Two leading IoT standards organisations, The Thread Group and Open Connectivity Foundation, have teamed up in a bid to bring the IoT industry together.

IoT devices are becoming increasingly widespread, but due to devices coming with their own proprietary systems, they’re often unable to communicate with each other effectively.

Common software

By the Alphabet Nest-owned firm and newly formed OCF forming a partnership, there’s now hope that connected technologies will be safer, more sustainable and function together. They envision manufacturers using common software.

While both organisations have similar industry interests, they don’t compete directly. Mike Richmond, executive director of OCD, explained that they function on different software levels.

“We work every day to unlock the opportunity of IoT that interoperability will enable. But this collaboration with Thread is special.

“With Thread, we are able to provide both of our members with a joint solution that enables companies to more easily develop solutions for the connected home.”

Related: The Internet of Things remains an absolute maze of communication protocols

Avoiding fragmentation with IoT standards

Both have a large pool of members who use their protocols. The Thread Group currently has 240, while OCF has around 200. Thread was set up by Google’s Nest, so all its products – such as the thermostat and security camera – are based on the standard.

The Open Connectivity Foundation offers slightly different protocols, which is resulting in some industry fragmentation. Many industry experts fear that despite the world being on the brink of an IoT revolution, there isn’t universal compatibility. 

They hope this will change by them working together on creating a common standard. Grant Erickson, president of the Thread Group, said: “Thread Group members identified and prioritised OCF as a strategically important application layer to run over the Thread wireless mesh network.

“In order for consumers to put their faith in the connected home, their experience must be simple, reliable, and effortless. This agreement takes us one step closer to our common goal of ensuring that consumers will have smart home devices that seamlessly work together out of the box, regardless of their brand or function.”

Making IoT safer

Cesare Garlati, chief security strategist for the Prpl Foundation, sees significant security benefits here.

He said: “Tech savvy owners can be keen to push their device capabilities to the limits, but at the same time, there are logical reasons why lawmakers and regulators need to lock down certain functionality – for the safety and well-being of their citizens, especially when it comes to critical areas of IoT where lives could be at risk.

“Containerizing separate software components at a hardware level means regulators could enforce control on the elements which manage radio frequency parameters, for instance, but also allows consumers to play around with other, non critical, part of the device to suit their needs.”

Related: We’re building the Internet of Things better, honest

Standards are critical

Robert Bownes, from data science and intelligence marketing company Profusion, said: “Standardisation is crucial to making the IoT a mass market success. Smart devices will only make economic sense to consumers if they can be certain that the majority of these devices are compatible with one another and security standards are uniformly high.

“The development of new tech has been plagued with costly format wars – Betamax and VHS, Minidisk and MP3, and in the past few years, HD DVD and Blu-ray. For the good of the IoT industry and consumers’ pockets there needs to be collaboration and agreement on a wide range of technical and security provisions for these devices.

“We have already seen some movement in this direction with Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSMA), a group that represents telephone operators, releasing IoT standardisation guidelines, however, plenty more can still be done while the IoT is a relatively embryonic stage.”

Ran Berger, CEO of software development company Flat Rock Technology, said in an email to Internet of Business:

“Whilst IoT is opening up lots of exciting possibilities, there is always a time lag when it comes to regulating new tech. The industry moves too fast and the guidelines don’t keep up. Regulators and Government need to step up their game, as unregulated tech can cause a whole host of issues. For example, insurance is a particular headache when it comes to IoT – who is responsible if a self-driving car crashes?

“We need a set of clear, progressive rules which everyone can play by – rules that transcend software and manufacturing differences. With IoT, everyday objects will be communicating with each other and making decisions. Making sure they are speaking the same language, regardless of their operating model, is really important. This will minimise instances where commands are interpreted differently, therefore minimising opportunities for things to go wrong. Creating this framework will be no mean feat, but it must be done if we are to capitalise on the benefits of IoT whilst avoiding the dangers.”