Intel leads anti-Qualcomm IoT alliance July 08 2014

Four chip giants found Open Interconnect Consortium for device discovery, in apparent stab at Qualcomm's AllSeen

By Caroline Gabriel

'ABQ', or 'anything but Qualcomm', was an acronym which helped shape the more recent 3GPP standards processes, as companies sought to reduce the dominance of the chip designer's vast array of CDMA-based patents. Now, a similar mentality seems to be behind the latest initiative aiming to steer standards for the internet of things (IoT).

Intel, Samsung, Broadcom, Atmel and Intel's subsidiary Wind River are the founder members of the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), the latest in a long line of efforts to standardize the way devices discover one another, and communicate, in the world of billions of connected gadgets. Not only does the new consortium include several of Qualcomm's most important competitors, but it is likely to step on some of the territory of the AllSeen Alliance, which supports the AllJoyn discovery technology, devised by the San Diego chip giant.

The OIC is short on details of its approach so far, though it will publish its code later this quarter, but its announcements suggest it will be a rival to AllJoyn in using the weight of its big-name backers to establish a de facto standard. It says it will devise, and contribute to open source, a peer-to-peer protocol which handles device discovery and authentication. However, Intel says the key difference from AllJoyn is that the OIC code will be created collaboratively, rather than forming a supporters' club around an existing technology from a single firm.

This will certainly not be the last body formed to help the big chip vendors - all of them in urgent need of a leadership role in at least some aspects of IoT standards - to position themselves as standards setters. As seen in other technology markets, the array of would-be standards will gradually consolidate as the real market makers - such as the large-scale consumer and industrial devices vendors - make their choices.

In this way, the OIC has scored one big point, by netting Samsung, although the Korean firm's semiconductor division does not necessarily influence the alliances made by its consumer products activities. It will be positive to see some of those market makers taking some decisions, or risk the chip giants tearing IoT platforms into fragments with their politicking, before the segment has even gained scale.