AllSeen head honcho on IoT: 'We're still in diapers!'

Liat Ben-Zur
The head of AllJoyn at Qualcomm, Liat Ben-Zur

She might have slept for only three hours but Liat Ben-Zur, Qualcomm's head of AllJoyn and chairman of the AllSeen alliance (ASA), is out at IFA on a mission: spread the word about ASA and recruit more members.

A woman of many talents – she writes rap lyrics and owns a marketing agency that develop hip hop marketing campaigns for various entities - she oversaw the transition of AllJoyn, from a Qualcomm-owned project, to one whose development is now overseen by an independent organisation, AllSeen.

The joys of connectivity

Launched back in 2010, AllJoyn is a framework that seeks to facilitate peer-to-peer communication between devices. It was originally focusing on mobile products but its scope quickly broadened to include pretty much everything.

AllSeen, which was launched a year ago, was created as an industry-backed consortium as Qualcomm pivoted AllJoyn and put it at the heart of its Internet of Things strategy.

Companies, all 64 of them (and counting) are actively contributing code (and other resources) as well as delivering products with AllJoyn baked in.

What's in it for Qualcomm? Ben-Zur was adamant that it is in the company's interest to dramatically increase the size of the market by driving an open (and open source) interoperable standard for Internet of Things.

Sure, the company sell connectivity solutions but then it won't experience the same dramatic growth that would (and will) happen if it didn't actively promote an open solution.

And you don't have to look far to see how fostering collaboration between companies having a common goal can lead to a myriad of opportunities.

Using Android as a reference

The initial boost to Android came at the very beginning when Google, cognizant of the limitations of a closed ecosystem, collaborated with vendors and partners to create the Open Handset Alliance, an entity that made Android what it is now.

Had Google decided to go solo on Android, the world would be a different place. As a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, ASA is governed by its members through participation on a Board and a Technical Steering Committee that makes sure the alliance adheres to open source best practices.

As a hardware-agnostic technology, Ben-Zur quipped, ASA's main focus in not on building standards, but rather on implementation. She added, with a veiled allusion to other competing solutions that the one that will succeed will do so because of its prominence in the market.

When probed over what she meant by "prominence", Ben-Zur pointed to three features: volume, diversity of products and adoption rate. Standards, she continued, are moving slower than emerging technologies.

Focusing on execution

Getting AllJoyn in devices and the hands of users is her priority; standards will follow and this is, according to her, a belief shared by the members of the ASA.

She has been busy recruiting more businesses with Sony, joining on Tuesday. But some major companies are missing and rallying them under a unified umbrella is vital to move to the next level, mass-producing billions of devices that can communicate between themselves and with cloud-based services.

Already there have been some consolidation as Hypercat, the standard backed by the British firm and companies such as IBM, BT and ARM announced that it will collaborate with the Intel-led Open Internet Consortium, which counts Samsung, Dell, Broadcom as members.

Ben Zur doesn't dismiss the competition but points instead to AllJoyn's USPs. They're gaining momentum, they're building products already and companies will not want to be left behind, especially if they aspire to lead their respective verticals.

Ultimately, as it was the case with Android, the sum of parts will be exponentially more attractive than the various players competing with each other.

Candidly, Ben-Zur did admit that we've got a long way to go; "We're still in diapers!", she jokingly added, referring to the current state of IoT.

Finding the evangelists that will help spread the gospel of AllJoyn will be tricky though as many will find it easier to stay on the side lines, let others do the hard job and use the technology when it is mature.

Ben-Zur, however, remains convinced she's onto a winner. "You need traction and momentum in that market", she told me as we ended the interview, "and AllJoyn has both."

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.