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Electronics makers agree to use common framework for the ‘Internet of Things’

There’s a movement out there to make everything you own a little bit smarter, and it’s getting some help from electronics makers who have agreed to use a common framework when building products for the “Internet of Things.”

For those unfamiliar with the “Internet of Things,” it’s a term that refers to the fact that much of what we own — cars, security systems and even forks — could see some added benefit by having its data collected to be displayed and analyzed on the Web or on a user’s mobile device. There are plenty of companies interested in connecting old and new appliances via a network. But there have been problems in trying to get the old to communicate with the new or one manufacturer’s product to communicate with another’s. Without some kind of standard framework in place, folks could easily end up having to juggle multiple apps or features on their devices to monitor and control those appliances and other home electronics. That’s not a rosy future.

That’s exactly the kind of thing that the members of the AllSeen Alliance, a group of companies including Qualcomm, Haier, Sharp, Panasonic and LG, are hoping to avoid. On Tuesday, these companies and the nonprofit Linux Foundation said that they will work together to make products that can communicate with each other so consumers can get the most out of their smart gadgets.

Imagine, for example, if your home’s heater could start raising the temperature when you pull out of your parking spot at work, without requiring that the heater’s thermostat and the car system both be made by the same manufacturer.

The companies will work on a common framework that’s based on Qualcomm’s “AllJoyn” project, an open source undertaking that lets different devices talk to each other through WiFi or other networks. It is based on Linux and designed to run on multiple platforms.

The AllSeen Alliance is just a first, small step toward creating a more coherent Internet of Things, but it has some big names in the appliance world that could get the ball rolling. Connected homes and smart gadgets are expected to be a major theme at next year’s annual CES consumer electronics show.

To be truly effective, the alliance will need to court device makers of all stripes to encourage cross-platform support in the future. If they succeed, you may see more of your devices working with each other in the future.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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