Dotdot. Who's there? Yet another IoT app layer

ZCL, motherf****r, do you speak it?


Internet of Things bods at the Zigbee Alliance have unveiled what they are calling a “universal language” for IoT, dotdot.

A rebrand and potential expansion of the group's existing application layer, Zigbee Cluster Library (ZCL), dotdot is now being touted by the alliance as the one true solution for getting different IoT devices from various vendors talking to each other.

“Interoperability between verticals and between markets became increasingly important,” alliance spokesman Daniel Moneta told The Register. “It’s the evolution of the most mature, widely deployed and well-supported application layer on the market. We’ve been doing this for 10 or 15 years – you learn a lot about it in that time.

“The greater IoT needs this universal language,” he continued, adding that there was “great demand ... for a common application layer” across the market. “A lot of people came to Zigbee for that because we had one that was defined, robust and well-known.”

Dotdot is effectively a marketing effort to refer to ZCL “without resorting to confusing acronyms.” This is both the name for the app layer and the common language, “as well as the program for bringing it to other networks outside Zigbee,” according to Moneta.

The full rebrand of ZCL and the implementation of the dotdot branding – which will include revised specs, a certification program and all the usual branding and marking possibilities for device vendors – is set to take place in late 2017.

“We’re not writing a different version of ZCL,” pointed out Moneta. “We’re developing specs for ‘this is how you use ZCL over this particular IP network.’ That’s really powerful because it means the library will remain consistent; if you add a device type to that library you can now use it across all the networks dotdot supports. We’re just prescribing the method on which you implement that library. People using ZCL today are effectively using dotdot.”

Changes between today’s ZCL and the first release of dotdot as branded will include having it run over IP effectively, prescribing how to bridge between different network technologies running dotdot as the transport layer, and the policy, testing and certification regimes. Moneta also suggested that dotdot might even be used in mobile apps of the future.

Fragmentation within the IoT market is exceedingly widespread, yet Zigbee’s announcement is more than just another vendor trying to claim that theirs is the one true way that all must follow. Bluntly, the Zigbee Alliance – which oversees the popular Zigbee wireless protocol – has scale: to give just one example, the Zigbee Smart Energy Profile is used in the application layer for the UK’s new smart meters, meaning it will be implemented across millions of devices across the nation.

“Recognizing the value of the evolving application layer that has been the core language of Zigbee devices for over a decade, market leaders within the alliance have come together to transform it into a universal language for the IoT,” said Zigbee chief exec Tobin Richardson in a canned statement.

Zigbee also suggested that its logo for dotdot “breaks technological ground itself” by consisting of, er, a colon and two vertical strokes. It looks like this:

:||

Perhaps they’d be better off sticking to the gubbins of tech rather than the labelling. ®

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