Harness the Innovativeness via Open Ecosystem

One of the critical success factor for Internet of Things is to have a flexible and friendly Open Ecosystem.

“Control over the use of one’s ideas really constitutes control over other people’s lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult.” – Richard M. Stallman, pioneer of Free and Open Source Software

Innovation is highly likely to come from a garage than from a big corporation. Corporations tend to be slow in those areas. Garages seem to be the best playgrounds of innovators. The marketplace needs a way to engage and harness the creativity with lots of people and trying millions of ideas to see who gets it first. The winner will be the ones who can translate that into the industrial use and for healthcare use, retail use, etc. This might be the killer IoT application. The winner will be able to get lots of cooperation.

The technology war starts at the top with bigger players like Apple, Intel and Google. They want to dominate the market and grab the biggest piece they can by locking to one infrastructure. To create a massive of growth and innovation, IoT needs to be open. We recalled that HTTP, TCP/IP, DNS, IMAP, etc. are all free and open protocols, implemented by free and open software that dominates the respective implementations. The same will happen for the IoT. Much of the innovation’s success depends on non-proprietary standards.

We need a core set of open standards that will gain wide adoption among IoT developers. Today there is a lot of proprietary protocols and technologies. Currently, there is much movement and attempts towards standardising messaging protocols and device management.

It is much better to let people use their equipment and software the way that they want to use it than to lock them up. That is the same situation with the development of IoT now. Why should people be locked into one ecosystem? The best thing to do is create a system that is truly open.

History Is A Good Teacher – Proprietary vs Open Systems

History will repeat itself, as open source begins to take on today’s walled-garden core of IoT. Let’s take a stroll down the history where in IT space we see the fight between proprietary hardware with its free software. At that time, the hardware became open — i.e. the PC, and the software became a proprietary product — Microsoft. Later, software became open and free.

Next, the Internet services became proprietary walled gardens, as in Google, Facebook, etc. This is where we are today; so what’s next? The Internet services will become open. So the cycle seems to repeat – the same thing will happen for IoT.

As in early stages of most markets, there is a proliferation of incompatible proprietary protocols mainly because of the absence of well-established standards. Most market players are trying to secure their investments and market share by pushing proprietary platforms hoping to create industry standards.

However the market requires systems to be easily portable, integrate and interoperable; thus people need Open Systems. The first step in building standards is agreeing on what standards are required for the IoT. Then we need to get industry adoption of them. That is how the Internet was developed.

We are seeing a trend that much investment going into the IoT middleware development that involves activity among larger companies and numerous start-ups. The good news is that many of these platforms that emerged are using some common standards. Many of the middleware vendors are using open source but they are putting it within their proprietary software and brand as their product.

Are you one of the middleware vendors and developers? Share your thoughts here.

About the Author

Dr. Mazlan Abbas is an IOT Evangelist, Thought Leader and CEO of REDtone IOT. You can reach him on LinkedIn at or Twitter at . For further details, check out

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