Whether it has been referred to as IoT, M2M, or simply connected devices, the Internet of things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) have been around, and evolving for a long time. For years, the movement to turn every day objects, sensors, and just about anything else worth tracking into a digital product seemed to be building an impressive head of steam, but never really lived up to the hype.
At one level, the lack of growth is confusing. Costs have been falling, making sensors much more reasonable to deploy at scale, mobility is almost ubiquitous, batteries are lasting longer, the computing power for big data and analytics is broadly available, and the cloud is mature and stable.
So What’s the Hold Up?
In the consumer space, growth of IoT has been limited for a broad variety of reasons from privacy fears to lackluster use cases with little discernable progress year-over-year.
The challenges of Industrial IoT (IIoT) are somewhat different than the woes of the consumer space. There’s no shortage of incredibly compelling applications, but because IoT is inherently heterogeneous, many different tools and skill sets are required to address a myriad of industry verticals and use cases. Additionally, while IoT standards work is progressing, there will always be widespread fragmentation in connectivity and developers will have varying preferences for coding and application environments. To further complicate things, there is no line of sight to consistent operating system choices across Linux, Windows, and embedded/RTOS variants.
In the IIoT space, the closer to the edge you go, the more complex these problems get. At the cloud level, there are standardized protocols, networking is entirely IP-based, computing is in secure areas, and there is wide use of APIs. Conversely, in the fog, core, and edge, there are hundreds of protocols in use, there’s a mix of IP and non-IP connectivity, nodes are widely distributed and often not physically secure, and there’s spotty use of APIs.
IIoT: What’s Being Done?
Earlier this year, a vendor-neutral, open source project hosted by the Linux Foundation called EdgeX Foundry was launched. Their vision is to create a common interoperability framework that enables an ecosystem of plug-and-play, “EdgeX Certified” components. In other words, they’re developing standards to accelerate IIoT adoption by removing the pain points we discussed previously.
NetFoundry became part of the community along with over 50 other EdgeX Foundry members shortly after its inception. NetFoundry supports the EdgeX Foundry community by delivering:
- Private connectivity atop the public Internet, carrier agnostic, across any mix of access networks
- Military-grade security, manageability and reliability, extensible for unique market needs
- Agile, infinitely and easily scalable, cloud-native deployment, using common developer/DevOps tools
Rapid Progress, Realized
In just a few months, community members have demonstrated amazing leaps forward. During a recent local hackathon, the Dell client CTO team completed a unique interface for interacting with sensors and devices that interoperate through the EdgeX framework. The result was an amazing augmented reality (AR) interface to observe the readings coming from sensors and actuate the devices with hand signals. Take a look at the video below demonstrating several things being controlled by the Dell AR app integrated with EdgeX.
EdgeX helps to normalize control of the edge to a common set of easy to use APIs regardless of the underlying communication protocols. This demo shows how those APIs allow some wonderfully new and imaginative ways to visualize and control resulting data feeds. EdgeX helps users stop reinventing and instead focus on innovation, and the work is clearly paying off.
The work being done by the EdgeX Foundry community will continue to accelerate IIoT adoption, ease implementation, and foster innovation, and we here at NetFoundry are proud to be a part of it.
To learn more about the Dell AR app, check out this blog post by Marc Hammons and Tyler Cox (Dell Client CTO Software Architecture Team).