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Article - December 2003
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What could UPnP possibly mean to Building Systems?

Report from the UPnP Summit, Cannes, France October 28/29 2003

Madeleine Bath

 

Madeleine Bath
securityXML Ltd.


What could UPnP possibly mean to Building Systems? 

UPnP? 
I'd heard of it. Came out of the Microsoft stable didn't it? Only for use in home automation isn't it? Not really something that the grownups of commercial building systems need think about then. Wrong! I attended the UPnP Summit, the first one to be held in Europe and there I learned a number of surprising facts that have caused me to change my opinion. This technology is seriously powerful.

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UPnP Forum ( www.upnp.org
The UPnP forum is a voluntary, international, open organization for companies and individuals formed in 1999. The first fact to surprise me was that here are no membership fees. The size of the membership and who they are surprised me. Currently the 625 members are drawn from North America, Europe and Asia. The Steering Committee is composed of Axis Communications, Broadcom, Canon, Inc., Echelon, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Lantronix, LG Electronics, Metro Link, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Ricoh, Samsung, Siemens, Sony, Thomson and most recently, Pelco.

The underlying UPnP technology was developed by Microsoft so I had that correct. However, Microsoft donated it freely to the UPnP forum without lien or fee. So, not as bad as popular myth would make out eh? I spent three days in the company of developers in and supporters of UPnP, sharing meals and thoughts. These are people committed to the concept of interoperability, the same pot of gold that we have all been seeking. Buy it, get it out of the box, plug it in and it works. They are on a crusade and the energy levels are frightening.

The technology is impressive too. And it exists now. It contains no proprietary elements and, being based on open standards will work on any platform or operating system. UPnP is totally independent of any operating system or language. Interfaces to other control systems such as LonWorks and Konnex exist or are under development.

Working groups have been set up for areas such as home automation, audio visual servers and renderers, internet gateways, security, remote I/O and imaging. Each group cooperates to produce device and service profiles, which can be used to specify and manufacture interoperable devices. The profiles are subject to a 45-day peer review. After adoption, they are assigned a version number.

A complete set of profiles has been, or will shortly be adopted for;

Powerful and professional software for development and testing is available from Microsoft, Intel and a number of other companies.

UPnP Implementers Corporation ( www.upnp-ic.org
UIC has been set up as a not-for-profit corporation. Board members include Canon, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Philips and Thomson. It owns the UPnP certification mark (registered in 24 countries to date) and administers the software tool for testing conformance with UPnPv1. So far 54 devices have been given UPnP approval. The UIC will actively promote UPnP approved devices through public relations, shows and groups such as the Digital Home Working Group.

The Digital Home Working Group ( www.dhwg.org ) 
Formed only 4 months ago by 17 leading companies in the Consumer Electronics area, the DHWG has made rapid progress by adopting existing technology such as UPnP, 802.11x and MPEG2/4 to define standard, interoperable products. The DHWG will promote these standards to consumers as a mark of reliability, functionality and interoperability. It has already decided on a number of developing standards for future products. These include IPv6 and UPnP v2.

Control Solutions, Inc UPnP version 1 
The technology is openly available on a royalty-free basis. UPnP v1 is based on standard internet protocols: XML, HTTP, TCP, UDP and IP. However because it was started in 1999 some aspects, such as discovery, description and eventing, are not compatible with recent Web Services developments. UPnP version 1 uses simple data structures for its SOAP-based command messaging and is intended for use in the home environment. The main structure of version 1 is considered robust, stable and sufficient for use in the residential environment but a little too lightweight for the commercial enterprise. Free, downloadable tools are available for device and service evaluation and testing. Support for UPnP version 1 is built into Windows CE and XP. Microsoft, Intel and a number of other companies have produced software development kits (SDK).

UPnP version 2 
At Cannes v2 was announced as the 'Enterprise Edition' of UPnP. It is directly aimed at corporate environments and will cover building and factory automation. There is strong support for its development from companies like Hewlett Packard who need to it to provide secure, wireless network printing capability. Intel and Microsoft confirmed at the Summit that their tools and SDKs will support UPnP version 2. Support is being built into the next major release of Windows, codenamed 'LongHorn'. Support in version 2 for IPv6 will enable secure addressing of almost limitless numbers of devices and even components.

The main developments for this version will be:

  1. Complete adherence to Web Services standards
    UPnP will integrate seamlessly into the Web Services environment thus pleasing the IT department. 

  2. Strong Web Services security 
    Building systems incorporating WS Security will be resistant to internal and external hacking, viruses, worms etc. 

  3. Adoption of rich data structures 
    Even very complex control products and systems will be accommodated and access to vast scheduling and trending will be available. 

  4. A powerful SOAP-based eventing model 
    This will allow products from different manufacturers and in different subsystems to faultlessly interoperate.

The UPnP forum invites membership and input from knowledgeable companies to define new profiles for commercial and industrial devices and control systems. The addition of Pelco to the steering committee is evidence of the move in this direction.

There you have it. I am far more impressed by UPnP than I expected to be. I suggest it is the technology to watch as it grows, as it must with the support, cooperation and resources that it has behind it. It is a coming force to be reckoned with, certainly not to be under estimated, not resisted but embraced.


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