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The IoT will be built on open source

8 3 min
Young engineering students during IoT educationSource: offenblende

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. Interoperability

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, the IoT and open source

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.

More information on Bosch's open source engagement

We are unided! What the Eclipse Unide project is all about.

Eclipse Unide – Steps to understand industry devices.

How Eclipse Vorto is helping the IoT to evolve.

8 Comments

  • 3. March 2016 at 21:22

    I hope the Bosch Indego lawn mower’s API will be made public, so that the mower can be integrated into existing home automation projects e.g. the opensource software “FHEM”

    Reply
    • 23. April 2016 at 13:23

      There is an API, a MQTT-Adapter and an IFTTT-Adapter:
      https://github.com/zazaz-de/iot-device-bosch-indego-controller

      A FHEM-Integration is also “work-in-progress”:
      https://forum.fhem.de/index.php/topic,52143.0.html
      (German)

      Reply
    • 2. May 2016 at 13:02

      Both project’s are due to community’s effort – officially the API were not published by BOSCH.

      I hope that BOSCH will publish the whole API officially, so that connectivity will increase

      Reply
    • 20. May 2016 at 10:39

      Dear Greg, in our opinion eventually all IoT devices will have selectively open APIs. However, at the present time, it is a not a work package we are actively working on for Indego. We are however looking into linking Indego with the Bosch Smart Home system in the future.

      Reply
  • 21. August 2015 at 23:41

    Interesting thoughts, Mike and Stefan. I see the blog post ist a couple of months old, but I would still like to share some ideas and thoughts.

    I am an IoT enthusiast, building home automation solutions based on e.g. openHAB.

    IoT itself is still in its infancy, and the market is very fragmented, with lots of “closed” eco systems where users have to deal with vendor lock-in. At the same time, it is impossible to know which vendors and technologies will survive and succeed in the long run. How can you know that your investment in products of those vendors will be wasted in the mid-term (or even short-term)?

    This is where “openness” and open source comes into play: in a market as fragmented as this – give the users a choice on how they would like to integrate smart devices! Give them an API along with good documentation and examples! This will make your IoT device / product a potential success just by making sure it works everywhere, with every controller and automation solution.

    Just one example: among other things, I own a mower robot Bosch Indego Connect. Now, the “Connect” part does right now not make it a smart device – all I have is an app that can start / stop it. There is so much more value for the user if you had an API in place, usable by the end user.
    E.g. home automation systems know when its raining, so they could decide when to start / stop the device and actually perform that action, whithout the user having to do this manually.

    There is so much potential and value-add with providing APIs and an “open” system – for the user (see above) as well as for the product vendors (increased sales because the product is capable of being used / operated in whatever flavour users can think of).

    Best regards,
    Jens

    Reply
  • 31. October 2014 at 19:28

    Here is an open source solution to get you started:

    http://sourceforge.net/projects/openalerts/

    Reply
  • 30. October 2014 at 18:38

    Stefan,

    To fully answer those questions would require at least another full blog post! 🙂

    The road to an open source strategy always starts with adoption. In other words, step one is to seek opportunities for faster time to market and lower costs by using open source code in your products.

    Releasing code into open source is an important step in gaining adoption. Over the past decade, all software-intensive industries have seen a significant change in how technology is adopted. In today’s world, technology adoption is largely bottom-up. with developers selecting open source frameworks to increase their productivity.

    “Winning” in this context is determined by the use of your platform. For a software platform to be relevant and competitive, it needs to be widely adopted by developers and deployed in solutions. The incredible rate of adoption of Android is an excellent and recent example of this.

    I hope that helps!

    Reply
  • 29. October 2014 at 16:15

    Mike,
    Thanks a lot for your clear message. I think you convinced your readers quite well. But what is the next step? How do I get successfully involved into Open Source e.g. as a Device Manufacturer? What do I lose if I give away software or free API? How can I win here?
    Stefan

    Reply

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