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The role of open source software in the IoT

The internet of things (IoT) is creating ripples in the marketplace of ideas, enabling billions of web-connected devices to exchange meaningful information without human intervention. It has the power to revolutionize how customers shop, companies conduct business and hospitals treat patients. To ensure these devices can connect to each other properly, open source software will play an increasingly important role.

What is the internet of things (IoT)?

At its inception, the internet represented a one world telephone that connected people despite geographical constraints. Today, the internet transcends computers and users. More devices are connected to the internet than people. Cisco predicts 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, nearly five times the expected number of people. IoT represents a way for these devices to connect to each other automatically.

Take an intelligent device like a camera as an example. The camera monitors the road for congestion, traffic accidents and weather conditions. In the world of IoT, the camera relays that information to a gateway, combines it with data from other traffic cameras and forges a city-wide traffic system. This traffic system would be connected to other traffic systems. If a traffic camera detects a car accident on a main access road, for instance, that information could be sent to a city traffic system to post routes around the wreck.

What is open source software?

Open source software, on the other hand, is software copied for free. All software programs begin with a programmer writing a code. The developer pens a set of rules, called a license, so other people can use and change the code within certain limits. When a user makes a change to the code approved by the programmer, they become a contributor. The process of changing the original code is known as upstreaming, since it flows back to the original source.

To crystallize the concept, think of open source software as a form of crowdsourcing. Resource and community websites are prime examples, which enable users of various backgrounds to contribute to a single body of knowledge. No doubt misinformation can seep through an open source community; however, by the same token, an open source community allows errors to be spotted and patched in real time.

How open source software relates to the IoT

How does open source software relate to the IoT? Contemporary storage and processing devices cannot manage the amount of data collected by IoT devices. Advancements in computer science, from artificial intelligence to data mining, can discern patterns of information overlooked by standard analytic tools. Open source big data tools make the data readable.

Accompanying open source software are open source standards, which serve as a benchmark for updating and managing code. Open source standards provide a basis for communication among IoT devices. Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and the Linux Foundation, for example, are working on a project called IoTivity to provide a framework for connecting billions of IoT devices.

Open source software will also play a head role in the security of IoT. The open source model provides greater transparency from a security stance. Since big businesses often use open source software, competent security analysts typically oversee open source projects. Developers and cyber-security experts can conduct security audits, which systematically review the source code for vulnerabilities.

Moreover, the two major technologies transforming the telecom industry, network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined network (SDN), rely on an open source community. NFV and SDN are two similar but separate concepts. NFV is the decoupling of hardware from software, whereas SDN is the centralization of networking systems. Automation will be needed to manage the network architecture as it continues to mature and grow. Open source controllers provide a platform to test the NFV and SDN infrastructure with ease.

A basis for IoT devices

A blizzard of information hangs over the IoT; open source software provides a way to manage the storm. Open source software and standards supply the means and basis to effectively manage the massive amount of data gathered by IoT technologies. To learn more, watch the video below.

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