MWC 2014: Internet of Things consortium chair warns of Google's Android effect

Liat Ben-Zur: chair of  the Internet of Things consortium AllSeen Alliance
Liat Ben-Zur: chair of the Internet of Things consortium AllSeen Alliance

Liat Ben-Zur, who chairs the non-profit Internet of Things consortium AllSeen Alliance, has warned of the dangers of Google replicating its Android operating system within the Internet of Things market.

Speaking to Marketing at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ben-Zur argued the case for AllSeen Alliance’s open source AllJoyn software framework developed by Qualcomm, to avoid one company dominating the industry.

Ben-Zur, who is also senior director of product management at Qualcomm, said: "There are various approaches to open source. With Android, anyone can take the open source code and modify it for their devices. With AllJoyn, not only can anyone take and use the code, they can also contribute back modifications and additions.

"So AllJoyn is a very different approach because it is truly open. It is open source and the alliance members get to drive the direction of the road map.

"There is no back end that is controlled by one company – any company can choose to connect it to any cloud service they want. It is a slightly different approach that is lot less threatening."

Her comments come a month after it was revealed Google had entered the Internet of Things sector with the acquisition of connected thermostat maker Nest Labs for £2bn.

Ben-Zur added: "You can surely take a look at what [Google has] done in other sectors and assume what it would like to do [in the Internet of Things sector]."

The AllSeen Alliance is run by the Linux Foundation and was launched less than three months ago and has signed up more than 35 companies, including LG, Panasonic, Sharp, Cisco and AT&T.

Ben-Zur added that the AllSeen Alliance is in discussions with European telecoms firms that are "strong" in the UK market about signing up to the consortium.

The AllJoyn software framework aims to deal with the problem of fragmentation within the burgeoning Internet of Things sector, which meant various connected products owned by different brands could not connect with one another.

Ben-Zur says one of the most powerful use cases that AllJoyn has enabled is a basic connected security camera, which can take a picture of a snapshot of unexpected movement in a house and send it to the homeowner.

If the homeowner flags it as an intruder, the camera can communicate with different connected products in the house to sound a siren through speakers, cause the lighting to flash like a police car and display an image of the intruder on the television to make the intruder aware they have been caught.

Ben-Zur concedes people have been talking about the Internet of Things for 10 years and it has been "really slow to take off", but she hopes now could be a tipping point, due to the cost of silicon and Wi-Fi dropping, increased capabilities in phones and wi-fi’s decreasing power consumption.

The privacy issues raised by the capabilities of the Internet of Things are also a concern, admits Ben-Zur.

She said: "I’m sure people are worried and I’m sure there is some reason to be worried. We really need to think hard about security – at AllJoyn we don’t believe everything should be connected to the internet."

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