Microsoft backs open source for the Internet of Things

Joining the AllSeen Alliance could help turn Xbox into a home control hub

Microsoft has joined what began as a Linux Foundation effort to create an open platform for the Internet of Things. It's a move that may be a telling sign regarding Microsoft's plans for home automation, and even for the Xbox.

The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit consortium that promotes Linux adoption, late last year announced the creation of the AllSeen Alliance to promote an open source code framework to enable devices to discover one another and then connect and interact.

Many big vendors are separately building their own platforms for device-to-device communications, and the lack of a standardized approach could hinder the development of the Internet of Things.

The AllSeen Alliance is an effort to standardize device communications. The code that it champions, called AllJoyn, was initially developed by Qualcomm but was subsequently made open source. Big vendors have been recruited to support it, and the AllSeen Alliance now includes LG, Panasonic, Sharp and Haier, among others.

There are now 51 organizations in the alliance, with Microsoft the latest.

"The addition of Microsoft to the alliance is certainly a boost to the growing array of companies joining the AllSeen effort," said Andy Castonguay, an analyst at Machina Research, a Reading, England-based research firm focusing on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things.

Microsoft's leadership in computing "and its significant Xbox business make it a potentially important contributor to the AllSeen ecosystem," said Castonguay.

Microsoft is interested in home automation and recently announced an agreement to work with an insurance company on home automation technology. Its Xbox gaming platform is seen as a potential hub or control center for home devices.

With Apple, Samsung and others "still developing their own independent strategies, the industry is yet again poised to create a Tower of Babel situation in terms of interdevice communications," said Castonguay.

AllSeen, he added, "is a well-founded effort to create an open lingua franca among device manufacturers and developers that will benefit from the growing diversity of device brands in the global market."

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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