Remember the VHS versus Betamax battle? OK, too ‘80s. How about the Blu-ray versus HD DVD battle? There’s a similar battle waging within the standards of the Internet of Things (IoT). In order for our world to be truly connected, these devices must be able to speak the same language.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has a number of IoT related standards. But if you research those standards, you’ll see they are all existing Internet standards. Whether its power, security, or network protocol standards, there are competing camps, led by the biggest players in the game.
Google and Samsung lead a group of big dogs leading the Thread camp. Google acquired Nest, a company that makes smart thermometers, and the Nest group is leading Thread’s development. It sets Wi-Fi as well as security and power standards and is IPv6 based. What differentiates Thread from some of the previous wireless network protocols is its ability to operate at low power.
Thread uses IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks, or 6LoWPAN.Unlike network protocols for PCs, which are general purpose, 6LoWPAN is designed for a very specific purpose, in this case, home automation. It uses little memory and is low power. On the negative side, it has short range, low speed, and limited message size.
Don’t expect to see Thread products until a certification program is in place. It should be noted that this effort is focused on the connected home vertical. As the IoT rolls out, we may see different standards in different verticals until a single standard can be agreed upon.
AllJoyn is a protocol originally developed by Qualcomm, which then passed it on to the Linux Foundations. Qualcomm and The Linux Foundation then formed the AllSeen Alliance, bringing in Cisco, Microsoft, LG, and HTC as members, along with smaller company members. As of February 2015, AllJoyn has more than 120 members. AllJoyn is a peer-to-peer protocol that discovers nearby devices (proximity detection) and manages the communication between those devices, including secure exchange of information. It is a distributed software bus using the existing D-Bus Wire Protocol, which is object-oriented and language neutral (C, Java, Perl, etc).
There are other efforts out there. There’s the Open Interconnect Consortium, The Industrial Internet Consortium, and what would a standards war be without Apple or Android? The bottom line is this: the battle will continue until there is a victor or a treaty. Until then, while the development of devices and applications for the IoT continues, adoption will be slow at best.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rich Hummel has over 30 years’ experience in different areas of technology. He has degrees in electrical engineering and management, as well as a variety of technical certifications.
This is an excerpt from the Global Knowledge white paper, The Internet of Things: A Primer for the Curious.