The Internet of Things (or IoT) is the new big thing in the evolution of technology. The idea that connected smart objects can communicate and work in complete synergy to help make human life easier, safer, and more efficient is no longer a pipe dream but one that is on the cusp of being realized.
The potential for IoT to change our lives is immense. The range of applications of this technology are almost unfathomable, and won’t just improve daily life functioning but drastically alter the way we live.
A dazzling hope for a smarter, more connected future beckons, but there is one big hurdle that we, as a civilization, have to clear before we get there. With a multi-platform technology as widespread as IoT, the idea of throttling it with licensing and the restrictions of negotiating the use of software and tech bound by laws of proprietary ownership is one that just won’t work.
In recent times, the use of Apache web servers, Linux-based database servers, and the overwhelming popularity of Android are all very clear indications that when it comes to devices and platforms that rely on extensive connectivity to function at peak efficiency, open source is the only way to go.
Based on these examples, we can glean the many reasons why open source and IoT go hand-in-hand.
Benefits of an open source IoT infrastructure:
When it comes to IoT, you cannot have a system where every connected device is based by just one brand. After all, in a connected home, for example, the same company that makes a smart refrigerator might not be able to make a smart bed; and even if they do, it probably will not be the most comfortable one. The skillset required to develop one is far too different from the other, and we are not even talking about light bulbs or air conditioning or microwaves or showers or automated garage doors yet. And this is just connected homes, one very small aspect of the complete IoT experience. When you think about the sheer scale of operations that the full-blown IoT vision is based on, open source is the only solution. The number of different working components that have to be in perfect synergy for an immersive IoT experience is so convoluted that no matter how hard a single party tries, they will have to look outside their limited sphere of capabilities to really make things work.
Having so many objects directly monitoring your day-to-day habits and personal ticks is risky, and could make you vulnerable to security threats. This is another major reason to embrace open source. With open source, all potential security threats, all unintentional backdoor vulnerabilities, and all the soft spots potential misc reants could target are being looked at by developers across the globe. This means any risks can be flagged immediately and fixed before they cause any real damage.
The same set of functions from an IoT infrastructure might not be as applicable to say a tier-two city in India as they are to a metro in Europe. The option to customize and optimize the framework to suit its audience can only be fully realized in an open source environment.
In a more macro sense, while the priorities of each geographical region may not be the same, that logic applies to individuals as well. What two neighbors in the same community may or may not want from their IoT systems could be completely different based on their lifestyles, careers, tastes, preferences and more. Open source allows for a much higher degree of customizability than a vendor-owned option, which means everyone can make their technology work optimally based on what they want, rather than conforming their lives based on what the vendor’s vision is for the technology. And isn’t this what IoT is all about? Making everyone’s lives easier!
Using the same logic as for the security aspect, open source is the quickest path to development and enhancement. With the creative nous and varied perspectives of developers working towards creating innovations and ideas that could further improve different aspects of IoT, the possibilities are limitless. The ideas generated and visions applied will help drive the IoT movement further and in a completely organic fashion.
It is a given that certain problems will crop up in any technology-based infrastructure. With a closed source technology though, there is only one entity that can solve the problem – the company that developed the technology in the first place. This means restrictions based on the bandwidth their customer support infrastructure has, the availability of a technical resource (well-versed enough in the technology’s capabilities), be it hardware or software, and how much time they have. In open source, you are connected to millions of people using the same technology, and can identify your problem and help. It happens all the time, you only need to log into any Linux support forum online to see this.
When the technology used is widely available, the cost will remain competitive. Take the current smartphone market as a case study. The price range at which you can buy an Android phone is staggering. Compare that to an iPhone and you know which platform wins the cost-effectiveness race. There is a reason for this and that is the open source nature of Android. The same principles will apply in IoT as well.
There’s no doubting that the future is IoT, but for IoT to be as intuitive and all-encompassing as it is being touted, it needs to be propelled forward through the democracy of open source.
Venkat Srinivasan works as a Director, Marketing & Corporate Communications at iXtentia. iXtentia, is a division of Extentia Information Technology offering IoT services.