Cisco, Acer, others join Intel-backed IoT standards group

The Open Interconnect Consortium is the latest IoT body to boast about its progress

"Internet of things" standards groups are rallying the troops for efforts to make thermostats, door locks, sensors and other connected devices find each other and share information.

On Thursday, the Open Interconnect Consortium announced it has gained 27 new members, including Cisco Systems, Acer, chip maker Mediatek and home IoT hub maker SmartThings, since it was founded in July. The group's founding members include Intel, Samsung Electronics and Dell. The OIC also named its board of directors, which will be led by Jong-Deok Choi, the deputy head of Samsung's Software R&D Center.

The group says its mission is to ensure that devices such as wearables, remote controls, appliances and handsets can easily communicate and exchange information regardless of operating system, form factor or service provider. Member companies will contribute open-source code to build up the technology to make this possible, the group says. It plans to initially develop standards for discovery, connectivity and device authentication.

But the OIC isn't the only organization pushing for a common approach in this area. On Tuesday, the Thread Group, backed by Google's Nest Labs business as well as ARM Holdings and other founding companies, opened up its membership and laid out plans to certify Thread products starting next June. Connectivity is also a focal point for Thread, which is developing a networking software stack. The AllSeen Alliance, which has its roots in the Qualcomm-developed AllJoyn framework for device communication over Wi-Fi and other networks, claims more than 70 member companies, nine working groups, and shipping products. These groups' efforts may be competitive in some areas and complementary in others, but it's not yet clear exactly how that will line up.

There are too many bodies trying to make IoT work, but their aims are valid, said analyst James Brehm, of James Brehm & Associates. The market isn't even close to reaching the scale of billions of devices that IoT proponents predict.

"If we're going to get to the numbers we're talking about ... we're going to have to interoperate," Brehm said. Consumers will demand that. "It just has to be stupid simple," he said.

The various specifications and certifications won't directly affect consumers for a while, but the jockeying for position among -- and within -- these groups could delay the interoperable products buyers want, Brehm said. The group that succeeds will be the one with the least internal conflict, he said, but it's not clear which that will be. And the real horse race for IoT standardization hasn't even really begun, he said.

"There's going to be a lot of jockeying for position before we even get to the starting gate," Brehm said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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