Many Networking Protocols to Choose from for Internet of Things

One of the topics I am very much interested in is a networking protocol. Before IP became the de facto standard for communications, at least in the IT field, there were many others, such as IPX, AppleTalk, Banyan VINES, DECnet, SNA, and XNS. They were not interoperable with one another, and it was not possible to connect everything with everything else unless they spoke the same protocol. Over time, these protocols faded away, and IP emerged as the standard for communications.

Those networking protocols mentioned above were more or less for connecting computer equipment, and the number of types of “things” was limited. Now in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), the number of types of “things” is much bigger. Each thing emerged from a different sector and has different needs and requirements. Because of that, there are many more data types and networking protocols. Given that, when we want to let everything talk to everything else, we need either a standard protocol or a gateway to translate between them.

Many IoT Protocols Are Emerging

I read “Do Networking Standards Really Matter in Connecting the Smart Home?” by Katherine Tweed. She discussed this subject extensively. I thought this was a great article on the current state of IoT networking protocols.

What I did in this blog is to summarize each consortium or company that is working on the IoT networking protocol, by extracting information from Tweed’s article and others she referred to, so that we can see the trends in chronological order for ease of analysis.

Note that, unfortunately, very few technical details have been published. I did my best to include technical information in addition to the consortium and company information below.

The Year 2012


Lowe’s Iris

Lowe’s created Iris (July 19), a home management system.

According to this article,

“In the category of device compatibility, Iris is compatible with the Z-Wave and ZigBee home control technologies and supports HVAC and security systems. This intelligent home system would be more flexible with additional support for Insteon, KNX, UPB and X10 protocols, but Lowe’s seems to be trying to keep the system simple to avoid compatibility difficulties.”

The Year 2013

Internet of Things Consortium


Internet of Things Consortium was formed on January 7. Very little info is available from their website, so I referred to this article.  

“The goal is to play a “very active” role in finding new ways for Internet of Things-related products and services to work together (in part by taking advantage of new technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy and Low Power Wi-Fi) and create “a richer fabric of intelligent devices.” For that reason, one of the key criteria for new members is an open approach to integrating with other companies. Johnson said a meeting of the consortium would be “not unlike a standards body meeting,” except that the group won’t just focus on technology, but on business as well.”

The initial consortium members were Active Mind Technologies, Basis Science, Coin, Kease, Logitech, Movl (which makes KontrolTV), Ouya, Poly-Control, SmartThings, and Ube.

Google Acquired Nest

On January 13, Nest was acquired by Google.


From Google’s press release,

“Nest’s mission is to reinvent unloved but important devices in the home such as thermostats and smoke alarms.”

According to the Nest website,

“Nest Protect connects wirelessly using the Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n protocol and 802.15.4. It uses both connections together to create reliable, flexible, secure and low-power communication between Nest Protects.”

Also, recently Nest, along with Samsung, cofounded Thread Consortium (see below for details).

Staples Connect

Staples Connect was announced on September 24.

According to their press release,

“Staples Connect is one app and one hub that let you manage your home or office environment, even when you’re not there. The easy-to-use app works on any smartphone, tablet or PC, and links into the hub — the smarts behind your smart home. Just connect the hub to your broadband either wirelessly or by Ethernet cable, and you’ll be communicating with your enabled appliances and electronics in no time.”

According to this article,

“Staples Connect Hub ($99) [is] a three-radio control hub that supports Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Lutron’s Clear Connect wireless protocols.”

AllSeen Alliance

AllSeen Alliance was announced on December 10. According to their site, its goal was:

“To enable widespread adoption and help accelerate the development and evolution of an interoperable peer connectivity and communications framework based on AllJoyn for devices and applications in the Internet of Everything.”

Within the consortium,

“AllJoyn is an open source project which provides a universal software framework and core set of system services that enable interoperability among connected products and software applications across manufacturers to create dynamic proximal networks.”

Wikipedia shed some light on the protocol:

“Though the Protocol started at Qualcomm, they have signed over the source code to the Linux Foundation.”

The key members are: Qualcomm, Panasonic, Microsoft, Hailer, Sharp, Silicon Image, Technicolor, tp-ling, and LG. Other members are listed here.

Also, some technical details are given here; within a node they use sockets, and for internode, Bluetooth or TCP.

The Year 2014

Industrial Internet Consortium

Industrial Internet Consortium was announced (March 27).

 

According to their site,

“The Industrial Internet Consortium was founded in 2014 to further development, adoption and wide-spread use of interconnected machines, intelligent analytics and people at work. Through an independently-run consortium of technology innovators, industrial companies, academia and government, the goal of the IIC is to accelerate the development and availability of intelligent industrial automation for the public good. This goal of the consortium is to:

·         Utilize existing and create new industry use cases and test beds for real-world applications;

·         Deliver best practices, reference architectures, case studies, and standards requirements to ease deployment of connected technologies;

·         Influence the global development standards process for internet and industrial systems;

·         Facilitate open forums to share and exchange real-world ideas, practices, lessons, and insights;

·         Build confidence around new and innovative approaches to security.”

Founding members are ATT, IBM, Intel, Cisco, and GE. This article discusses the current market and how these companies established the consortium.

Apple’s HomeKit

Apple announced HomeKit on June 6.

 

According to Apple’s press release,

“HomeKit lets your home accessories connect seamlessly to better manage your home. HomeKit delivers a common protocol, secure pairing and the ability to easily control individual or groups of devices throughout the house including integration with Siri®. For example, you can tell Siri you are “going to bed” and it could dim the lights, lock your doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat.”

Open Interconnect Consortium

Open Interconnect Consortium was announced on July 8.

 According to the press release from Intel, which is a member,

“Atmel Corporation, Broadcom Corporation, Dell, Intel Corporation, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., and Wind River, are joining forces to establish a new industry consortium focused on improving interoperability and defining the connectivity requirements for the billions of devices that will make up the Internet of Things (IoT). The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) is focused on defining a common communications framework based on industry standard technologies to wirelessly connect and intelligently manage the flow of information among personal computing and emerging IoT devices, regardless of form factor, operating system or service provider.”

Thread

Thread was announced on July 15.

 

According to their site,

“It’s hard to get devices to talk to one another. And once they do, the connection is often spotty and power hungry. Thread changes all that. It’s a mesh network designed to securely and reliably connect hundreds of products around the home – without blowing through battery life.

·         Designed specifically for the home

·         Robust self-healing mesh network

·         No single point of failure

·         Interoperable by design using proven, open standards and IPv6 technology with 6LoWPAN as the foundation

·         Requires just a software enhancement for today’s 802.15.4 products

Designed to support a wide variety of products for the home: appliances, access control, climate control, energy management, lighting, safety, and security.”

Some details are given here. Some view this as an attempt to derail ZigBee by Google Nest, Arm, and Samsung.

Summary

From the events above, even if you are not an IoT industry analyst, you can easily see two things: the IoT market is very hot and the networking protocols for interoperability are a big deal. Also, we can see that there are many standards wannabes and they are fighting fiercely. It will be some time before the dust settles and we see a reasonable protocol emerge as the standard.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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