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Microsoft’s new code changes the balance in the Internet of things standards war

The Microsoft logo.Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft has submitted code to the AllSeen Alliance that will make it easier to connect devices on older networks to the Internet of things. The code will become part of the AllSeen Alliances’ efforts to make Qualcomm’s AllJoyn standard the go-to option for device makers trying to get their connected gadgets to talk to one another.

As the hype around the Internet of things continues to build, the major players in the consumer electronics markets are working hard to build out software that allows devices to connect to the internet and each other, and then communicate what they can and cannot do. Apple has HomeKit, a group of chip firms led by Intel is launching the Iotivity standard, Google last month announced Weave and Brillo, and Qualcomm and Microsoft are pushing AllJoyn.

While, standards fights are about as sexy as your grandmother’s house dress, the companies that win can generate a huge advantage by controlling how an entire ecosystem of products develops. With AllJoyn Qualcomm was the first to propose a standard for the Internet of things that would sit on top of existing wireless technologies. The idea was the developers could build a device and insert a few lines of code and their products would be able to communicate with other products sharing the AllJoyn Code.

This would allow an AllJoyn-compliant washing machine to “tell” an AllJoyn-compliant TV that the laundry was done. The TV could then show that message to the user. The benefit of using a standard is that it would tackle the issues of integrating those two devices, as opposed to a developer having to write individual code for each product he or she wanted to connect with. Proponents of AllJoyn liken it to http, the code that underlies every web page.

The challenge has been that existing products in the smart home already have some standards. Some communicate via ZigBee, a standard that includes both a radio and a software layer that governs how a device communicates. Others use Z-Wave, which is just a radio standard. On the industrial side the standards are many. The code that Microsoft has released into the open is called the AllJoyn Device Systems Bridge, and it allows companies to let their existing Internet of things interfaces speak to AllJoyn. Specially it supports Z-wave and BACnet, which is used in building automation.

Basically this opens up a whole world of legacy connected devices and brings them into the AllJoyn fold if their developers want to enable that functionality. By calling the code a “superconnector,” it lets developers create a virtual model of their non-AllJoyn devices that can be seen and communicated with using AllJoyn. This gives AllJoyn a significant advantage in the standards war.

Quanta Computer, which is an AllSeen Alliance member is already using the new code in its products.