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The Who's Who of Internet of Things Standards Bodies

By Carl Weinschenk in · Technology · September 15, 2015
Prospective IoT Standards and Protocols: Who Is Who
The first of this three-post series looked at the overall issue of the Internet of Things (IoT) and interoperability standards. This installment identifies important players working toward this goal. The last will assess where IoT standards are today.
As discussed in the first of my three-part series of IoT standards, the Internet of Things (IoT) is so dense and all-encompassing that a sensible approach to organizing the trillions of sensors and other devices that will be chattering back and forth is a must. The alternative is islands of connectivity that may be effective for certain tasks but would fall short of the breathtaking picture painted by futurists and marketers.
Standards groups and consortia are building approaches or working to make those that already exist work in concert. Here are some of the most noteworthy:
Open Internet Consortium: The OIC is developing a specification that it says will cross multiple verticals and use cases. It points to the automotive, consumer electronics, enterprise, healthcare, home automation, industrial and wearables verticals as prime targets. (The OIC was formed in July 2014 by Intel, Broadcom, and Samsung)
The Thread Group: The Thread Group is creating a networking protocol using IPv6. Thread will be mesh-based and use 802.15.4 radios. The goal is to enable IoT-equipped devices of all sorts in the home to discover and network with each other. (The Thread Group was founded in June, 2013 by Yale Security, Silicon Labs, Samsun, Nest Labs, Freescale, Big Ass Fans and ARM.)
The All Seen Alliance: The All Seen Alliance is overseen by The Linux Foundation. Its open source project – called AllJoyn – is based on  early work by the Qualcomm Innovation Center. The platform utilizes Wi-Fi, power line, Ethernet, and other transport layers. It runs on major operating systems, including iOS, and Android. (The All Seen Alliance was formed in December, 2013 by Haier, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, Silicon Image, and TP-LINK. Community members include Canary, Cisco, D-Link, doubleTwist, Fon, Harman, HTC, Letv, LIFX, Lite-on, Moxtreme, Musaic, Sears Brand Management Corporation, Sproutling, The Sprosty Network, Weaved and Wilocity).
The Industrial Internet Consortium: As the name implies, this group is aimed at factory floors, assembly lines, shipping docks and the like. The IIC isn’t a standards- or protocol-setting group. Rather, it creates “use cases and test beds” for real world applications. In other words, it describe in great detail how companies in specific verticals can leverage the IoT. In addition, it will create test bests, influence standards in a way that helps its members and perform additional tasks. (The IIC was formed in March, 2014 by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel). 
IEEE P2413: This group most directly addresses the idea that the IoT won’t work if it is too parochial. The group says that its standard “will promote cross-domain interaction, aid system interoperability and functional compatibility…” The aim is to reduce industry fragmentation with an architectural framework, essentially, seeks to build upon the commonalities it finds between segments of the IoT. (IEEE P2413 was formed in June, 2014)
This is not a comprehensive list. And, on top of that, more generalized groups such as those working on IEEE 802.11, IPv6, (Machine to Machine (M2M), and RFID will be part of the conversation. 
These broader and IoT-specific groups – not all of which are mentioned here -- offer soothing words on how their approach is welcoming of all comers and established for the good of the community. That no doubt is true at the highest level. 
At the same time, however, there are significant competitive issues at play. In any landscape, there invariably are multiple approaches to create interoperability. The vendor members of the “teams” that win will gain first-to-market and other advantages. It is important to keep this in mind as the standards battles rolls out. 
The third and final installment of this series will focus on how far along the industry is in terms of actually putting a workable set, or sets, of interoperable standards in place.

As discussed in the first of my three-part series on the state of Internet of Things (IoT) standards - Pressure Builds to Develop Internet of Things Standards - IoT is so dense and all-encompassing that a sensible approach to organizing the trillions of devices that will be chattering back and forth is a must. The alternative is islands of connectivity that may be effective for certain tasks, but would fall short of the breathtaking picture of an interconnected world painted by futurists.

The good news is standards groups and consortia are already at work. Here are some of the most noteworthy:

  • Open Internet Consortium (OIC): The OIC is developing a specification that it says will cross multiple verticals and use cases. It points to the automotive, consumer electronics, enterprise, healthcare, home automation, industrial, and wearables verticals as prime targets. (The OIC was formed in July 2014 by Intel, Broadcom, and Samsung)
  • The Thread Group: The Thread Group is creating a networking protocol using IPv6. Thread will be mesh-based and use 802.15.4 radios. The goal is to enable IoT-equipped devices of all sorts in the home to discover and network with each other. (The Thread Group was founded in June, 2013 by Yale Security, Silicon Labs, Samsung, Nest Labs, Freescale, Big Ass Fans, and ARM.)
  • The All Seen Alliance: The All Seen Alliance is overseen by The Linux Foundation. Its open source project – called AllJoyn – is based on  early work by the Qualcomm Innovation Center. The platform utilizes Wi-Fi, power line, Ethernet, and other transport layers. It runs on major operating systems, including iOS, and Android. (The All Seen Alliance was formed in December, 2013 by Haier, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, Silicon Image, and TP-LINK. Community members include Canary, Cisco, D-Link, doubleTwist, Fon, Harman, HTC, Letv, LIFX, Lite-on, Moxtreme, Musaic, Sears Brand Management Corporation, Sproutling, The Sprosty Network, Weaved, and Wilocity).
  • The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC): As the name implies, this group is aimed at factory floors, assembly lines, shipping docks and the like. The IIC isn’t a standards- or protocol-setting group. Rather, it creates “use cases and test beds” for real world applications. In other words, it describes in great detail how companies in specific verticals can leverage IoT. In addition, it will create test beds and seek to influence standards in a manner that helps its members. (The IIC was formed in March, 2014 by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel). 
  • IEEE P2413: This group most directly addresses the idea that the IoT won’t work if it is too parochial. The group says that its standard “will promote cross-domain interaction, aid system interoperability and functional compatibility…” The aim is to reduce industry fragmentation with an architectural framework, and to build upon the commonalities it finds between segments of the IoT. (IEEE P2413 was formed in June, 2014)

This is not a comprehensive list. And, on top of that, more generalized groups such as those working on IEEE 802.11, IPv6, Machine to Machine (M2M), and RFID will be part of the conversation. 

These broader and IoT-specific groups – not all of which are mentioned here -- offer soothing words on how their approach is welcoming of all comers and established for the good of the community. That no doubt is true at the highest level. 

At the same time, however, there are significant competitive issues at play. In any landscape, there invariably are multiple approaches to create interoperability. The vendor members of the “teams” that win will gain first-to-market and other advantages. It is important to keep this in mind as the standards battle evolves. 

The third and final installment of this series will focus on how far along the industry is in terms of actually putting a workable set, or sets, of interoperable standards in place.

In the next and final installment in this series, I will assess where IoT standards are today.

Carl Weinschenk (@DailyMusicBrk)

Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecommunications journalist. His freelance work appears at IT Business Edge, Energy Manager Today, and other corporate and journalistic sites.