The Internet of Things (IoT) raises lots of possibilities: On one hand, the existence of the IoT could mean huge strides in a virtually endless list of activities, from the mundane to the spectacular. On the other, it could lead to a massively insecure, frightening and dangerous world.
The next year or two will go a long way toward determining where on the spectrum between the two possible IoT outcomes our future will lie. Perhaps the most important determining factor is how well the IoT organizes itself. In short, will the landscape be billions of haphazardly connected devices with no de facto security or management capabilities, or one in which these vital functions are automatically part of the picture?
The race is on to make sure that the IoT doesn’t melt down, with various groups competing to standardize and stabilize the technology. The problem is that there are many approaches and the group that wins will be well positioned in financial and other ways, which creates a highly competitive atmosphere. That may not be a great model when the price of failure is so steep.
One initiative is The AllSeen Alliance, which counts Qualcomm, Cisco, Microsoft, HTC and LG among its members. The Alliance runs the AllJoyn project and at the CES it unveiled the AllJoyn Gateway Agent. ZDNet’s Steven Vaughn-Nichols sums up what the open source product does for the IoT:
This extension of the AllJoyn framework provides a standard and secure, remote access method for AllJoyn devices and applications to connect to external/cloud services, personal area networks, and the Internet. Specifically it will provide a secure way to remotely access and manage IoT devices. These in turn will be provided with fine-grained security and privacy control.
The gateway agent will deal with remote access and management, security and data privacy, and interoperability and it will also support open standards. Perhaps the best thing about the platform, Vaughn-Nichols writes, is that it actually is available today.
But of course, the AllSeen Alliance is not the only game in town. Jeffrey Burt from eWeek reports on Samsung supporting IoT developer communities such as the Thread Group, which has more than 50 members. The group’s approach will be enabled on its first devices this year. The Thread Group was launched last July by ARM, Freescale, Samsung, Google’s Nest Laboratories and others.
Three other groups are vying for standards-setting honors: the Open Interconnect Consortium, the Industrial Internet Consortium and the ZigBee Alliance.
Last month, the Open Internet Consortium added 15 members and appointed GE Software to its board of directors. In September, the ZigBee Consortium announced version 3.0 of its IoT protocol. Finally, the EE Times says the Industrial Internet Consortium will be in the news soon:
Early next year, the Industrial Internet Consortium plans to wrap up work on a broad reference architecture for the Internet of Things, ramp up three test beds, and start identifying gaps where new standards may be needed.
Of course, it’s good news that all of these groups are active. It also raises an obvious challenge: There is no winning standard if we randomly create dozens of standards. Hopefully, one overarching standard and/or a way for all of these initiatives to work together will be on the drawing board as well.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.