A Conversation with the Open Mobile Alliance

by OMA | Thursday, April 18, 2013

Enterprise Mobile Hub, Joanie Wexler, Community Manager, April 17, 2013

What mobile standards exist to make user experiences seamless across networks and device platforms?

The subject of technical mobility standards usually creeps into the Twitter chats that we host at the Enterprise Mobile Hub each Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET. Most participants cite a paucity of standards as a major source of interoperability problems among mobile applications, such as unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools.

There actually are technical standards that relate to mobility, but the industry is pretty quiet about them. I spoke recently to Francesco Vadalà, chair of the Technical Plenary Committee of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and a wireless engineer at Telecom Italia, to find out what’s up. The OMA is a 10-year-old association of mobile ecosystem companies that work on standard specifications to help enable mobile device-to-network interoperability. The OMA works closely with the worldwide 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) among other standards groups.

Here’s an excerpt from our conversation*:

EMH: We don’t hear about many mobility standards, other than network specifications for Wi-Fi and 3G/4G networks. What kinds of standards does the OMA work on?

VADALÀ: We produce ‘service enablers,’ specifications primarily for mobile network operators. These allow operators to build services that can run across any underlying wireless network.

EMH: Can you give a couple examples that might be relevant to enterprises?

VADALÀ: First, we have a dedicated working group on device management [DM], which has been working on a framework widely deployed across the mobile industry. We write a spec for a piece of an application; the ‘enabler.’ The framework specifies the server side, the client side and the protocol in between….[Mobile] operators usually have a DM server in the network and might offer device management cloud services to enterprises.

EMH: How could this work impact the MDM installations that enterprises are building on their own using one or more software solutions?

VADALÀ:  The value of the standard is that you are not using a closed solution and that you can rely on mobile operators to provide MDM services. For multi-OS [environments], a standard DM server is ready to work with multiple devices. The client-to-server protocol is standard, so you can easily and inexpensively change suppliers.

EMH: Other activities that might benefit enterprises?

VADALÀ: We specify network APIs, which expose features and functionalities in mobile networks to third parties in an open and programmable way, independent of development platform.

EMH: What kinds of features?

VADALÀ: Location, payment and messaging come to mind.

EMH: Does ‘messaging’ include UCC?

VADALÀ: OMA did the spec work for Rich Communications Service (RCS), which is oriented toward consumers but usable to build an enterprise solution. [Editor’s note: RCS is a global initiative created by the GSM Association to deploy inter-operator services that support chat, presence, image transfer and video sharing].

EMH: What are some new things the OMA is working on?

VADALÀ: We are working on a new DM version based on HTTP 2.0, as well as a lightweight [machine-to-machine] protocol. We are also working on an extension to the LTE Positioning Protocol to add more precise localization and to include Wi-Fi access. And we’re working on image recognition, whereby if you take a picture with your phone camera, a comparison to a database of images can help identify where you are.

* Conversation has been edited slightly for length and clarity.