For Qualcomm, a ‘gift’ to the Internet of things

December 10, 2013, 3:18 PM UTC

Someday in the not-so-distant future, you’ll be able to walk into your home and stream content from your phone straight to your TV. Sound like a familiar prediction? That’s probably because it’s been in the works for at least a decade.

One of the biggest hurdles to the seamlessly connected house has been the interoperability issue — the fact that TVs, phones, and other devices around the home are powered by different operating systems and can’t “talk” to each other in the same language. To fix this problem, mobile chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM) has been working on an open-source networking platform that aims to connect nearby devices to each other. (It’s basically a software layer that can sit on top of existing operating systems.) On Tuesday morning, the San Diego-based company took its efforts one step further, announcing it will spin out the so-called AllJoyn code to an open-source community of member companies, called the AllSeen Alliance.

“From the very beginning we wanted to be very clear in that the value of this is to build an ecosystem,” says Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm’s interactive platforms division.

Much like cloud computing player Rackspace (RAX) did with OpenStack, or Yahoo (YHOO) with its big data software project Hadoop, Qualcomm hopes opening up AllJoyn to the community at large will spawn a booming industry of companies that will both contribute to its code and use it to develop products for the “Internet of things” — the trend of embedding processing power and connectivity in all sorts of household and industrial appliances. Qualcomm’s end goal? The more consumers demand smart, connected devices, the more chips and other components the company sells.

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LG Electronics, one of the early member companies of the AllSeen Alliance, has already announced it will sell a smart TVcompatible with the open-source protocol starting next year. Other member companies include Sharp, HTC, Panasonic, and Cisco (CSCO), along with a handful of other players.

“The code that Qualcomm has developed is well thought out,” says Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, which will play host to the AllSeen Alliance. “We can now apply it to things we haven’t thought of to date.”

Currently, most of Qualcomm’s public efforts have centered around sharing media content with AllJoyn. But in the near future, the company believes the open-source technology can also be used for connecting between security systems, smoke alarms, wearables, medical devices, and — of course — smartphones.

Obviously, the success of the AllSeen Alliance won’t just depend on how many companies join but on how many manufacturers actually implement the open-source code into their upcoming gadgets. But if there’s one company that has a shot of leading efforts to streamline the Internet of things and rally a diverse base of manufacturers, it’s Qualcomm. The company already sells its wares to most gadget makers, and proved instrumental in driving the explosive growth of smartphones and high-speed data networks in the past. Now, as growth of smartphone sales begins to wane, Qualcomm is hoping its entry — and industrywide push — will pave the way to a whole new, burgeoning market for its tiny chips. In other words, get ready to stream content from your phone to your TV sometime soon.