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A guide to the confusing Internet of Things standards world

Colin Neagle | July 22, 2014
Several different IoT standards are currently competing with each other, and more may be joining the contest soon.

Thread differentiates itself from other protocols by relying on a low-power radio protocol called IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks, or 6LoWPAN. As Thread said in a press release, this will involve mesh networks that "scale to hundreds of devices with no single point of failure" and which feature "banking-class encryption."

In her article at Re/Code, Fried pointed out that, "in theory," this means Thread could work in concert with the other standards, which still utilize the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks that Thread does not. However, Boross added that the Thread group has yet to communicate with those behind the other IoT standards. Either way, using devices that support multiple standards defeats the purpose of developing those standards in the first place.

The open source AllJoyn protocol was initially developed by Qualcomm and first presented at the 2011 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. After a few years of middling success with AllJoyn, Qualcomm passed the source code onto The Linux Foundation in December 2013. From there, Qualcomm and The Linux Foundation formed the AllSeen Alliance, enlisting Cisco, Microsoft, LG, and HTC as members, among many others.

AllJoyn provides tools for the entire process of connecting and maintaining devices on a Wi-Fi network. Manufacturers can use the AllJoyn framework to create their own custom apps for onboarding devices onto a Wi-Fi network, complete with control and notification services. So, as shown in these promotional videos from Qualcomm, users can turn on a coffee maker before going to bed, ask it to brew a cup of coffee for them in the morning, and receive a notification on their smartphone when the cup is ready. This is what many envisioned when the Internet of Things started gaining momentum in consumer markets, and the AllSeen Alliance aims to establish AllJoyn as the protocol that makes it happen.

Being the first of these consumer-facing IoT standards, AllJoyn received glowing reviews in the press, particularly after the formation of the AllSeen Alliance. It promised to solve a problem that anyone who's struggled with Wi-Fi connectivity or Bluetooth pairing has experienced, and, using that solution, suggested new possibilities in the Internet of Things.

"It's a crucial milestone for connecting all of your gadgets, because not only is AllJoyn compatible with small devices but it includes proximity detection," Leah Hunter wrote at Fast Company in January. "So if your phone rings and it's across the room while you're watching TV, the caller ID will display on the TV screen, regardless of whether it's the same brand as your phone or whether you have the same carrier as your cable operator."

Given the lack of standards at the time, others saw AllJoyn as a safe bet as an IoT protocol.


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