Alljoyn -- connecting devices, connecting people

Remember those days when the PalmPilot was every geek's wet dream?  We all though it was soooo cool how we could point our Palm Pilots at each other and "beam" our contact information across!  The PalmPilot had its day in the sun, but these days, even children's games are more high-tech than that!  Companies like Qualcomm have taken inter-device connectivity to unheard-of heights, and the best is yet to come.

To illustrate: a few weeks ago, Qualcomm introduced me to a couple of high-tech mobile apps using a new technology called Alljoyn.   The first app, Spudball, is a game that lets you toss a virtual hot potato from your phone or tablet, onto your friends' device, back and forth, until the potato explodes.  It's amazing -- you swipe your finger on your screen to make the potato disappear, only to see it appear on your friend's phone!   The second game, QwikDraw, lets two players work on a drawing together, passing the drawing back and forth over their phones or other devices.  Both games are super fun (and I plan to feature each of them in a separate review), and they're a great way to get my kids playing a game together instead of withdrawing into their own little worlds whenever they pick up a device. 

Cool as these games are, what's really cool is the technology behind them: AllJoyn, an application development framework that enables peer-to-peer connectivity across multiple devices and operating systems.

In plain English, AllJoyn is a tool that developers can use to write apps that allow devices -- smartphones, tablets, PC's, wifi-enabled set top boxes, smart tv's -- to talk to each other over WiFi, Bluetooth, WiFi direct, or a mobile hotspot.  Imagine the seamless connectivity that Apple devices enjoy with each other, but not limited to Apple devices, and you've got a sense of what AllJoyn can do. 

A few key features of Alljoyn:
* It's open source
* It's non-OS specific; it's supported on Android, v2.2.x (Eclair), Windows, and up.
* Easy to use: developers can create an app with AllJoyn in as little as 1 week.
* The AllJoyn SDK (software development kit) is free for developers to download and use.

The best thing about AllJoyn?  All the connectivity work is done, so app and game developers don't need to learn the complexities of device discovery, pairing, message routing, etc...  They can use the AllJoyn API for all that stuff, and focus entirely on creating a kickass app or game.

AllJoyn isn't just for kid's games:  the Bizzabo event networking app uses AllJoyn to let conference goers see which attendees are close by, and set up face-to-face meetings (this would be awesome for BlogHer!).  And there's even a grown-up version of QuikDraw, Chalkboard, which lets co-workers use their own devices to collaborate and brainstorm together.

Since AllJoyn is all about enabling different devices to connect and interact with each other, you can imagine the possibilities.  Here are two examples of app prototypes that use Alljoyn:

* Use smartphones as a remote control for games on a laptop -- imagine hooking your laptop onto your HD flatscreen and playing the game with your friends at a party! 

* Play music on a smartphone using playlists and music from other smartphones -- perfect for road trips where everyone wants a turn playing their favorite songs!  (Qualcomm engineer Brian Spencer actually created this app, JamJoyn, in his spare time, in just 10 days). 

Cool, huh?  Once you get the idea, the sky's the limit!  Imagine being able to control your smart refrigerator with your smartphone, or take a photo of friends at a party and immediately have the photo added to a slideshow that's playing on your living room tv.  I'll bet homeschooling parents would love an app that lets them load up a lesson plan on their tv screens, then enable their kids' devices to solve math problems, with the solution showing up on the tv screen for everyone to see.  Personally, I think someone ought to develop a Where's My Stuff? app, which uses Alljoyn technology to help me locate my car keys, no matter where I leave them in the house.

I can't wait to see what kinds of AllJoyn apps developers come up with next!

Learn more about AllJoyn on their website and their YouTube channel.

Disclosure: Qualcomm sent me a T-Mobile Springboard and a Galaxy SII, both of which run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chip, in order to try out Alljoyn apps like SpudBall, QuikDraw and 3D Rollercoaster Rush.   The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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