UPnP aims for smart home

The UPnP Forum has announced a major initiative designed to enable the emerging Internet of Things and applications in the future smart home.
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The UPnP Forum has announced a major initiative designed to enable the emerging Internet of Things and applications in the future smart home.

Called UPnP+ the initiative will build on the existing UPnP technology that allows automatic discovery and connection around a home network for consumer electronics and computing devices, such as PCs, smart phones, tablets and smart TVs. UPnP+ will extend UPnP to embrace any IP connected device that may be used in security monitoring, remote healthcare, environmental control, or other applications that will become widely deployed in the home.

UPnP+ will expand the scope of UPnP to support cloud based delivery of content or applications, and sharing of content between smart phones, as well as full integration of IPv6, the upcoming version of the IP protocol, needed to enable the Internet of Things. As such some of the work to be done is clear enough, like providing access to UPnP devices from web browsers, and bridging to devices outside current UPnP networks, for example, via ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and ANT+.

The latter will be needed for the introduction of devices such as thermostats and refrigerators that will be part of future home networks but are currently outside the scope of UPnP.

But, other requirements for UPnP+ will only emerge as the initiative progresses, including the level of interoperability that will need to be catered for in the standard. The move does beg the question of how UPnP+ will fit with the work of DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), since it appears to overlap and conflict with it.

DLNA, to date, has built around various standards, including UPnP, to create a framework for secure movement of digital content around the home. Put simply, DLNA has focused on content distribution in the home, while UPnP has addressed discovery of and interoperability between the devices that display that content. But, UPnP+ also deals with content sharing, which appears to steal some of DLNA’s clothes. To an extent, this has been acknowledged by key industry spokespeople in welcoming the initiative, such as Ralph Brown, CTO, CableLabs.

“With UPnP+, UPnP Forum is moving beyond media devices in the home to provide connection with cloud services, support for IPv6, integration with new networks of devices such as health and fitness, energy management, and security, and implementation in web browsers,” said Brown. “We see these features as important strategic ingredients in the development of future cable industry products.”

IPv6 support is important for the Internet of Things because it brings an enormously enlarged address space, required to support the proliferation in number of IP connected devices expected to be generated by smart home applications.