Bosch pursues an open source strategy to transform IoT
Bosch was an early innovator in the Internet of Things. Bosch’s strong ties to the manufacturing, automotive and consumer products industries provided insight into the new software required to improve the productivity of connected factories, connected vehicles and indeed any connected device. Bosch quickly realized that a new category of software, called an IoT platform, would be needed to connect the millions of IoT devices with existing operational technology (OT) and enterprise IT systems.
To be a leader in IoT, Bosch made a strategic decision to adopt an IoT platform. After a strategic assessment, they realized there were three options:
Why Open Source?
Bosch did not want to risk a strategic investment that relied upon a licensing agreement with a third party so an OEM option was rejected. Bosch also saw the dominance of open source software across many software infrastructure categories and realized an open source IoT platform would probably be one of the dominant IoT platforms in the next 5-7 years.
For these reasons, Bosch decided they would pursue an open source software (OSS) strategy for creating their own and their customers’ IoT platform. An OSS strategy would allow Bosch to create a modern open platform that would better compete with the proprietary IoT platforms that were beginning to come on to the market. An open platform would also allow Bosch to collaborate with other companies in the IoT ecosystem and better enable Bosch to provide a more complete solution to their IoT customers.
An open source strategy also fits well into Bosch.IO mandate to introduce new perspectives and processes that transform how the Bosch Group develops innovative software solutions. Internally, the acceptance of the OSS strategy was reviewed by key Bosch stakeholders, including legal, marketing and product owners. The senior management addressed initial concerns about legal issues, potential loss of IP, and transparency of code. The result was the development of a set of best practices for open source management. In fact, Bosch has been so successful with their open source management, they have now started their own consulting practice to help other companies begin an open source journey.
Leaders in IoT and Open Source: Bosch and Eclipse IoT
I hold a diploma degree of business computer science and work for Bosch.IO (formerly Bosch Software Innovations) since 2001. After more than two decades of working in the fields of enterprise software, I became a change agent in a big agile transformation initiative. The resulting organization now develops and operates the Open Source based Bosch IoT Suite for which I am the product owner. In this role I represent Bosch in the Eclipse IoT working group steering committee. To give you a personal glimpse: I enjoy my turbulent life with my kids and love to make and take cool pictures.
An important part of Bosch’s open source strategy was to join a community that was dedicated to building IoT open source technology. For this reason, in 2015 Bosch increased its membership level in the Eclipse Foundation to become a strategic member and joined the Eclipse IoT Working Group. With over 35 different projects and 40 participating member companies, Eclipse IoT is the leading open source community focused on IoT.
Since joining the Eclipse IoT community, Bosch has created six different IoT open source projects and contributes to many other Eclipse IoT projects. The Bosch projects started with source code contributions from existing Bosch commercial projects. The open development process used by the Eclipse projects has been adopted by the Bosch.IO product development teams. Many of the Bosch IoT Suite commercial products are now based on Eclipse IoT projects. Using an open development model allows Bosch customers to benefit from a more transparent and collaborative development process but at the same time rely upon the quality and service level Bosch provides for their commercial products.
“Eclipse IoT is a great platform for collaboration,” states Buck. “Our developers enjoy working closely with this community. We also find the open source development model is very attractive to recruit new developers who might want to join our company. Developers are keen and eager to work on open source, and are honored to be a part of it.”
Bosch now has more than 60 developers working on Eclipse IoT projects, and has contributed around 1.5 million lines of code to the open source projects. Bosch.IO CEO Stefan Ferber, a member of the Eclipse Foundation Board of Directors, and Caroline Buck, a member of the Eclipse IoT Working Group Steering Committee, both join forces to provide strategic direction to the open source IoT community. Bosch’s participation has helped to make Eclipse IoT an important source of IoT technology for the industry. Bosch’s leadership in Eclipse IoT has also helped position the company as a leader in the IoT industry.
Benefits of Open Source
Bosch is clearly seeing the benefits of their open source strategy and participation in the Eclipse community:
- Moving to an open development model and using open source technology has increased its attractiveness for software engineers, significantly improved the software quality and incorporated the knowledge of the industry’s best talents for Bosch’s commercial solutions, without the need to have them all on the Bosch payroll.
- The Bosch developers benefit from the community feedback, testing, and code contributions made to the Eclipse IoT projects.
- Bosch has improved the efficiency of their development teams by reusing other open source projects in their commercial products.
Commercial customers of Bosch IoT Suite are providing positive feedback to Bosch’s open source strategy:
- Companies who are looking to use an IoT platform view Bosch’s reliance on open source as a way to provide them with more freedom of choice.
- Customers can benefit from using Bosch IoT Suite and at the same time have an opportunity to contribute to the open source projects used by Bosch.
- This allows customers to gain influence over future releases and participate in a more transparent development process of the commercial product.
Open source has allowed Bosch to increase their pace of innovation by collaborating with other leaders in the IoT industry:
- The Eclipse IoT Working Group has made it easier for Bosch to collaborate with companies, such as Red Hat, Sierra Wireless, Cloudera and others.
- The Eclipse Foundation’s clear rules for IP sharing and decision making make it easy to quickly start open collaborations with other organizations.
Bosch also sees significant value in the services provided by the Eclipse Foundation:
- The Eclipse legal and intellectual property processes provided Bosch full compliance with anti-trust laws and the legal assurance that they can successfully embed open source technology into their commercial products.
- The Eclipse development process has been a set of best practices that have guided Bosch developers during the process of starting open source projects.
- Finally, the Eclipse IoT Working Group has been very successful in promoting the open source projects and attracting new developers and users to the IoT technology. This helps Bosch gain adoption of their projects, which in turn helps with promoting their commercial products.
Some of the faces behind our open source projects
A bright future for Open Source and IoT
Bosch sees a bright future for open source and IoT. Their initial strategy of using open source to create an IoT platform is paying off. The plan is to continue to participate in the open source community and create innovative solutions that will benefit their customers and the industry.
“We have accomplished so much since we began our open source strategy at Bosch,” concludes Caroline Buck. “Open source development has enabled us to transform how we build software internally and it is making our organization a better product company. Any company that is serious about IoT should consider an “open source first” strategy. If you are planning to do open source IoT, then Eclipse IoT is THE community we recommend.”
Bosch projects at Eclipse IoT
Eclipse Hono provides remote service interfaces for connecting large numbers of IoT devices to a back end and interacting with them in a uniform way regardless of the device communication protocol. Bosch IoT Hub is the commercial product based on Hono.
Eclipse Vorto allows device manufacturers to easily describe device functionality and characteristics as device information models and manage them in a central repository. Vorto provides convenient tools for IoT device developers to convert device information models to source code that runs on the device or gateway, easing the integration with IoT platforms, such as the Bosch IoT Suite. This enables IoT solution developers to easily integrate devices into their IoT solutions.