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 


  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.


  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.


  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


  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.

  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.


  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.


  7. 20 Feb 2016 Update

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


    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.

  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  13. 7 Oct 2016 update


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

  14. 10 October 2016 update

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


  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.


  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.


  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).


  18. 12 Jan 2017 update

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


  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.


  20. 8 Sep 2017 update


    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.

  21. 11 Jan 2018

    IPSO Alliance perspective on interoperability and standards as well as future directions relating to semantics.

    What is IPSO’s role in interoperability?

    IPSO’s stated purpose has always been to explore, evaluate, and recommend best practices related to the use of IP in the IoT. We are not a standards definition organization; however, it turns out that our smart-object guidelines are in fact becoming a de facto standard.

    We set out to define a model whereby semantic data could be easily conveyed and understood, publishing a limited set of definitions that has been met with broad interest. The Smart Object Guidelines have turned out to be ideal for LwM2M [LightweightM2M] applications, for example, which has led to a significant expansion of our object definitions. Now the question is how can we work with our semantics and data models and find the right framework to standardize them, given their broad adoption?


  22. 10 October 2019 update

    Google Nest Hub Max Not Really ‘Interoperable’ with other Thread Home Automation Devices

    As first consumer device ‘Built on Thread’, new Google/Nest smart display will be “compatible” with other compliant products, but that doesn’t mean they’ll interoperate in one smart-home ecosystem.


    It’s just that “Built on Thread” is kind of inconsequential — not useless, but surely not as great as the Thread Group purports: “Thread’s standardized, open and secure network solves one of IoT’s biggest problems: seamlessly and reliably connecting thousands of IoT devices.”

    In theory, yes, Thread does “connect” devices at the network layer, but it doesn’t make them interoperable, as Thread promises in its press release (below).

  23. 1 March 2021 update

    BOSTON, MA, BERLIN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 17, 2021 – Digital Twin Consortium® and FIWARE Foundation have entered into a collaborative agreement to accelerate the development, deployment, and wide-scale adoption of open digital twin technologies.


  24. 11 May 2021 update

    The Zigbee Alliance, an organization of hundreds of companies creating, maintaining, and delivering open global standards for the Internet of Things (IoT), today announced its organizational rebrand to the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA). The organization announced a second brand, Matter, formerly known to the industry as Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), the future of reliable connectivity. The newly developed Matter mark will serve as a seal of approval, assuring that any object built on this standard is reliable by nature, secure by design, and compatible at scale. The Alliance will continue to develop Zigbee technology and will retain the Zigbee technology brand.


  25. 14 May 2021 update

    Useful reference guide on the landscape for IoT standards and organizations


  26. 2 September 2021 update

    Industry Support Organizations Adapt to Digital Transformation

    The Profibus/Profinet User Organization and the Industrial Internet Consortium announce operational changes reflective of IoT and Industry 4.0-driven changes to the industries they serve.

    The automation industry has changed dramatically over the past decade with the advent of Industry 4.0 and the drive for greater connectedness and digitalization of all plant floor devices and related data. In response, technology suppliers and the working groups surrounding them have been in an almost constant state of change to keep up with and stay ahead of industry’s needs.


  27. 7 December 2021 update

    A data standard is only a standard if it achieves a level of adoption and use. And securing that requires trust.

    It requires those who might building systems that will work with the standard to be able to trust that the standard is well managed, and has robust governance. It requires users of schema and codelists to trust that they will remain open and free for use – rather than starting open and then later enclosed like the bait-and-switch that we’ve seen with many online platforms. And it requires leadership committing to adopting a standard to trust that the promises made for what it will do can be delivered.

    Behind many standards and their associated infrastructures – you will find carefully designed organisational structures and institutions.


  28. 11 May 2022 update


    Google’s Michele Turner discusses how Matter started and where it will take Google Nest.


  29. 4 June 2022 update

    In early 2019, Michele Turner sat down for dinner with her colleague Grant Erickson. Joining them at the restaurant in Silicon Valley’s Woodside were two of their counterparts from Amazon and two from Apple. Turner and Erickson both worked for Google. The hosts of this dinner party were Tobin Richardson and John Osborne from the Zigbee Alliance. The aim of the evening was simple: fix the smart home.

    Turner, the senior director of Google Smart Home Ecosystem, and Erickson, then a software engineer at Google, had agreed to meet with their competitors to find a solution to the major pain points in the smart home: reliability, connectivity, setup, and “the multi-platform problem.” While this was not the first conversation between the companies, it was a significant step forward in an ongoing effort by the Zigbee Alliance to bring the industry together and address the challenge of interoperability in the smart home.

    “Grant, who was also president of the Thread Group at the time, had been leading conversations with us internally at Google about how to solve some of the bigger problems in smart home,” recalls Turner. “We knew we had the foundational technologies to start to address this but that there was a lot to fix. Grant made a proposal. The Apple folks and the Amazon folks obviously had viewpoints as well. But we all could see the bigger picture of what needed to happen.”

    Turner recalls they left the meeting with a draft proposal agreed on by all parties and with a commitment to take it further. Initially known internally as Project Unity, it went public just prior to CES 2020 as Project Chip (Connected Home over IP). Shortly after that — along with a rebrand of the Zigbee Alliance to the Connectivity Standards Alliance — the fruits of that Woodside dinner became Matter: the new interoperability smart home standard, and an unprecedented industry coalition.


  30. 2 Nov 2022 update

    Sigfox operator Heliot joins MIOTY Alliance – to bring ‘unified LPWAN’ a step closer

    Heliot Europe’s membership of the alliance is notable on the grounds early marketing around MIOTY was largely geared around tech-bashing of rival LPWA products, mostly via Fraunhofer-authored technical comparisons, especially with LoRaWAN, but also with narrowband Sigfox. But since Sigfox’s sale in April to Taiwan-based Unabiz – and actually since way before – the talk on the wider Sigfox-side of the IoT divide has been about collaboration.

    In particular, Sigfox co-chief Henri Bong has talked in these pages, at some length, about a “unified LPWA networking world”, where Sigfox plays strategically ‘nice’ with the likes of LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, as the nominal king-tech in the wide-area IoT space, but also with the likes of MIOTY and Wi-SUN, notably, both later to the game, perhaps, but also better-specified for battery-power IoT, arguably.

    Philippe Chiu – Bong’s partner, childhood friend, and Unabiz co-founder; now sharing the chief executive position with Bong at Unabizz – told Enterprise IoT Insights at a chance meeting at the LoRaWAN World Expo event in Paris in July that he was on summer tour, effectively, of the European IoT conference circuit, stopping also at MIOTY and Wi-SUN events to raise support for a closer “unified LPWA networking world”.


  31. 11 April 2023 update

    Everything You Need to Know About Matter

    Q. Is Matter a new kind of radio technology?

    A. Nope. Matter is an “application layer”, which means it can run over technologies already in your homes or devices — like Wi-Fi or Thread. Think of it like this: you and I can both have the same radio, but unless we speak the same language, we can’t really do anything interesting together. Technologies like Wi-Fi and Thread let you connect your devices, and Matter is the language they speak to each other.


  32. 18 July 2023 update

    Sigfox has officially joined the LoRa Alliance – as a contributing member, no less. The French-born ultra-narrowband IoT network tech – once (long ago) the darling of the European IoT startup scene, until its money-shredding decline and desperate fire-sale at the start of 2022 – has been shepherded into the rival LoRaWAN camp by its new parent, the IoT bravehearts at Singapore-based Unabiz, ably assisted by LoRaWAN old boy Rémi Lorrain.

    Really, who saw this happening 18 months ago, when Sigfox was in the gutter? Who saw it happening two years ago, when LoRaWAN was still its arch nemesis at the noisy low-power wide-area (LPWAN) end of the IoT game – whose fortunes appeared to correspond so oppositely with its own? One could argue Sigfox’s options were limited, as its original run came to an end – to the point that joining with the enemy was its only one. But it is still something.

    Indeed, it is something even after the Unabiz team, headed by boyhood pals Henri Bong and Philippe Chiu, has rushed through 2023 with crossover deals with key operatives in the LoRaWAN regime, including Actility in France, The Things Industries in the Netherlands, and Senet in the US. Most of these have been sympathetic to the idea of IoT convergence for some years. Ohers, like LORIOT in Switzerland, have been doubling-up on LPWAN for yonks.

    LORIOT is a mainstay in the MIOTY scene, as well; MIOTY is the go-to-market brand for the Johnny-come-lately telegram-splitting ultra-narrowband (TS-UNB) standard, being pitched as an alternative for industrial IoT. Unabiz is also in talks with the Wi-SUN Alliance, in charge of the Wi-SUN mesh protocol for ‘smart utility networks’ (SUN). Last week, it signed with Soracom, an investor already, to combine cellular IoT (mostly LTE-M) into its LPWAN mix.

    But the LoRa Alliance, representing the likes of Actility and Senet, has been more defiant about the singularity of its preferred LPWAN standard. Its acceptance of Sigfox into the fold is telling. Its collaboration is the big one for Unabiz, in ways, and confirms its vision for converged IoT networks is well accepted – even if the LoRaWAN crowd will maintain that the biggest gains, in terms of traffic onto networks, are mostly-all going the way of its members.


  33. 24 August 2023 update

    AI Business: Following on, what are your thoughts on this new Frontier Model Forum (a group dedicated to safe AI development founded by OpenAI, Microsoft, Google and Anthropic)?

    Dobrin: They want it to be inclusive. It seems they're looking for membership, how they bring members in − (but) how much voice different members get is yet to be seen.

    The group is looking at the next generation of technology to determine what safeguards they need to put in place. It’s a little bit of self-protection, but that's fine.

    This is a case where the underlying reason for them is irrelevant as long as the outcome is the right outcome, which is making sure this technology is safe for human consumption. Whether it's self-serving or whether they're trying to head off regulation, I don't think it’s that relevant.

    What it comes down to is, what does this mean? It was kind of ambiguous what the structure would look like - who has a voice, who doesn't have a voice? They have this huge forum and if 99% of the people are sitting in the audience that have no input (what value does that provide)? ... Whereas if you have 100 people in a room, and they all have a voice that's much more meaningful, as long as those people represent global society.


  34. 20 January 2024 update

    Object Management Group Announces Integration of Industry IoT Consortium with Digital Twin Consortium
    Jan. 18, 2024 - Object Management Group (OMG) announced the integration of two of its consortia: the Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) and the Digital Twin Consortium (DTC). This integration will further expand OMG’s collaboration with industry, academia and government, leading to increased adoption of digital twins and digital transformation.

    “During the past several years, we have seen opportunities for increased collaboration and alignment between the IIC and DTC,” said Bill Hoffman, CEO and Chairman of OMG. “Integrating IIC within DTC ensures we have the best minds from both, working together to solve increasingly complex problems and providing a more holistic view across industries and technologies.”

    OMG will retain IIC’s essential contributions to IoT and digital transformation on the IIC website. Combined IIC/DTC thought leadership will reside on the DTC website.