Another IoT group? OCF may really be the one to make it all work

Qualcomm, Intel, Samsung and more have joined to find one standard to rule them all

Major companies in the Internet of Things set aside their differences on Friday to work together toward a single standard for all IoT gear.

The group they formed, the Open Connectivity Foundation, could have the critical mass to make all embedded devices in homes and enterprises talk to each other. It includes vendors that have belonged to different, and in some cases competing, IoT organizations. Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Qualcomm, GE Digital and Cisco Systems are among the founders of OCF.

The announcement came as the wireless industry gathered in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, which this year is expected to include a strong focus on IoT.

IoT spans wearables, home appliances, industrial equipment and more. Across those categories, many connected devices use specialized hardware and software platforms that don’t communicate with each other. Even efforts to build common standards have gone down separate paths, so some of them conflict with each other. This fragmentation is widely seen as a drag on the industry.

OCF plans to build a single specification, or at least a common set of protocols and projects, for all types of IoT devices. It expects OCF-certified products to be available this year. Given its membership, the group may actually be up to the task. OCF includes providers of IoT chips, software, platforms and products.

Objects as diverse as sensors in factories and lightbulbs in homes may never talk to each other directly, but common specifications for all types of IoT should create a larger ecosystem that spurs on innovation, lowers development costs and provides a bigger pool of developers for everyone.

The new group brings together members of two major rival organizations, Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and AllSeen Alliance. Both groups have been promoting their own ways for connected devices to discover each other and determine what they can do together.

All OIC members, including Intel and Samsung, are now part of OCF. AllSeen still exists, but at least two of its key members, Qualcomm and Microsoft, are now in the new group. In a blog post Friday, Qualcomm said, “we will work with both organizations to help establish a single open standard for IoT.”

Microsoft said Windows devices would natively interoperate with the OCF standard.

Cisco and GE Digital add credibility to OCF on the industrial side. Other members include CableLabs, home appliance maker Electrolux and video and broadband company Arris Group.

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Stephen Lawson

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