A consortium of more than 40 UK-based technology companies seeking to accelerate a widespread move to the Internet of Things (IoT) has agreed on a new open IoT specification.
The HyperCat specification aims to allow machines to easily work together over the internet, and for applications to discover and make sense of data automatically without human intervention.
Over 12 months, and with the help of £6.4 million in funding from the UK's Technology Strategy Board, development teams from major companies - including ARM, BT and IBM - have worked alongside UK start-ups, local authorities and university departments to find the solution.
The HyperCat specification is a thin interoperability layer for the IoT, which allows applications to explore what data and resources are available on a specific data hub, or search for particular types of resources across the internet. For example, if an application only understands temperature measurements, HyperCat provide a means to search for and discover only this type of data that is buried amongst other data that the application may not understand.
"HyperCat has been designed to move us from the Internet of Silos to the Internet of Things," said Pilgrim Beart, CEO of IoT start-up 1248. "Previously, applications were vertically-integrated, working only with specific services, which confines data to narrow vertical silos.
"HyperCat enables apps to discover data across all services, freeing machines from the human programmer bottleneck, and allowing a many-to-many relationship to develop, which is the key to IoT."
Justin Anderson, CEO of IoT company Flexeye, said: "As new entrants to the IoT market strive to deliver revolutionary solutions at an extraordinary pace, HyperCat will help ensure that these players can securely speak a common language.
"The Technology Strategy Board's investment in this interoperability initiative has helped put the UK in a global leadership position, and will in turn support the UK economy by creating new jobs and attracting foreign investment to our shores."
Andy Stanford-Clark, master inventor at IBM UK, said: "We've been able to create whole new applications very quickly. For instance, we can take illumination data from streetlights belonging to another project cluster and display it on our own application. Being able to explore the HyperCat metadata in human and machine readable formats makes it easy to mash-up new applications."
The Technology Strategy Board created eight clusters to help develop HyperCat, which each created interoperability within their cluster and then between clusters. The clusters were:
Distance: ScienceScope, Intel, Xively, Explorer HQ, Stakeholder Design, University of Birmingham's Urban Climate Laboratory, UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, and The Open University Department of Computing
EyeHub includes Flexeye, Open Data Institute, Surrey University, IBM UK, Guildford Borough Council
IoT-Bay (an interoperability hub for IoT services) includes SH&BA, EDF Energy, IBM UK, Westminster City Council, BRE and University of Bristol.
i-MOVE (for moving objects, including vehicles) includes Aimes Grid Services, BT, Traak, Avanti, Placr, Merseyside Transport
International airports: LivingPlanIT, London City Airport, Milligan Retail, Critical Software, AppSherpas, HWC, CrowdVision, and ECM
OpenIoT: 1248.io, ARM, AlertMe, Enlight, Intellisense.io and Badger Pass
Smart Streets: InTouch, Carillion, BalfourBeatty, Amey, Lancaster University
Stride (smart transport IoT data ecosystem): BT, Aimes, Ctrl-Shift, University of Cambridge, Dartt
TSB recently announced a Launchpad programme for companies wanting to get involved in IoT development.