Windows 10 moves closer to smart-home centrepiece with IoT deal

The Thread Group and Open Connectivity Foundation join forces to make it easier for smart home devices to connect

Lazy people will love Windows 10 and its ability to automate home tasks, and the operating system's smart-home credentials are getting a serious boost with a recent internet of things pact.

Microsoft wants to put Windows 10 at the center of smart homes. The company wants users to be able to tell the operating system's Cortana voice assistant to switch on a light, open a door, release food for a cat, and even check the contents of a refrigerator.

For Windows 10 to be successful, the OS will have to work with a wide range of smart home and IoT devices, and that goal has taken a big step forward thanks to a recent agreement between standards bodies the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and the Thread Group. The two organizations will work together on improving interoperability between smart home and IoT devices.

This means devices running Windows 10 will be able to connect with most smart home products and program home automation tasks based on events or times of the day.

The new alliance will see the major IoT standards-settings groups working together to make it easy for devices to discover and communicate with one another.

"As members of OCF, we are very excited by this development and look forward to moving closer to a world where smart home devices ‘just work’ together regardless of brand or make,” a Microsoft representative said in an email.

The alliance will benefit smart-home customers, with less guesswork involved in getting devices to work together. The alliance between OCF and Thread Group will help Windows 10 devices natively support and communicate with products from companies like Nest Labs, an Alphabet company.

Multiple IoT standards have hurt interoperability between devices, and the alliance gets rid of the fragmentation in standards that's threatening the IoT and smart home markets.

Founders of the Thread Group include ARM, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Nest. The OCF brings together security, discovery, and connectivity tools from the Microsoft-backed AllSeen Alliance and the former Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), with key members including Intel, Samsung, and Dell. The OIC was renamed OCF.

Microsoft's plan is to integrate OCF protocols -- which are due to be released in 2017 -- into Windows 10. The integration will ultimately bring the Thread Group protocols and network transports to Windows 10.

Users could then automate tasks using a Windows PC, mobile device, Xbox console, or Raspberry Pi 3. Users will be able to create profiles and assign actions for smart home devices. For example, users could establish a specific profile in Cortana like "activate smart home," which would trigger actions like switching on lights and air conditioning.

Microsoft will have to incorporate Thread APIs into its plans for OCF tools. Microsoft has already released an open-source bridge to connect OIC tools, called IoTivity, with the AllSeen Alliance's AllJoyn APIs. It will help AllJoyn devices talk to OIC-compatible IoT devices.

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Agam Shah

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