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OIC + UPnP: Sign Of Reduced Fragmentation In IoT's Future?

Mike Wolf Alljoyn OIC UPnP

Anyone who was around for the first wave of the connected home in 98-2003 remembers that the arrival of UPnP was a big deal. Much like today there was lots of the noise and interest around the physical layer networks (back then it was HomePNA (phoneline) vs. HomePlug (powerline) vs HomeRF and Wi-Fi (wireless), but the more important part was figuring out how disparate devices on any network could discover each other and join the network.

The second wave of the connected home was all about distributed media, and from that we saw the birth of DLNA, which built upon the foundation of UPnP and then added requirements up the stack around media codecs, DRM and other important considerations around media sharing.

So now, in the third wave of the connected home, it would make sense then that we'd see some of the old world coming together with the new world. A few weeks ago, the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and UPnP announced that OIC would acquire the assets of UPnP.  While some might think it's just a matter of one organization acquiring another's member list and trying to get them to join their organization as they try to gather momentum for their own efforts to coalesce the industry around their IoT framework in IoTivity, you probably would be surprised to know that UPnP has actually been doing lots of work developing their own IoT framework that leveraged the foundation of UPnP called UPnP+. I know partly because I was asked to help write with a positioning paper (non-NextMarket branded as we don't put our names on work that is aligned towards a specific vendor or even coalition of vendors), but in writing the paper I was made aware of the effort that UPnP was making to come into the modern era of IoT.

The reality is that while the legacy UPnP technology is only a partial solution and one designed largely to connect machines with large amounts of processing power like PCs, gateways and streamers, the new framework they had developed had many of the same foundational technology as OIC as well as Alljoyn. There's a good post here by Clarke Stevens over on the CableLabs blog outlining how this common set of technology had already meant that CableLabs and other groups had started to create interoperable data models between OIC, UPnP and Alljoyn, based around modern communication frameworks like XMPP.

It's a good read that explains the specific technologies each uses, and shows how we may be closer to interoperability in what has, for the most part, looked like a highly fragmented market.  While I think there's still lots of work to do, this move, and the work that's been going on behind the scenes, suggests that the industry recognizes the issue of fragmentation as a real one and that they're making moves to possibly address this.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in 2016 to consolidate the industry around common data models and protocol stacks, but I expect to see more of this and hopefully we'll see more breakthroughs to help push the industry forward. In some ways this is more of a business model issue than a technology one since, as you'll see from Clarke's piece, the technology is coming together. Now we just need big players like Apple and Google to recognize that walled garden frameworks need to bridge to more open ones to enable the interoperability we're all looking for. 

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