Dann Anthony Maurno, Assistant Editor
Microsoft announced on its Windows blog that it is “pleased to join other industry leaders” to create the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), which is committed to furthering IoT industry standards. Microsoft hasn’t just signed on: it is a founding member with several months of work behind it, alongside founders ARRIS, Cisco, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, CableLabs, Electrolux and GE Digital. Microsoft is one of just a few “Diamond Members,” ensuring greater name recognition (important) and influence upon the standards (much more important).
Microsoft’s founding and Diamond-level participation underscores its push for Windows 10 to be the ideal OS platform for Things, and the Azure IoT platform to be the best cloud companion for Things, “and for both of them to interoperate with all Things.” So wrote Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s EVP of the Windows and Devices Group, on the company’s Windows blog.
OCF’s solution will cover interoperability across numerous vertical markets. Thus far the Foundation cites high participation from verticals heavily invested in IoT, including those aforementioned verticals (auto, consumer electronics, healthcare, manufacturing/industrial).
OCF is at present focused on developing use cases for smart home and office solutions – broad categories that could include a range of applications like centrally managing your light/sound/music/heat. But participation by those more industrial verticals means their solutions are not far behind.
Why Microsoft participation matters
The early history of the Internet of Things boiled down to standardizing sensors, and those who showed up early and often influenced the standards considerably. The EPCglobal Inc. standards for Radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors were written by a consortium of companies in the early 2000s. Intermec ultimately exerted what some might call undue influence over companies like Zebra Technologies and Texas Instruments. Still, those powerhouses were heard and the standards suited them and their customer bases.
Microsoft’s mature IoT technology positions it well to influence the standards. It is already working with hardware partners to ensure IoT solutions from global technology leaders are fully interoperable. At present, Microsoft is working with Arduino, Beagleboard, Freescale, Intel, Raspberry Pi, Samsung, and Texas Instruments, among others, toward Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT designation.
Also true, Microsoft’s Azure IoT Hub reached general availability earlier this month, with a range of key IoT features, among them:
- Bulk device identity import/export for use with IoT Hub’s device registry, or export/import into another IoT Hub for failover.
- Operations monitoring to monitor the status of operations on a company’s IoT Hub in real-time.
- Diagnostic metrics, useful in monitoring the devices connected to the Hub.
- More global availability, adding Southeast Asia, West Europe and West US to East Asia, East US and Northern Europe.
The IoTivity Project: Code is available now and open-source
The OCF’s output will be through the IoTivity Project with a primary goal being:
“[To] release and maintain an open source, production-quality implementation of our specifications that will foster wide adoption of this industry standard.”
The standard is for an open source software framework enabling implementation compliant with IoTivity’s final specifications and which passes certification testing.
The open-source IoTivity source code is available today; companies who join the community can contribute code and bug fixes or suggest new features, while developers can begin integrating their IoT applications using the IoTivity source code.
IoTivity was developed with contributions by early members-Microsoft included. But the IoTivity Project is hosted by the Linux Foundation.
Open-source and Linux? Where’s Windows?
It is perhaps startling that the IoTivity includes builds and Getting Started Guides for Linux, Arduino, and Tizen. But, says OCF, “The code is designed to be portable and future releases will include builds for additional operating systems.”
It will be up to Microsoft to ensure that Windows 10 is one of those Oss. And Microsoft will. Said Myerson on the Windows blog:
We are designing Windows 10 to be the ideal OS platform for Things…Customers are choosing Windows 10 and Azure for the most advanced enterprise-grade security, manageability, serviceability, programmability, Cortana, and cloud analytics. And soon, Windows 10 will include APIs to help developers easily integrate with OCF compatible devices [italics ours].
The short story is that standards for the IoT are coming that affect every device maker, software publisher, and end user. And that’s a good thing; customers will have their choice of sensors, devices and so on. And Microsoft appears to be lining up its product lines and services to embrace that future while trying to stand out with the quality of its own platform, services, and devices.