Olivier Pauzet • Vice President • Sierra Wireless
The Internet of Things is booming and with millions of devices to be connected over the coming years, many developers are focusing on the IoT opportunity. A recent report from Vision Mobile notes there were 4.5 million IoT developers in 2015, and the number is expected to double over the next five years. However, as IoT development continues to increase globally, the use of closed proprietary systems can hinder future growth.
There are many commonalities between IoT solutions across different applications—the need for wireless connections, communication between devices and back-end systems, and data collection/interpretation are a few examples. But the proliferation of proprietary systems that are often in silos makes developing and building these solutions more complex and time consuming than needed. In a fast-moving, fragmented industry, open source technologies will play an increasingly fundamental role in mitigating these challenges and enabling seamless systems to further fuel innovation.
One way to circumvent the interoperability challenge is by establishing and using standards. Thoughtful and collaborative standardization improves choice and flexibility. As a result, developers can use devices from multiple vendors to build a solution that is innovative and meets their specific needs. We’ve outlined a few key channels that are essential to unlocking the potential of open source in IoT development.
Standards are necessary across the whole ecosystem and are being addressed by the industry in multiple ways. For example, industry standards organizations, like oneM2M (a consortium of industry stakeholders), has developed technical specifications to address the need for a common M2M Service Layer that can be embedded within various hardware and software and relied on to connect a wide range of devices to M2M application servers.
Lowering the barriers to entry
Another complementary approach to standards development is the release of designs and specifications into the open source community as open hardware and interface standards for others to adopt. Examples include Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Beaglebone, which enable quick prototyping, as well as the mangOH open hardware reference design, an open source design that is more easily scalable in commercial settings and is built specifically for IoT cellular connectivity.
Open source platforms like these enable developers that may have limited hardware, wireless or low-level software expertise to start developing IoT applications in days—rather than months. If executed properly, these can significantly reduce the time and effort to get prototypes from paper to production by ensuring that various connectors and sensors work together automatically with no additional coding required. With industrial-grade specifications, these next-generation platforms not only allow quick prototyping, but also rapid industrialization of IoT applications.
Unlocking innovation with greater ecosystem support
On the software side, using widely supported open source software application frameworks and development environments, such as Linux—itself an open source solution—can be extremely helpful by providing developers the head start that is required to get a product to market faster. When it comes to proprietary solutions, support for its development framework tends to rest on the original vendor, whose agenda may not align with the needs of the community. Open source solutions ensure a future-proof investment and longevity, so that resources and tools are available and continually enhanced for years to come. Not only does it protect the time and investment made in the development stage of a solution, it also provides simplicity that helps accelerate innovation and time to market. Another advantage to working with open source software is that the broader base of developers working with the code can lead to greater scrutiny. This can often result in a more secure solution.
To further advance the industry, we must commit to a standards-based and open-source strategy. Not only will it continue to be critical to the health of IoT innovation, but it will lay the groundwork for real innovation. Just as it supported many other areas of technology development—including nothing less than the Internet itself—open standards are the key to realizing the unforeseen benefits of a more connected world.
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