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The internet of things near me – at the tipping point of proximal interoperability

The Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything, as we have called it, opens up a universal wireless potential for new products and services that will enrich people’s lives by seamlessly connecting the physical and digital world, giving both smart devices and common household objects a voice, while also producing untapped opportunities for innovative individuals and companies.

This new opportunity – based on interoperability among people and devices near them – will reshape some of the largest industries in the world, from home automation to energy, healthcare and automotive.

In our view, the Internet of Everything is more than just connecting every device, vehicle or white goods appliance to the cloud. Not everything needs to be connected to the public internet and it is certainly the case that one size does not fit all. For example, consumers don’t need to have the ability to check whether their washing machine load is unbalanced from the other side of the world.

We believe that many devices, connected on an ad-hoc basis, as the occasion warrants, will add an entirely new and very useful element to the Internet of Everything, which is today largely a cloud-based phenomenon. Our ultimate vision is that every person will be able to have access to an “internet of things near me,” within which the devices and services they most value will connect and collaborate and be easy to control and operate. It will work across our homes, offices and cars and it will know when devices are in the same room as us and enable us to connect with them and control them via immediate, direct connections and communication.

For example, when I arrive home, I’ll be able to turn on the lights in my home before I ever get out of my car. Then as I get out of my car and enter the house, the music I’ve been streaming from my mobile phone to my car speakers will continue to play on speakers in my lounge. I also started the coffee machine from my car and now I sit down in front of the TV to relax. Soon the coffee machine notifies me via a text message on my TV screen that it is ready for me to collect my fresh brewed coffee.

This is just one scenario; creative minds will develop capabilities far beyond these simple and obvious examples. But none of this can happen unless everyday products we encounter all the time can be aware of each other and interact – no matter what type of device, no matter what the brand.

Something that many were talking about at Mobile World Congress this year was AllJoyn, the development framework created by Qualcomm Innovation Center, Qualcomm’s open source subsidiary. It is opening doors for manufacturers (of all types of products) developers (both app developers and software engineers supporting hardware development) to develop products that will be able to participate in proximal ad-hoc networks that deliver the promise of the Internet of Everything.

AllJoyn enables products from any brand to connect in ad-hoc proximal networks that serve the personal needs of the user. For the Internet of Everything to evolve and provide consumers with a richer set of experiences, it needs an open communications framework that allows virtually any product, app or consumer service to discover, connect and communicate with other products/apps/services nearby.

This protocol must work across major OSes – mobile, embedded, desktop. It must be hardware-agnostic, able to run on products from any manufacturer. It must work across device segments, from low-end embedded devices to the most sophisticated consumer electronics. And it needs a core set of services (configuration, notification, control, etc.) to ensure all communication is interoperable regardless of application provider or equipment maker. And it must be secure.

Any framework that enables such bridging across device types and usage scenarios must also be durable and built on small building blocks. It is hard to predict what operating systems will take center stage 10 years from now. The simple fact is that washing machines, TVs or cars do not have the same product lifecycles as mobile handsets. So in a decade, will the smartphone – and a phone operating system itself – still be the personal control panel of choice? We don’t know. And that’s why AllJoyn’s simple framework design also makes it flexible and future proof.

As this Internet of Everything continues its rapid evolution, it will require an enormous amount of collaboration and work from many players (hence, why AllJoyn is an open source project). What will it take for this logical next step in the Internet of Everything to really take off? An alliance that offers a common language is essential, if we’re going to see all of these connected devices go from prototype to a truly connected environment.

Rob Chandhok is the President of Qualcomm Internet Services and Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc.