Open source is the key driver for growth of any upcoming technology. Recently, this has been manifested in the area of Internet of Things (IoT), with the Eclipse Foundation. Set up in 2004 by legacy enterprise IBM, Eclipse has recently spurred the growth of a big ecosystem around open source IoT.
Eclipse IoT provides the technology for building IoT devices, gateways and cloud platforms and while it was seen as a celebration of Java, over the years the open-source project has become language-agnostic and has adopted C and C++ IDE system.
It’s long believed that IoT has its roots in the industrial sector, what with world’s legacy companies Bosch and GE unifying the fragmented IoT platform with their proprietary tools. GE Digital’s Predix platform made a lot of headlines in 2016, with AI and Machine Learning capabilities woven into it to sharpen its real-time optimization and analytics capability. While the German machine maker’s IoT suite is a platform for managing IoT device connectivity.
However, despite the staggering investment in trillions of dollars by storied companies and venture capital, Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation, who was present in India recently for the Eclipse Summit 2016, drilled in the importance for open source software at his keynote address. “But much of this investment in billions of dollars is ignoring one fundamental truth — the basic building blocks of the Internet of Things are going to be built on top of free and open source software. Business models that expect to achieve market dominance based on proprietary business models are going to fail.”
Why software licensing business model might not be favourable for IoT Industry
Essentially, when it comes to IoT, there is still no one-size fits all policy. According to a prediction by Juniper Research, the number of connected devices will cross the 46 billion mark in 2021, it’s a forecast bigger than all the previous predictions. Juniper Research also billed the revenue opportunity in IoT to be the tune of $300 billion. But as the number of connected devices increase, so do concerns about privacy and how to optimize them for target markets, how the devices will communicate with each other and how to accelerate the time to market.
Even though the market sentiment remains overwhelmingly positive about what with IoT grabbing headlines year long, Milinkovich drives home the point that for enterprises to make money, IoT will need to be open source. “There is no money in software. Business models of today are not based on software licensing. Anybody trying to make money by selling software that goes on devices is going to be dead and no one will participate with a vendor that tries to build a business model like that,” he noted at the summit.
There is no better eye opener for the inefficacy of the software licensing business model than the startling number shared by US Bureau of Economic Analysis that showed that computer software is now 0.7% of its price in 1980.
In his talk, Milinkovich who had past stints at Nortel, IBM, and Oracle before joining Eclipse Foundation lists down five major reasons for IoT to be open source:
1) To scale effectively, software has to be free: The writing on the wall is clear — there is no money in software. Milinkovich cites the example of big enterprises such as Facebook, Twitter and Google where all of the infrastructure that was needed to scale effortlessly is based on open source. “Google would never have been able to get off the ground if they had to pay Microsoft money for every individual server they were putting in their data centre. For the same reason anybody who comes with a business model that says we are going to put a tax on every device will lose out to a person who has a software that goes on the devices for free,” he cited.
2) Open source means innovation without permission: Open source enables a) Permission less innovation b) Innovation through integration c) Far higher levels of experimentation
“If you want to move faster and accelerate time to market you will need developers to come up with cutting edge solutions. The best part of open source IoT is developers doesn’t need to seek permission to mash up different pieces of software together to see if you can use them in a new solution, they can just go ahead and try it,” he said in his keynote address.
3) Interoperability is the way to save cost: Interoperability is the way for companies to come together and share the same implementation of the same standard and the cost of that implementation, if shared is close would accelerate time to market and save money. A recent example of interoperability in IIoT is GE and Bosch – the companies recently signed an MoU to boost the growth and openness of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
4) Internet of Things is not a Market, it is service driven: For enterprises to survive, they must understand that Internet of Things (IoT) is not a market in itself, it is an enabling technology people can use to build solutions for the market, or even build solutions for customers in market. It is an enterprise and customer driven technology. “Basic plumbing and basic infrastructure of IoT is going to be based on open source,” he noted. That’s why open source acts as building blocks on top of which they can build solutions.
5) Developers vote for the technology of their choice: According to an estimate by Vision Mobile, the IoT industry would require a whopping 4.5 million developers by 2020. Part of the reason why Open source is so successful and popular is that it brings down the cost of training developers significantly.
But that’s not all. Open Source is going the REST way. Milinkovich reminisces about the technology era in 2000, when the world at large knew SOAP web services. Then came REST, a similar competing technology which was better documented and the developer community embraced it wholeheartedly. “And a good example of that is MQTT first developed in 1999 and has been around for a long time in terms of its adoption as an open source solution for doing IoT protocol. It amply demonstrates how developers are voting for the technology of their choice,” he shared.
On the IoT ecosystem, Eclipse open source platform provide IoT development tools, communication protocols and application framework and runtimes. In order for businesses to be successful, Eclipse IoT is enabling end-to-end IoT solutions, right from software to run on sensors, to gateway management solutions and back-end infrastructures.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.