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Open source hardware and software key to unlocking IoT development?
It’s so simple, really. What we all want is to build something that solves a problem in the best way we can. And we want it fast. And cheap. But it’s not so simple, after all. There are a myriad of combinations and permutations that will get you (eventually) from here to there. How can you ensure your IoT project gets off the drawing board and into the market?
Did you ever question about this -philosophical- issue? I did, and i’ve found an interesting perspective from Ashish Syal, Sierra Wireless.
Starting an Internet of Things (IoT) project is daunting. You may have an idea of what your end product or service is required to do (or you may not), but you don’t always know the best way to get there. So you start – you design a prototype, you source components, you build code, you test, and you find that the solution you thought you had just isn’t suitable after all – the connectivity technology you selected doesn’t work the way you need it to. So you start again.
And there’s the problem. Because of one component of your prototype, you have to start over completely, because your next choice requires a completely different connector, different hardware, and different code.
One of the ways the interoperability challenge can be mitigated is by establishing and using standards. Thoughtful and collaborative standardization improves choice and flexibility – developers can use devices from multiple vendors to customize a solution to meet their specific needs, and as a result, they can be more innovative and more cost-efficient in building their solutions.
Standards are necessary across the whole system 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. The group has published the oneM2M Release 1 specifications, which are available for download from www.onem2m.org.
Another complementary approach to standards development is the release of designs and specifications developed by industry ecosystem players into the open source community as open hardware and interface standards for others to adopt. This approach has been growing in popularity lately, with open hardware reference designs and open interface standards becoming more readily available, and with major industry players collaborating to support them.
Platforms like these enable developers with limited hardware, wireless, or low-level software expertise to develop 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 coding required. With industrial-grade specifications, these next-generation platforms not only allow quick prototyping but also rapid industrialization of IoT applications, because they can go straight from prototype into production.
An open source application framework also provides a wealth of resources, including online code libraries and developer communities, which give IoT application developers a head start in getting their products to market. One example of this, the Legato embedded platform, developed by Sierra Wireless and released last year, is free to download, can be embedded on any application processor and simplifies development of IoT applications.