HyperCat Seeks to Grow Specification Through Collaborations

The HyperCat Consortium, which has developed a specification to make it easier to discover and search for data from connected things via the Internet, wants to band together with other IoT interoperability and standards groups.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 07, 2015

In 2014, a consortium of companies, including ARM, British Telecom, IBM, Intel and Neul, and led by IoT platform provider Flexeye, developed HyperCat, a specification designed to support interoperability between Internet of Things services and applications. HyperCat is based on the catalogs (the "Cat" in HyperCat, with "Hyper" referencing hypertext) that establish a common language for resources—using a format called uniform resource identifiers (URI)—that are referenced in multiple systems that may have dissimilar data structures, but which all use the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). HyperCat is based on the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) data interchange format and RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs).

HyperCat is designed to make data from a connected thing or device discoverable, searchable and addressable over the Internet.

Justin Anderson
Application developers can use HyperCat to create applications that interoperate with multiple IoT systems. For example, a smart-home platform, a municipal sensor network (to support street lights or safety systems, for instance) and building-automation system are three examples of solutions that collect temperature data but likely employ different data structures to reference temperature. With HyperCat, URIs would be used to indicate temperature data even if the applications utilize different data structures. This would enable the developer to build an application that is interoperable with those existing systems, but without requiring that new code be written.

The HyperCat Consortium, which has received a total of £8 million ($12.3 million) in grants from the U.K. government's technology innovation arm, is now in the early stages of working with two U.S.-based organizations that also promote interoperable, standards-based IoT systems: the Open Interconnect Consortium and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC).

Last month, the HyperCat Consortium became a member of the IIC, which AT&T, Cisco Systems, General Electric, IBM and Intel formed last year in order to accelerate the deployment of IoT technology in the industrial sector (or the Industrial Internet, as the firms framed it) by "identifying, assembling and promoting best practices."

"The IIC is investing in building out testbeds and reference architecture to bring together players focused on driving value of IoT into industry," says Justin Anderson, Flexeye's CEO and the HyperCat Consortium's lead. "What we're looking to do is to get HyperCat used within the IIC testbeds in order to demo interoperability within that environment."

IIC spokeswoman Julie Pike tells IOT Journal that none of the IIC testbeds are using HyperCat at this time. However, she notes, the group looks forward to utilizing the specification in a future testbed.

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