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BT, Intel and IBM help launch Hypercat to spark Internet of Things adoption

A group of 40 UK-based firms has created a new way to help apps and devices communicate more easily that lowers human intervention and is designed to boost growth in the Internet of Things sector.

Related: A closer look at the Internet of Things: A new industrial revolution

Hypercat is a specification that is designed to replace the need for a new API every time that a new net connected ‘thing’ comes on the market and instead there will be a standard way of consulting each other thus making it easier to interact with new products.

Pilgrim Beart, chief executive of IoT startup 1248, which is involved in the project, explained that each device is connected in a different way and there is currently no way for devices to work out what other devices are, what they do and what data they have.

“There is no standard way for an application that has not been specially written for that service to come along and find what the devices are and what data they've got. That's the problem that Hypercat solves,” Beart told the BBC. "An example would be if an application understands temperatures, Hypercat would provide a uniform way the application could ask any service if it has temperature data in it and ask to get hold of it.”

It describes itself as being an open, lightweight hypermedia catalogue format and has been compared to an address book for data hubs containing information from IoT devices that will be a large part of smart cities and homes of the future.

BT, ARM, Intel and IBM are among the group of 40 firms to have assisted in the development of the specification and the UK’s Technology Strategy Board has gifted it £6.4 million in government funding.

Critics point to the fact that other technology firms, including Google and Apple, have yet to be consulted and a lot will come down to whether or not they agree to add it to their systems.

The companies involved in the initiative also recognise additional software is needed to make sure privacy concerns are taken into account and to prevent apps exploiting Hypercat to keep track of individuals.

Related: Video: What is the Internet of Things?

One expert, Dr Ian Brown from University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, warned that it can take a number of years for the industry to adopt such standards and companies already selling smart devices may very well stand in the way of the changes.

"If a company is leading in a market why on earth would they do anything that would make it easier for their competitors to enter?" he added.