-new-liaison-agreement-for-the-internet-of-things/

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  3. 20 October 2015 update

    Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and HyperCat today announced that they plan to collaborate to make Internet of Things (IoT) devices and data more discoverable and inter-operable

    HyperCat is focused on making data from a connected thing or device discoverable, searchable and addressable. OIC could use HyperCat to define relationships between resource types, catalogue them, and make them searchable

    http://openinterconnect.org/oic-news-releases/open-interconnect-consortium-and-hypercat-collaborate-on-internet-of-things/

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  4. Ken, I finally got around to reading your blog post and am glad I did. Your IoT industry-alliance map provides a good and simple two dimensional method to better understand what all these alliances are trying to accomplish. Thanks for that.

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  5. 20 Nov 2015 update

    ARM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and the Princeton University Edge Laboratory have formed a consortium that aims to speed up the development of core technologies around “fog computing.”

    Its Mission is to drive industry and academic leadership in fog computing architecture, testbed development, and a variety of interoperability and composability deliverables that seamlessly leverage cloud and edge architectures to enable end-to-end IoT scenarios.

    http://www.openfogconsortium.org/

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  6. 27 Nov 2015 update

    OIC swallows UPnP Forum, prepares for W3C standards push

    A couple of extracts from the article:

    Mike Richmond, executive director of the OIC, says the two specifications are largely complementary because UPnP focuses mainly on initial set-up, and the OIC on connected applications on top. He also says the OIC has a broader remit, looking at some non-home use cases where UPnP would not apply.

    In fact, the adoption of the UPnP software will remove any remaining differentiation between OIC and AllSeen – which is heavily focused on service discovery too – and makes it unlikely that these two groups will merge themselves any time soon (something which some members had reportedly been advocating). The UPnP Forum’s president Scott Lofgren says that “almost every device with AllJoyn also has UPnP”, and both are supported in Windows 10.

    http://rethink-iot.com/2015/11/27/oic-swallows-upnp-forum-prepares-w3c-standards-push/

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  7. 20 Feb 2016 Update

    Allseen and OIC merge to form Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF)

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/aarontilley/2016/02/19/microsoft-qualcomm-and-intel-start-collaborating-on-internet-of-things-standardization/#4f9354881de0

    Key extracts from Forbes article:

    The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) on Intel’s side and AllSeen Alliance on Qualcomm’s will begin collaborating with each other under OIC’s new name: the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF).

    The new entity will replace all of OIC’s activities. Existing OIC members will move over to this new organization. Qualcomm will stay involved in AllSeen and any device running the AllSeen standard will also work on the new OFC standard, a spokeswoman said.

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  8. 23 Feb 2015 Update

    Establishement of FIWARE Foundation

    Atos, Engineering, Orange and Telefónica, the members of the FIWARE Core Industry group, announced today the creation of the FIWARE Foundation, aiming at supporting FIWARE activities by protecting the FIWARE brand, and preserving the principles of openness, transparency and meritocracy which will work as the pillars of the FIWARE community.

    This represents a significant step forward in the adoption of FIWARE as the de-facto platform easing the development of IoT-enabled solutions and applications in multiple sectors and the creation of a strong open-source ecosystem.


    https://www.telefonica.com/en/web/press-office/-/atos-engineering-orange-and-telefonica-announce-the-creation-of-the-fiware-foundation-to-accelerate-the-development-of-services-in-the-internet-of-thi

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  9. 10 March 2016 update

    Collaboration in the industrial IoT sector as the IIC and Germany's Plattform Industrie 4.0 open up discussions on mutual areas of interest.

    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160302005377/en

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  10. 31 July 2016 Update

    Thread Group, OCF to Partner on IoT Standardization Efforts

    The two industry consortiums this week announced they plan to work together in their efforts to drive interoperability between the tens of millions of devices, systems and sensors that make up the internet of things (IoT) for the connected home.
    The two groups work on different levels of the IoT. The Thread Group is developing a low-power, secure and scalable IPv6-based wireless mesh network layer that is designed to enable IoT devices to connect more easily to the internet and each other, while the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) is developing an application layer that would run on top of the network.

    http://www.eweek.com/networking/thread-group-ocf-to-partner-on-iot-standardization-efforts.html



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  11. 22 Aug 2016 update

    Open Connectivity Foundation Announces Automotive Project

    The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), a leading Internet of Things (IoT) standards organization, today announced the launch of the automotive project to provide the technology, standards and collaboration needed to enable interoperability between the automotive and other verticals including consumer electronics, enterprise, healthcare, home automation, industrial and wearables. The OCF Automotive Project will be driven by members from Samsung, Honeywell, Cisco, SmartThings, ETRI, GRL and Tinnos.

    https://openconnectivity.org/press-releases/open-connectivity-foundation-announces-automotive-project

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  12. 21 Sept 2016 Update

    And the list of standards bodies targeting the IoT keeps on growing. Here's how W3C differentiates itself relative to other bodies.

    https://www.w3.org/WoT/IG/wiki/How_does_W3C_compare_to_other_organizations

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  13. 7 Oct 2016 update

    https://iot.telefonica.com/blog/2016/09/en-fiware-standard-iot

    FIWARE introduces FIWARE NGSI as a standard to describe how to collect, manage, publish, and notify about changes of context information.

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  14. 10 October 2016 update

    AllSeen Alliance Merges with Open Connectivity Foundation to Accelerate the Internet of Things

    https://allseenalliance.org/allseen-alliance-merges-open-connectivity-foundation-accelerate-internet-things

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  15. 7 Nov 2016 update

    Thread Group broadens its scope of activities beyond the connected home and into the commercial building and professional sectors, to unlock valuable new use cases for its members.

    The group will continue its efforts to drive adoption of the Thread networking specification for the connected home, and will leverage this technology for the commercial building and professional sectors by adding extensions to the existing specification.

    The new extensions will address use cases such as enterprise security and commissioning options, and enabling and managing large Thread subnets. These updates will be beneficial to a range of commercial building professionals including installers, network engineers, application commissioners and end-users operating system components.

    http://threadgroup.org/news-events/press-releases/ID/124/Thread-Group-Broadens-Focus-to-Encompass-the-Places-Where-People-Live-and-Work-with-Expansion-Into-Commercial-Building-Space

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  16. 14 Nov 2016 update

    Fairhair Alliance and the ZigBee Alliance Sign Liaison Agreement to Help Create Smarter Commercial Buildings

    The two organizations will explore opportunities to combine their technical specifications and take advantage of the ZigBee Alliance’s extensive testing, certification and branding resources and expertise to simplify the development and deployment of lighting and building automation systems based on a common, IP-based network infrastructure.

    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20161110005196/en

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  17. 16 Dec 2016 update

    ZigBee and Thread move closer to merger, haven’t pulled the trigger yet

    This week, Thread and ZigBee have announced that the two low-power mesh networking IoT alliances have successfully carried out another test that shows how nicely the two protocols play together – so why haven’t they merged yet? We’ve already seen a momentous IoT standards consolidation in the OCF-AllSeen merger, and 2016 has already set a pretty high bar for bonkers news – so two standards group mergers really wouldn’t be so surprising.

    ... and ...

    ZigBee’s promoter members are: Comcast, Huawei, Itron, Kroger, Landis+Gyr, Leedarson, Legrand, Midea, NXP (Qualcomm), Philips, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs, SmartThings (Samsung), Somfy, Texas Instruments, and Wulian.

    Thread’s sponsors are: ARM, Haiku (Big Ass Fans/Solutions), Nest (Google), NXP, Qualcomm, Osram, Samsung, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs, Somfy, Tyco, and Yale.

    As for the standards themselves, Thread needs ZigBee – or at least it needs the higher layers of the stack that it doesn’t currently standardize – namely the application layer. Sure, Thread could opt for other protocols to complete this function, perhaps Google’s new Weave campaign will draw its eye, but it’s worth noting that the IoTivity-AllJoyn project is only a small push away from potentially providing an application layer to sit under its higher-level framework and solving that problem for Thread (or encroaching on the likes of ZigBee, depending on your politics).

    http://rethinkresearch.biz/articles/zigbee-thread-move-closer-merger-havent-pulled-trigger-yet/

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  18. 12 Jan 2017 update

    Here's a useful resource - a comprehensive list of standards development organizations and alliances (not just for IoT).

    http://www.consortiuminfo.org/links/linksall.php#A

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  19. 9 Feb 2017 Update

    A new partnership involving telcos, vendors and IT companies aims to safeguard the security of the IoT.

    AT&T, Nokia, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec and Trustonic are the founding members of the IoT Cybersecurity Alliance, which will research and raise awareness of the ways to secure the IoT ecosystem.

    The first goal of the programme is to research the security challenges of the IoT across connected cars, industrial, smart cities and healthcare.

    The research will be based on specific use-cases or business challenges, the Alliance said.

    http://eurocomms.com/industry-news/12105-telcos-and-it-companies-team-up-to-tackle-iot-security

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  20. 8 Sep 2017 update

    http://openmobilealliance.org/press-releases/ocf-oma-liaison-pr

    The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA)announced a liaison agreement for working on device management for IoT.

    This agreement will explore collaboration involving OMA’s LightweightM2M (LwM2M) standard, a device management protocol designed for sensor networks and the demands of a machine-to-machine (M2M) environment, with OCF Specifications.

    OCF had a need to address the standardization of device management.

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