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Smart (home) move: GE Digital, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung launch IoT alliance

The conversation around the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart homes is at one turn interesting yet, when all is said and done, there are some big issues to consider. For every “revolutionary” addition to the smart home or IoT world, there are many things to work out. Do these varied devices (or appliances) even talk to each other? Will consumers have to toggle between several apps? Will they have to commit to just one ecosystem?

As of now, there are no consistent standards but major technology leaders such as Cisco, GE Digital, Intel, Microsoft and Samsung have come together as the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) with the goal of unifying and scaling IoT standards so that companies and developers can create devices and solutions that work seamlessly together.

“We believe in a future where all of the devices in our lives are connected to enable ways of living and working that we can’t even imagine today,” said Doug Fisher, senior vice president and general manager, software and services group at Intel. “The only way to unlock the unlimited possibilities for innovation in the Internet of Things is to unify our work with industry peers. This collaboration is an exciting step in that direction.”

The consensus among the group is that the billions of connected devices should be able to communicate with one another regardless of manufacturer, operating system, chipset or physical transport — and that this is a good time to be thinking about

“There will be over 20 billion ‘connected things’ by 2020 and spending on IoT devices will reach nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019, said an OCF spokesperson. “The timing is just right (for the group to come together). The right products and software are out there, but the connectivity has been missing. And this is what will be needed to gain mass adoption.”

The organization, based Beaverton, Oregon, also includes Arris, CableLabs, Electrolux and Qualcomm. It is an interesting mix of disciplines that addresses part of the IoT’s future such as appliances, phones, computers and industrial equipment.

Notably absent from the group are Google and Apple who have their Brillo and HomeKit ecosystems, respectively. The latter only works on iOS while the former, in partnership with Intel and Qualcomm, is still inviting developers to try it and hasn’t started yet.

But the OCF pointed out that all companies, dedicated to the common cause of reducing fragmentation, are welcome.

“The goal of the OCF is to create a single robust, open, scalable, secure, IoT interoperability framework for all industries, via cross industry collaboration. It is open to any company. The pooling of talent from these industry leaders will accelerate the investment in an open and scalable spec and open source reference implementation, allowing hardware manufacturers, silicon chip providers, software developers and others to focus on one agreed upon interop framework.”