When it comes to the Internet of Things, that winsome catchphrase for how household gadgets may some day soon all be connected and controllable via the Web, mobile devices and apps, the disconnect with reality happens when you begin to consider how many permutations that might entail.
After all, any home device can be connected potentially, including ovens, dishwashers, thermostats, and even cars. Ostensibly all that's necessary is a computer chip and a wireless port.
Now chipmaker Intel and a number of other leading technolgy companies including Dell, Samsung, and Broadcom, are banding to together to form the Open Interconnect Consortium, which hopes to set some technical ground rules for how this might all work. The news was reported in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday.
The only problem is, OIC competes with an extant group called AllSeen Alliance, whose members include Cisco, Microsoft, and semiconductor competitor Qualcomm, and which has a year-and-a-half headstart.
Here's how OIC describes itself, in a statement from today:
Member companies will contribute software and engineering resources to the development of a protocol specification, open source implementation, and a certification program, all with a view of accelerating the development of the IoT. The OIC specification will encompass a range of connectivity solutions, utilizing existing and emerging wireless standards and will be designed to be compatible with a variety of operating systems.
By contrast, AllSeen's mission is to foster an open source platform developed by--you guessed it-- Qualcomm.
A lot of money is at stake. In 2013, the Internet of Things nabbed more than $1 billion of venture capital money, according to CB Insights, a venture capital and angel investment research company. Deals grew 11 percent compared to the full year 2012, and funding increased nearly 50 percent. In a sign of how hot the market for IoT companies has become, search engine giant Google announced it would acquire smart thermostat maker Nest for $3 billion in January.
Other companies that have attracted funding recently include SmartThings, August, Lark Technologies, SoundHawk, and Netatmo, which make devices ranging from sensor enabled homes and kitchens, to sleep trackers and air quality sensors. And you don't have to look much further than industrial designer Quirky's partnership with General Electric to connect smart devices such as GE's air conditioners through an app called Wink to see how things are progressing.
For now, AllSeen's approach is very hands-off toward newcomer OIC, essentially saying "the more the merrier." It had this to say in a statement today:
Today a small group of companies announced an effort to address IoT interoperability. We are happy to see our industry peers affirming the goals and objectives the AllSeen Alliance made six months ago about needing a common interoperable language for the Internet of Everything. The opportunities and complexities inherent in this major industry transformation are great, and it will take all of us to build the future of ubiquitously connected devices.
AllSeen goes on to say that interoperability can't be achieved in a fragmented industry, and that the IoT can't work unless everything works together. Let's hope that also will be the case for OIC and AllSeen.