Helping "smart" devices talk to each other

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email
The industry needs many devices to work together to take off, experts say.

Mundane physical objects all around us are connecting to networks, communicating with mobile devices and each other to create what's being called an "Internet of Things," or IoT.

(CNN) - A house that tracks your every movement through your car and automatically heats up before you get home. A toaster that talks to your refrigerator and announces when breakfast is ready through your TV. A toothbrush that tattles on kids by sending a text message to their parents.

Exciting or frightening, these connected devices of the futuristic "smart" home may be familiar to fans of science fiction. Now the tech industry is making them a reality.

Mundane physical objects all around us are connecting to networks, communicating with mobile devices and each other to create what's being called an "Internet of Things," or IoT. Smart homes are just one segment -- cars, clothing, factories and anything else you can imagine will eventually be "smart" as well.

But there's a catch: So far, most Internet of Things products have been a messy tangle of different wireless protocols and brands. Many can communicate with their own apps and ecosystems but haven't found a way to play nice with each other. The Nest thermostat, which can adapt to your energy-consumption habits, is just one example.

These standalone devices and ecosystems are running their own proprietary software and speaking different languages. Your smart toaster is humming along in French, for example, while your fridge is babbling about dairy expiration dates in Japanese.

Now chipmaker Qualcomm is trying to give the industry a major push with an open-source project that can link all these disparate pieces. Qualcomm is hoping its platform, called AllJoyn, could act as a sort of universal translator for the industry.

Over the past four years, Qualcomm has been working on its AllJoyn protocol to connect devices from different manufacturers, even if they have different communication standards. It wants to be the de facto language your fridge, lightbulbs and garage door all use to communicate.


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