UK Government Spends Another £1.6M On Hypercat Wireless Project

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HyperCat wants to link together various connectivity standards for the Internet of Things

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) will spend another £1.6 million on HyperCat, a non-profit project which aims to link together various wireless communication standards developed for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Over the past few years, the industry has been repeatedly warned that the development of IoT could be held back by too many incompatible standards. It is hoped that HyperCat can solve this issue by enabling things like lamp posts and smart meters to understand each other.

The project is supported by a consortium of more than 40 UK-based technology companies including ARM, BT and KPMG. It has already cost the taxpayer £6.4 million.

“Being able to drive the IoT agenda at speed and realise the potential value that it can release requires true, secure interoperability, without the agenda of one particular organisation,” Justin Anderson, CEO of the consortium member Flexeye, told TechWeekEurope.

“Government funding can ensure independence from organisations that participate in the agreement.”

An expensive cat

HyperCat is a thin interoperability layer for the IoT which allows the devices that rely on different communication standards to discover each other and exchange data. It was designed to break down silos which are being erected by proprietary technology vendors like Apple.

TSB, the UK government’s innovation agency, has supported the project from the start, and has now released another £1.6 million in funding. The money is part of the £45 million investment package for IoT announced by prime minister David Cameron at this year’s CeBIT show in Hannover.

Artisticco“Obviously, it’s only going to be successful if it’s recognised at an international level, but as I’m sure you’re aware, British standards have a long track record of being put forward as international standards, and some of the strongest examples came from the BSI [British Standards Institute],” Anderson told us.

“We’re not inventing anything – we want to find a route forward that’s a good route for all. What we don’t want is another VHS vs Betamax battle.”

The consortium expects to publish the HyperCat specification as an independent and publicly available standard through the BSI sometime next year.

In a sea of standards

In July Nest, the intelligent home electronics start-up recently acquired by Google, launched an industry group to promote its Thread wireless communication standard.

The same month Intel, Samsung, Dell and Broadcom teamed up to create the ‘Open Interconnect Consortium’ which aims to develop a specification, an open source implementation, and a certification program for wirelessly connecting devices.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Cisco, HTC and Symantec support the AllSeen Alliance, which sets out similar goals. Apple, as usual, is developing its own proprietary IoT standard called HomeKit.

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