A deal between standards groups could help make home IoT easier

The OIC standards group is buying the assets of the Universal Plug and Play Forum

The Internet of Things is moving to the forefront of home networking as the variety of devices that can go online rapidly expands.

Reflecting this trend, the Open Interconnect Consortium is acquiring the assets of the Universal Plug and Play Forum, an organization formed about 15 years ago to standardize discovery and control of networked devices. 

UPnP is used in about 3 billion devices and plays a key background role in wireless home networks, especially the routers that usually sit at the center of them. For example, it's typically what allows a consumer to bring home a wireless printer and start sending print jobs to it with little effort, according to UPnP Forum President Scott Lofgren.

The new breed of connected devices, such as sensors, appliances and locks, is part of the emerging IoT universe. OIC is one of the industry groups addressing that trend, alongside some competing alternatives such as the AllJoyn framework. Founding members of OIC include Intel and Samsung, while AllJoyn came out of a Qualcomm project and is backed by Cisco Systems, Microsoft and other companies.

OIC will acquire "substantially all the assets of the UPnP Forum," the organizations said. In return, OIC will offer membership to everyone in the UPnP group.

The groups hope to consolidate their efforts and achieve greater alignment on IoT standardization. But for the time being, OIC and UPnP product certification will continue to be separate, said Mike Richmond, executive director of OIC. A new working group for UPnP will be hosted at OIC.

UPnP mainly addresses the initial setup of connections among devices, while OIC is focused on the applications that run on top of them once they're set up, Richmond said. His organization is also exploring areas outside the home where UPnP may not apply. But there is some overlap, he said.

With its long history and about 1,000 member companies, UPnP will give OIC greater scale for testing and certification, Richmond said. The acquisition could also substantially boost its membership rolls, he said. But it will be up to each UPnP company to decide whether it wants to align with OIC. Those that don't want to join will be able to get legacy UPnP certification for a fee.

"We are not forcing anybody to join OIC," he said.

The idea for the deal came as the two groups realized they had many members in common and were trying to address some of the same issues, UPnP's Lofgren said. The organizations did not disclose any financial terms of the deal.

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