GE and Bosch Software Innovations this week announced a partnership to jump-start the development of an open source Internet of Things platform.
Open source will encourage greater interoperability and application development, the companies said. Both firms have sought help from the Eclipse Foundation to speed up the process.
Under the agreement, the companies will create a core IoT stack comprised of open source software. The stack will provide interoperability between GE’s Predix operating system and the Bosch IoT Suite.
GE Digital and Bosch Software Innovations will develop complementary software services for each other’s cloud platforms to improve services for a wider customer base.
“This is a high-value initiative that should be of great interest to the Java, IoT and embedded developer community,” said Azul Systems CEO Scott Sellers.
“The Eclipse Foundation has been at the forefront of helping to improve the IoT developer ecosystem for some time, and this is a continuation of that trend,” he told LinuxInsider.
The goal is more to test the waters than push for leadership in creating an open source IoT standard, said Matt Jennings, regional president of the Americas for Bosch’s Software Innovations division.
“Creating an open source standard from this partnership will have to be determined,” he told LinuxInsider.” We have to study the progress of the industrial Internet and make a determination if we can come up with a common form that will make sense in those environments.”
That exploratory attitude led to the partnership. The companies approached the common effort as two large industrial firms aspiring to support the IoT, Jennings said.
“It started to make sense, since we are both contributing to the Open Source Alliance, that we should start working together to eliminate redundancy,” he explained. “We could then do better work and work faster.”
The Fine Print
The software development includes enhancing work on several existing open source projects under the Eclipse Foundation. The software involves creating code for messaging, user authentication, access control and device descriptions, according to GE.
Not all of the software associated with the existing platforms at GE and Bosch may be open-sourced, however. Both companies probably will retain some parts of their existing software.
“We will have to determine where those areas of proprietary software are. I suspect that we will each retain certain properties,” said Jennings.
The Eclipse Foundation may come into play more prominently on connectivity issues. The foundation’s projects that focus on device connectivity include Eclipse Hono, Eclipse Vorto and Eclipse Leshan. Other Eclipse projects are GE-enhanced User Account and Authentication and Eclipse Access Control Service.
The GE and Bosch partnership is an interesting development, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
If the Internet of Things is going to work as envisioned, it needs to be based on open technologies supporting collaborations like the one announced by GE and Bosch, he suggested.
“In essence, the companies have agreed to pool their software resources to enable the integration of their own platforms and devices,” King told LinuxInsider, and they “will leverage Eclipse Foundation technologies to keep things on the up and up. In contrast, IoT solutions based on proprietary technologies or a single vendor’s platforms are virtually guaranteed to be limiting and prone to locking in customers.”
A Desperate Need
The need surrounding this IoT initiative is clear, noted Azul Systems’ Sellers. It responds to a need for more high-quality tools and developer platforms backed by innovation.
That only helps “accelerate the development of new devices and new gateways throughout the IoT,” he said.
Both GE and Bosch have developed Cloud Foundry and microservices-centric platforms, so the level of interoperability should be very strong, Sellers added.
Success Not Guaranteed
Companies like GE, Bosch and others have a great deal to win or lose based on how they deliver IoT to the market, according to Don DeLoach, CEO of Infobright.
That enables them to deploy IoT solutions that can facilitate leveraging the underlying utility value of their IoT data to maximize leverage and insight, he pointed out.
“While the idea of controlling relationships by locking in customers with proprietary platforms may have short-term appeal, the major players in IoT who see the long view of the market recognize the imperative for organizations using IoT solutions to interoperate,” DeLoach told LinuxInsider.
“I applaud the initiative and direction of GE and Bosch shown by this initiative,” he said.
The partnership gives GE and Bosch reach across global markets and industries. The resulting efforts should be both powerful and flexible, noted Pund-IT’s King.
“That should be particularly welcome among manufacturers and companies that wish to adopt an IoT platform and strategy that extends across all of their markets and areas of interest. The fact that GE and Bosch’s platform is not dependent on any specific IT platform will also appeal to companies that hope to avoid being locked into relationships with specific vendors,” he said.
As with all open source initiatives, the balance is between free downloads and an ability to secure long-term support as needed, either from the Eclipse — and Bosch/GE — developer community or direct from the vendors themselves, Sellers said.
The project is in very early days. Any number of barriers may spring up during the development process, noted King.
“It will also be interesting to see which, if any, vendors actively support or resist the collaboration,” he said. “The more the merrier, as they say, but some may consider what GE and Bosch propose as a threat to their own IoT hope and ambitions.”