The Internet of Things (IoT) has more “things” than ever these days. According to a recent IoT report by Verizon, there were a staggering 1.2 billion connected devices—from medical sensors to thermostats—in 2014. And there’s no end in sight to the growth. A report by Frost & Sullivan predicts there will be up to 80 billion connected devices by 2020, with 10 connected devices in each household.
But the most interesting IoT conversations right now aren’t about the impressive number of devices. Instead, industry talk is centered on the ongoing standards war between the consortiums and alliances that have formed to influence standards.
IoT standards were established to manage four main areas: connectivity, interoperability, privacy, and security. So how do all the competing IoT standards groups stack up when it comes to these areas of IoT emphasis? Let’s compare the five most popular and influential alliances:
The AllSeen Alliance. The first IoT standards group, AllSeen was started by the nonprofit Linux Foundation. It now has more than 51 member organizations, including heavy hitters like Microsoft, Qualcomm, LG, Sharp, and Panasonic. AllSeen seeks to provide a secure, programmable software and services framework for applications that enable a connected home. The Alliance envisions connectivity taking place through transport layers such as WiFi, WiFi-Direct, Ethernet, Powerline, Bluetooth LE, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee, and Z-Wave. Interoperability is also a focus, with supported platforms including Android, iOS, Linux, OpenWRT, Windows, and OS X.
AllSeen is also committed to addressing security and privacy through its AllJoyn open-source framework. An extension of the framework, the Alljoyn Gateway Agent uses end-to-end encryption to keep communications secure. The Gateway Agent also uses privacy controls that let users decide which devices and applications have access to and from cloud services.
The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). The OIC, led by Intel, Atmel, Broadcom, Dell, and Samsung, is dedicated to defining requirements and ensuring interoperability of all devices in the IoT. Specifically, the OIC envisions a highway-like system of connectivity between IoT verticals, and it recently launched IoTivity, an open-source framework based on the Apache 2.0 licensing and governance model. The companies that make up the consortium also make security a top priority, though it’s unclear how the group will address privacy.
One differentiator for the OIC is that it wants to deliver a reference implementation of its IoT standards, rather than simply offering the standards themselves.
The Thread Group. Formed by Google’s Nest Labs, the Thread Group includes more than 80 members, including Samsung, ARM Holdings, Silicon Labs, and Freescale Semiconductor. The group’s goal is to encourage manufacturers of smart-home devices to use the Thread standard for device communications through a network. Unlike other alliances that tout IoT platforms, Thread relies on a low-power radio protocol known as IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN). Thread sees this connectivity protocol as interoperable with the application layers provided by the other alliances.
While the group has said security has been built into the network, and it promises to test security comprehensively on each product that it certifies, it has not documented specific data privacy plans.
HomeKit also includes security and privacy layers, such as end-to-end encryption between iOS devices and smart devices.
Industrial Internet Consortium. Founded by Intel, Cisco, AT&T, GE, and IBM, the 150-member IIC wants to accelerate IoT adoption while defining industry standards. The group’s members are collaborating to develop connectivity standards, and the ICC has signed a strategic agreement with the OIC to share information to streamline IoT device interoperability.
Additionally, the IIC is relying on its members, such as security platform provider CyberX and software giant SAP, to define standards for security and privacy. SAP recently announced it will partner with the IIC to deliver use cases, reference architecture and frameworks, and security for IoT applications.
It’s not clear which consortium will ultimately come out on top. And even if a winner is declared, it won’t happen this year. According to a new IoT research paper published by Woodside Capital Partners, the most optimistic timeframe for a single standard to emerge is 2017.
Golgi’s IoT programmable device cloud platform removes the complexity of developing a standards compliant IoT device by abstracting the standards compliance layer for developers and ensures forward and backwards compatibility for connectivity and data transport across Allseen, OIC, Thread with more standards being added in the future.