The IoT will be built on open source

The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to become the next wave of technology to fundamentally change how humanity works, plays, and interacts with their environment. It is expected to transform everything from manufacturing to care for the elderly. The internet itself has – in twenty short years – dramatically transformed society. This scale of change and progress is about to be repeated, in perhaps even larger and more rapid ways. New ventures will emerge, existing businesses will be disrupted, and everywhere the incumbents will be challenged with new technologies, processes, and insight.

It is important to recognize that the internet is successful because it is one of the most radically open technology platforms in history. The fundamental protocols of the internet were invented in the 1970’s, and put in the public domain in the late 1980’s. The world-wide web was invented at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which made it free for everyone. In subsequent years, open source technologies such as Linux, the Apache web server and the Netscape / Firefox browser ensured that the basic infrastructure for the web is based on open source. The technology behemoths of our day such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter are only able to scale their infrastructure and their business models by relying on open source. In short: our modern digital world is built on open source software (OSS).

The IoT will be implemented using open source software platforms. There is utterly no alternative to this outcome. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.

There are four reasons why this is true.

1. Scale

Depending on which analyst you prefer, the next decade will see between 50 and 70 billion sensors being deployed on earth. This will require tens, if not hundreds of millions of routers, gateways, and data servers. There is simply no way to achieve those levels of scale without relying on open source software to drive the vast majority of that infrastructure. Any other approach will simply be unaffordable, and will be out-competed by the economies of scale achievable by the open source alternatives.

2. Freedom to innovate

Open source software allows permission-less innovation. In particular, open source allows innovation by integration, where developers create new and novel systems by combining freely available open source components. This approach is somewhere between difficult and impossible for proprietary software stacks, where the vendor has to drive all of the invention

3. Inter-operability

I am a big believer in open standards, and firmly believe that they will be an integral part of the IoT. However, it has been proven time and again that the best possible way to have a new technology achieve rapid adoption is by combining open standards with a robust open source implementation. OSS implementations provide an easy adoption path, near-perfect interoperability with others, and reduces the cost of entering the market. In a world where developers are becoming one of the most precious of commodities, it makes no sense to waste them on implementing a standard. They should be focused on building software which provides the firm with product differentiating features that customers value.

4. Developers

Lastly, recruiting and enabling developers is a key, and often overlooked part of any IoT strategy. By the end of this decade the number of IoT developers needs to grow from a few hundred thousand to over four million. Today’s developers demand open source solutions and tools. Even a decade ago, technology acquisition was largely a top-down process. Now technology choices are largely made bottom-up, by developers experimenting with open source components and integrating them into a solution.

For these reasons, IoT is rapidly becoming a strategic area of focus for the Eclipse community. From three projects two years ago the Eclipse IoT community has grown to seventeen projects, implementing protocols, device gateway frameworks, vertical frameworks, and tools for the needs of IoT developers.

Bosch has been an active member of the Eclipse Foundation since March 2010. Their initial focus was on the Automotive Working Group, which has been working on tools and methods for automotive embedded systems. Its subsidiary Bosch Software Innovations is driving open source platforms for the IoT. They have recognized its importance, and with contributions such as the Eclipse Vorto project are helping to make it a reality. The Eclipse Foundation values the partnership that we have with the development teams, and look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration.

The digital world we have today is built on open source technologies. The IoT will be too. Come join the Eclipse IoT community to help make that happen. See you at EclipseCon this week in Ludwigsburg, Germany!

 

About the author

Mike Milinkovich

Mike Milinkovich has been involved in the software industry for over thirty years, doing everything from software engineering, to product management to IP licensing. He has been the Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation since 2004. In that role he is responsible for supporting both the Eclipse open-source community and its commercial ecosystem. Prior to joining Eclipse, Mike was a vice president in Oracle’s development group. Other stops along the way include WebGain, The Object People, IBM, Object Technology International (OTI) and Nortel. Mike sits on the Board of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), on the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (JCP), and is an observer and past member of the Board of OpenJDK. Mike spends many of his evenings playing with IoT gadgets, and getting Eclipse software running on them. Mike is a guest author for the Bosch ConnectedWorld Blog.