Intel Initiates Battle for Internet of Things Standards

Intel's effort to establish a universal communications framework and open-source software flies into direct competition with a similar push by Qualcomm.

by Jeremy C. Owens, McClatchy News Service / July 9, 2014

July 8 Intel launches standards for objects that connect to the Internet, challenging Qualcomm's bid to do the same while Apple and Google traverse their own path. 

Qualcomm flourished by providing mobile chips while Intel remained focused on personal computers early in the 21st century, but Intel isn't waiting as long to challenge its SoCal rival in an arena many expect to generate big sales for tech companies, the Internet of Things.

The Santa Clara chipmaker Tuesday launched a consortium to establish standards for connected devices, with the first round of partners including Samsung, Dell and San Jose chipmaker Atmel, among others. The group, called the Open Interconnect Consortium, wants to establish universal communications framework and open-source software that will allow diverse objects connected to the Web, from home appliances to cars to wearable devices, to communicate with one another as well as devices controlled by the owners.

"The rise and ultimate success of the Internet of Things depends on the ability for devices and systems to securely and reliably interconnect and share information," Intel executive Doug Fisher said in Tuesday's news release. "This requires common frameworks, based on truly open, industry standards. Our goal in founding this new consortium is to solve the challenge of interoperable connectivity for the Internet of Things without tying the ecosystem to one company's solution."

Intel's effort flies into direct competition with a similar push by Qualcomm called the AllSeen Alliance, which has landed commitments from more than 50 companies, including Cisco, LG, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sharp and Silicon Image.

A Qualcomm executive compared Intel's move to the doomed fights by Internet companies to control the burgeoning Web at the end of the previous century.

"It's better for us to have an industrywide shared platform than to be divided. I don't want to get to a 'Prodigy and CompuServe' of the Internet of Things," senior vice president Rob Chandhok told Reuters.

Besides Cisco and Intel, Silicon Valley's largest tech companies have yet to choose sides in the fight, despite investing in the Internet of Things effort. Apple introduced its own software platform for the connected home, HomeKit, during last month's WWDC keynote, while Google is negotiating on its own to connect devices produced by Nest -- a Mountain View connected-home pioneer that Google has agreed to purchase for roughly $3.2 billion. Apple declined to comment on the standards groups Tuesday, while Google and Dell rival Hewlett-Packard did not respond to emails seeking comment.

While estimates of connected devices' potential growth vary, they predict big gains: Research firm IDC predicts the Internet of Things will produce annual revenues of $9 trillion in 2020, while rival Gartner predicts a more modest $1.9 trillion in sales for that year. While Gartner's prediction is smaller, its is still more than 10 times Apple's 2013 sales total, which was a dominant leader among Silicon Valley tech companies.

©2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)