AllJoyn IoT platform reaches out to the Internet for remote control

A new gateway feature can give users remote access to multiple AllJoyn devices

The AllJoyn system for connecting and controlling multiple Internet of Things devices can now reach beyond a home or office.

The AllJoyn Gateway Agent, announced at International CES, is software that could allow for remote use and management of multiple AllJoyn devices. It takes AllJoyn beyond local networks, allowing cloud services to stay in touch with devices and users to control them remotely.

Behind the flash of the IoT devices being unveiled at this year's CES, the apps and day-to-day services that come with them may be even more important than the hardware. Easy setup and ongoing support will also play major roles in determining whether consumers embrace the new technologies or go back to doing things the old, unconnected way.

AllJoyn is an open-source software framework, originally developed by Qualcomm, that's being promoted by the AllSeen Alliance as a way for IoT devices to discover and communicate with each other. It's designed to allow for a single app or service to interact with multiple IoT devices, such as lights, heating systems, security cameras and wearables.

It's already possible to reach and control any of those devices over the Internet, but today it may require multiple hardware or software gateways, each created for a particular device, said Philip DesAutels, senior director of IoT for the AllSeen Alliance. That means the benefits of getting all your devices together using AllJoyn are lost once you're away from home or trying to use a cloud-based service.

"It's not hard to connect to a product, but it's hard to connect to a set of products," he said.

So a working group in the Alliance designed the Gateway Agent as a standard interface for apps or cloud services to communicate with AllJoyn products. The Alliance wants makers of Internet gateways, such as Wi-Fi routers and IoT hubs, to implement the Gateway Agent in their software stacks. Then device makers and app developers could just tap into that one agent on the main Internet gateway.

The AllSeen Alliance is one of several industry groups promoting technologies that they hope everyone in IoT will agree on. The Thread Group, backed by Google's Nest Labs, and the Open Interconnect Consortium, including Qualcomm rival Intel, are among the bigger players wading into connected homes.

If one system is widely adopted, prices should come down and it should get easier to make products work together. But it's far too early to say which approach, if any, will win out. AllSeen announced on Tuesday it now has 111 members, including Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Panasonic. Microsoft will build AllJoyn into Windows 10, due this year.

The Gateway Agent is only the second extension to AllJoyn that's been introduced, following a framework for lighting introduced last year, and it stands to be an important one for both consumers and IoT vendors.

For the consumer, an AllJoyn-compatible app to control AllJoyn devices within the home can now work exactly the same way from anywhere else, the Alliance says. An automatic Internet connection to the device maker, with no complicated network configuration, could make first-time setup smooth and easy. For privacy and security, the Gateway Agent also allows for granular control of which devices send data to the Internet and which don't, DesAutels said.

For IoT vendors, it will be easier to update firmware over the air, send offers to owners, and gather information about a device for use during support calls. A potential cost-saving benefit could be the ability to sell the same product all over the world and then complete its configuration with the correct regional software based on where each individual device calls in from.

A series of APIs for implementing the Gateway Agent is freely available immediately to Alliance members and non-members, DesAutels said. The group now includes the technology in its product certification program.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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