Let Us All Joyn Things

| Adam J. Hecktman

Photo via AllSeen Alliance

Last month, I attended the Smart Cities Council forum, hosted by Qualcomm at their impressive San Diego headquarters. At the forum, government leaders and technology providers discussed what they were doing in order to make their cities smarter, safer, and more resilient. It became quickly clear that The Internet of Things (IoT) is inextricably linked to smart cities. When you consider that some of the most promising applications for IoT focus on transportation, environmental monitoring, energy management and monitoring, building and facilities management, etc., it is easy to understand where IoT fits into smart cities.

At this forum, the discussions frequently referenced a new framework known as Alljoyn. The AllJoyn framework enables hardware and software developers to create devices and software that are interoperable, that can discover each other, can connect with each other, and can communicate directly, without going through a server or the internet. For example, think of a bunch of sensors and other devices that may be installed in a sewer to measure…well, whatever it is that sewers do.   These devices may need to talk to one another, but may have no reliable way of communicating with a backend. By using the AllJoyn framework, they can all talk to one another without some intermediary. This is referred to as a proximity network: all the devices are within proximity to one another.

AllJoyn is an open source software framework. It includes the set of services to enable interoperability among connected devices to create those dynamic proximal networks. And by defining a common way for devices and apps (the “things” in Internet of Things) to communicate with one another, even when those “things” are made by different companies, you can start to envision new ways of monitoring and managing a city’s infrastructure.

Microsoft joined the AllSeen Alliance, the group of organizations creating the AllJoyn framework, back in July. In November, Microsoft announced that we will be implementing AllJoyn into the forthcoming Windows 10. This will make it very easy for developers and device makers to incorporate this type of IoT structure in their Windows 10 solutions. I can foresee a scenario where the mass appeal of IoT combined with the mass appeal of Windows 10 creates a virtuous cycle.

The news about Windows 10 and AllJoyn demonstrates a second important dynamic – how Microsoft contributes back to open source. AllJoyn being an open source project, and given that Microsoft is committed to open source projects, the Microsoft engineering team is contributing our work on to the software framework back into the AllJoyn. Microsoft Open Technologies x is the group that ensures interoperability through open standards and open source for Microsoft. They will be responsible for ensuring that changes we contribute to the AllJoyn project are also implemented, working and tested on other platforms, including Linux, Android, iOS, OS X, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, thus confirming interoperability of these changes.

This is an exciting time for Smart Cities. It is an exciting time for IoT. It is an exciting time for Microsoft. And it is fantastic to see all three come together in an open source environment.

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.