Posted By David Brousell, March 08, 2016 at 2:39 PM, in Category: Transformative Technologies
At the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s special “Manufacturing 4.0 in Action” event in Nuremberg, Germany, last November, a member of the audience raised the very pertinent question of standards in the M4.0 era.
What standards around system interoperability and software could manufacturers rely upon as they moved toward greater connectivity both internally throughout their enterprises, and externally with customer and partners, the attendee asked. Moreover, would technology suppliers truly support standards as they attempt to differentiate themselves in a rapidly moving market? http://events.gilcommunity.com/blog/ml-germany-panel-european-leaders-share-front-line-insights-manufacturing-40/
Apart from general support for standards – it is kind of like motherhood and apple pie – the technology vendor panelists at the ML event couldn’t provide any real specifics. That’s because the M4.0 market, including segments such as the Internet of Things, is still at an early stage. But the jockeying among technology suppliers as well as large manufacturers to define standards and specifications to enable “seamless” connectivity and interoperability between systems and devices of all sorts has been underway for some time and has now entered a consolidation phase.
The latest development in this very fluid part of the market is the formation of the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF). Announced in late February, the OCF’s mission is to “unify” standards associated with the Internet of Things. The OCF envelopes an earlier group called the Open Interconnect Consortium that was formed in July of 2104 by Intel, Broadcom, and Samsung Electronics. Cisco, General Electric, and others also joined the organization. http://events.gilcommunity.com/blog/iot-next-battle-over-standards/
OIC was working on the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), a software protocol for simple electronic devices that would allow them to communicate interactively and in a standard way over the Internet. Shortly after the formation of OIC, Broadcom left the organization because of a disagreement over how to handle intellectual property.
The new Open Connectivity Foundation includes two of the founding companies of OIC-- Intel and Samsung--as well as companies such as Cisco, GE Digital, Electrolux, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and others. The organization says that phones, computers, sensors, and other devices should be able to communicate with each other regardless of manufacturer, operating system, chipset, or physical transport.
OCF says it is creating a specification and sponsoring an open source project, called IoTivity, to make this a reality. IoTivity is described as an “open source software framework enabling connectivity for the emerging needs of the Internet of Things by delivering a reference implementation” of the specification. The IoTivity project is hosted by the Linux Foundation.
Another organization that is dedicated to providing IoT interoperability is the AllSeen Alliance, which was formed in December of 2013. This group’s interoperability framework is based on an open source technology developed by Qualcomm called AllJoyn.
Which of these frameworks – or perhaps one yet to be developed -- eventually takes hold in the market remains to be seen, but product manufacturers should be aware of all the activity. Some companies are spreading their bets until these standards efforts shake out more. A number of the members of AllSeen are also members of OCF, for example.
Manufacturers should pay close attention to these various standards developments and figure out which specification best aligns with their own interests. The M4.0 era can’t progress without a trouble-free way for devices and systems to interoperate and share information. The last thing we need is to create more silos of disparate technologies.
Written by David Brousell
Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council