Qualcomm’s Rob Chandhok On How AllJoyn Will Let Users Control Devices With Their Own Personal Clouds

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Imagine walking into a new room and, like Harry Potter, being able to control all the devices in there with a few gestures. But (because you are a Muggle) instead of a wand, you use your smartphone. Developed by Qualcomm, AllJoyn is an open source peer-to-peer software designed to give manufacturers and developers the framework to seamlessly connect a wide range of devices, appliances and mobile apps.

In an interview during last week’s Computex in Taipei, Rob Chandhok, the president of Qualcomm Innovation Center, told me that AllJoyn’s goal is to break through the current limits of the Internet of Things. For one thing, connectivity currently relies on specific wireless standards such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Although many manufacturers are keen to build their own software platforms, most people don’t rely solely on one brand to supply all the appliances in their home. Furthermore, as the Internet of Things scales up to potentially include trillions of devices, security is a key concern for consumers. Chandhok talked about how AllJoyn will address those issues as it seeks to give consumers wireless control over their environments.

Why make AllJoyn open source?

The open sourcing of AllJoyn is because it’s the only way that an ecosystem can develop on the Internet of things. We’ve tried to take lessons from other systems and one of the ways the Web moved really fast was when WebKit came along. Here you had an open source project that really drove a tremendous amount of innovation because people knew that if it made it into WebKit, then it would come out in both Apple and Google products. So we decided to take a similar approach with AllJoyn as a path to creating a standard.

Another way to ask that question is why is Qualcomm giving away something and putting it in open source when that’s typically not how we monetize our products. The way we’re monetizing this product is if it’s useful for things to be connected in the Internet of things, that grows the market for the whole communication industry. We will compete in that market and should be able to sell more connectivity parts.

What about OEM support?

That’s not really required. The model right now is that AllJoyn would be embodied in an application that you would download on your phone. You can have AllJoyn on Android, iOS and Windows. When I think about OEMs related to AllJoyn, I broaden it to include the consumer electronics industry and the white goods industry also. I can’t specifically announce partners, but we are working with manufacturers, very strong global brands with large volume shipments are actively working with us to use AllJoyn to deliver experiences that we hope to be able to announce in the near future.

You’ve talked about AllJoyn powering the “Internet of Things near you.” How is that different from the Internet of Things? 

Some people think of the Internet of Things as a model where you just give everything IP connectivity and you send all data into the cloud. It’s just a bunch of sensors and then the cloud does something because the cloud is smart, and it sort of spits it back out at you.

We take a different approach in that we think that there should be local clouds of devices talking to each other because, first of all, it’s going to scale up very quickly. I worry about the security risk of that. I don’t want my refrigerator on the Internet or my fireplace, or my garage door on the Internet.

So these approaches are quite different in how you think about it. I want a personal cloud that follows me as I walk down the road. If I go into a room that I have never gone into before, I want to inspect it. If I come into this room, I want to figure out there is a TV over there and that I can display slides on it and change the channel or increase the volume. With AllJoyn I can do all that stuff because it is at its core a way for software to expose interfaces securely to things around you.

I know you can’t give specific details about projects now, but can you describe some of the things that you are excited about that use AllJoyn?

We are really working with commercial partners, we’re not just talking about demos. One partner, for example, has devices that already have Wi-Fi on them and can software update these devices, so AllJoyn will be pushed out in a software update. That’s exciting because it’s a lot of units and it gives us instant penetration into the market.

In particular I’m excited about audio streaming notifications and the control panel. The idea with the control panel is that you can come up to a device you have never interacted with before and it can tell you this is how you control me. I’m doing it by looking it up in a database and by asking the object. You can see what the object looks by using augmented reality tools. If you walk up to a coffee maker, you’ll recognize it [on your mobile device] and an interface will pop up. That stuff to me, my gut tells me that some developer will do something really cool with those facilities.

The audio streaming stuff will be really cool. Not only will I be able to get things like album art, but I can change bass, treble and volume from my phone. I can use the control panel protocol with audio streaming to build an experience even on a box with no LCD or even no buttons at all because I can build a virtual interface. I’m very excited about getting customers to see what AllJoyn can do using audio streaming and laying it all on top of a common protocol.