Three leading global companies – ABB Group, Robert Bosch GmbH, and Cisco Systems Inc. – have said they plan to establish a joint-venture company to develop and operate an open software platform for smart-home equipment and applications.
The development is just one part of the business activity now happening in the fragmented Internet of Things (IoT) market as companies and groups of companies jockey for position in what is seen as a potential gold rush that will occur over the next decade or more.
IHS, the publisher of Electronics360, predicts the market for cloud-based home management services to help allow users to remotely control household functions like lighting and temperature will grow by a factor of eight between 2013 and 2018. That represents an installed base of 44.6 million units in 2018, up from 5.6 million in 2013.
To some extent the ABC joint venture – as yet unnamed – will be setting up in competition to the Thread initiative announced in July 2014 (see Google Launches Thread Smart Home IoT Protocol) and with ARM's mbed OS (see ARM Offers Free OS for Internet of Things). There are also developments at Intel, Intel software subsidiary Wind River Systems Inc. and systems companies such as Apple and Samsung and television and mobile phone service providers are also vying to set standards in the smart home.
ABC versus Qivicon
Meanwhile Deutsche Telekom AG has its own smart home platform, called Qivicon, in development with home appliance company Miele and Samsung Electronics and it has announced the addition of Huawei and Netatmo to its Qivicon partnership. Netatmo is the French manufacturer of a weather station for smartphone users. Other companies signed up to Qivicon include Osram, Philips, Rhein Energie and Sonos.
Like the ABC joint venture Qivicon also intends to enable appliances and functions from different brands to be combined easily in the smart home. Qivicon may have stolen a march on its competition by basing its approach on the Eclipse Foundation. Best known as provider of the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for software developers the Eclipse Foundation is also a supporter of multi-party open-source software development and as such has support in place to encourage and maintain project ecosystems.
The ABC joint venture will be based in Germany and while the plan is subject to antitrust regulatory approval, Bosch said the companies expect the joint venture will be able to commence operations at the beginning of 2015.
The joint venture is chartered with developing and operating an open software platform that allows all appliances and equipment in the home – including washing machines, heating units, lighting and windows blinds – to exchange data with each other and with smartphones and tablet computers in a secure manner.
As equipment becomes standardized on this software platform it will allow an increasing range of services to be offered around energy management, security and entertainment, Bosch said. The ABC joint venture also wants to create the opportunity for third party software companies to create applications that can be used in the smart home network, similar to apps created for Apple iPhones and iPads.
To further this aim ABB, Bosch and Cisco will invite appliance electronics manufacturers, home automation vendors, and service providers to join the ecosystem and help with providing user requirements for the software platform.
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