IoT Needs Open Source Solutions to Succeed

Ian Skerrett

Ian Skerrett

July 9, 2014

This is a guest post by Ian Skerrett, who runs marketing activities for the Eclipse Foundation. He supports projects and member companies to increase the awareness of all the cool stuff happening at Eclipse.


Eclipse is a community for individuals and organizations who wish to collaborate on commercially-friendly open source software.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the current ‘in thing’ for the technology industry. Vendors large and small are rushing in with products and solutions ranging from wearables, to connected cars, to industrial automation.

IoT is impacting a wide range of industries and will have lasting impact for years to come. However, to ensure this success, the IoT will need to embrace open standards and open source software.

Being Open Wins

The current IoT industry is characterised by a number of proprietary solutions from companies that might have an open API, but no chance of connecting or communicating with another proprietary solution. In essence, we have a number of solutions to build Intranets for Your Things. We need to do better, and an open approach is the way to go.

The IoT industry needs to learn from the history of the Internet: being open wins. We would not have the Internet we have today if Tim Berners-Lee decided to patent his inventions and start a VC-funded company to take on Compuserve or AOL, the giants of the day. The Internet runs on open source implementations (ex Linux and Apache http) and open standards. To succeed, IoT will need to do this, too.

For IoT to succeed, interoperability must be a given.

Building Blocks

I advocate focusing on a core set of open building blocks and tools that will be used industry-wide, based on:

  • Open standards
  • Open source implementations of these standards
  • Open source frameworks that make it easy for developers to build IoT solutions

No single company should control these building blocks and certainly no one company should profit from them. The building blocks need to be open for anyone to use, without having to ask for permission.

Developers are the Engines of Innovation

Developers will be the driving factor that compels the IoT industry toward an open approach, because they are the engines of innovation and adoption. To attract developers to a new technology, you need to have very low barriers to entry. Open source provides the perfect mechanism for engaging with developers and keeping barriers to adoption very low.

Openness for IoT is Underway

Companies and individuals are already building an open community for IoT. The Kinoma team inside Marvell has started the steps down an open road.

At Eclipse, we are building an open source community to provide some of the basic technology building blocks for IoT. Eclipse IoT has 15 different open source projects, including implementations of popular open IoT standards, MQTT, CoAP, and Lightweight M2M. We also provide open source frameworks for building IoT gateways, home automation solutions and SCADA solutions. The goal is to become the place for developers and companies to collaborate on building open source technology for IoT.

A Two-Year Migration

Over the next one to two years, expect to see the industry migrate to a more open approach. The current closed proprietary approach is too expensive and complicated for anyone to implement. History has demonstrated that open wins.

Open standards and open source must be part of the industry’s overall strategy to ensure that IoT truly succeeds.