Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry injects unity into IoT marketplace

Ever wonder about all the fragmentation that exists in the Internet of Things (IoT), where there are myriad communication protocols? A new project in the Linux Foundation doesn’t solve that problem—if there is one to be solved, that’s debatable—but it aims to make it easier to work with all those layers.

Here’s the gist: A lot of enterprises know they need to get into the IoT game, but they’re reluctant to do so because it means they have to make a decision on which solution to choose and making the wrong choice could take a long time to undo.

The EdgeX Foundry is essentially saying they don't need to procrastinate anymore. It's designed to provide an open source edge software platform for interoperability between connected devices, applications, sensors and services across a range of use cases.

Dell is contributing its Project FUSE source code under Apache 2.0, consisting of more than a dozen microservices and over 125,000 lines of code, to seed the EdgeX project. Project FUSE was started in 2015 with feedback from hundreds of technology providers and end users to enable developers to build proprietary products and value-added services on top of an open foundation.

While there have been calls in the past for more unity among all the IoT standards, there’s a sense of resignation that just isn’t going to happen, even more so in recent times.

Linux Foundation Senior Director of IoT and EdgeX Foundry Executive Director Philip DesAutels, who previously was senior director of IoT for the AllSeen Alliance, once suggested that the AllSeen Alliance was helping to knock down walls with an interoperable protocol that would connect different devices from different providers via an open-source protocol.

But he’s become more and more convinced that sensors that monitor street lights, for example, do not need to talk to sensors that do other things, although they might need to interact.

“I don’t think there’s going to be one protocol at the edge,” he told FierceWirelessTech. “I think we’re going to see more and more of them. In the consumer space, that’s really a problem because things don’t work together well as a result. In industry, smart cities, it’s less of a problem. It really doesn’t matter that my street lights can’t talk to my sewer monitoring sensors directly, as long as the ERP system that glues them together can talk to them. That’s my contention.”

The EdgeX project is “solving a layer above that,” he added. If you accept there are going to be many different protocols and you still have a bunch of things that need to get connected, there needs to be something on the edge, such as a gateway, assisting in the process.

“What this project is doing is saying, hey look, we believe there’s going to be a lot of protocols at the edge. We need a way to plug those into a standard framework, let’s call that EdgeX for a minute, and that framework should have APIs that make it easy to add extended services on top of that framework to get more value. It should have a standard security model and a standard management model because that’s what people who build enterprise systems have and when we have that standard higher level services model on top, we should be able to plug in lots of services depending on what you want to do,” such as edge analytics or something around work flow.

The EdgeX project is designed to operate on any hardware, operating system or application environment for maximum scale. Connectivity can include existing and new IoT protocol standards as well as proprietary interfaces. Interoperability between community-developed software will be maintained through a certification program.

Some 50 companies have joined the EdgeX initiative. Dell is a founding Platinum member of the project. Other founding members include Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Alleantia, Analog Devices, Bayshore Networks, Beechwoods Software, Canonical, ClearBlade, CloudPlugs, Cloud of Things, Cumulocity, Davra Networks, Device Authority, Eigen Innovations, EpiSensor, FogHorn Systems, ForgeRock, Great Bay Software, IMS Evolve, IOTech, IoTium, KMC Controls, Kodaro, Linaro, MachineShop, Mobiliya, Mocana, Modius, NetFoundry, Neustar, Opto 22, relayr, RevTwo, RFMicron, Sight Machine, SoloInsight, Striim, Switch Automation, Two Bulls, V5 Systems, Vantiq, VMware and ZingBox.

Industry affiliate members include Cloud Foundry Foundation, EnOcean Alliance, Mainflux, Object Management Group, Project Haystack and ULE Alliance.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said a there were "more than 40" companies backing the initiative. It has been updated to reflect 50 founding members.