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Open standards will drive the proliferation of IoT

History has shown that in times of great change — when advances in technology promise to affect everyone and everything around them — there is a need for people to come together to help direct the development of such technologies for the greater good. One only needs to look back a century or so to see how communities focused on developing standards, such as the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (which included such great minds as Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell) which helped things like power and communications to propagate.

While it is often believed that proprietary methods of technology development yield greater performance improvements more quickly, the ability for these technologies to proliferate requires more open standards. Imagine if one house was wired one way and another down the street was wired another. How many different power companies would be vying for real estate to deliver their power to subscribers? Just imagine the confusion of wires overhead, not to mention how many different plugs the hardware shop would need to warehouse.

It happens with every great, new technology; from the internals of your home or computer to the sharing of voice, video and data over communications lines. A dissertation and theses paper published by Ramin Neshati describes the need for standards well: “Technology standardization reduces product incompatibility, increases interoperability, and accelerates broad diffusion and adoption of innovations.” Today’s globalization only increases the urgency of developing such standards.

The need of open standards for a technology like IoT, one that connects things everywhere, should be obvious. For IoT to really take off and deliver the efficiencies and productivity improvements it promises, devices need to be able to communicate easily and seamlessly. That’s why communities like the Eclipse Foundation, Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and Apache exist, to help those creating open source solutions for IoT to follow a body of standards to ensure things will work together well.

The Eclipse Foundation hosts a large community of active open source projects and is actively working in the IoT market to encourage the adoption of standards by both IoT developers and the IoT industry at large. It provides open source implementations for IoT communications and messaging protocols such as CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol), DTLS (Datagram Transport Layer Security), MQTT (a lightweight messaging protocol for small sensors and mobile devices) and others. The Eclipse Foundation’s IoT efforts are built around its Java/OSGi-based Kura API container and aggregation platform for M2M applications running on service gateways.

The Open Connectivity Foundation, which now also encompasses the AllSeen Alliance, is also focused on creating specifications and sponsoring open source projects to ensure that billions of connected devices, such as phones, computers, and sensors, can communicate with one another regardless of manufacturer, operating systems, chipset or physical transport.

The Apache Software Foundation provides an environment and platform where different companies and individuals work in an open and collaborative fashion. Whereas Apache is best known for being synonymous with the HTTP server, the backbone for internet webpages, it is also very active in the area of big data. The Apache code is a common base for many big data distributions. As such, the Apache code base provides the base API to program against, making it a de facto standard. Although Apache is not technically a “standards body,” its predominance in this area has developed a community which has it acting as one. One of the chief attractions to working with Apache for the development of standards is that it does not impose quite the same rigors as other standards bodies, thus allowing the standards to develop much more quickly.

At Red Hat, we believe that creation is always an act of collaboration and that technology thrives out in the open, where people are free to share their ideas and build on the work of others. We recognize that many are organizations are currently vying for position in this nascent market, working to develop the standards of the future. Not everyone will continue on. That’s why we work closely with a number of communities that we believe will be able to accelerate the adoption of IoT.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.