Internet of Things Platform Architecture

If enthusiasm means anything there will shortly be what could be described as an Internet of Things operating system. I reported Monday about a press release I received from the Linux Foundation about a “unification platform for interoperability of protocols for the Internet of Things.” As you may have guessed, I was less than impressed with the press release. This is the EdgeX Foundry.

So, I devoted an hour to Jason Shepherd, the Dell EMC director who is the driver putting this all together in Hannover on Wednesday. He brought me to an architecture diagram. I wish they had sent that with the release.

Internet of Things Loosely Coupled

By way of preface for the geeks in the readership, I refer you to a book, Loosely Coupled, by Doug Kaye. This architecture is an example of what Kaye thought was the future of IT and computing—namely loosely coupled applications.

The architecture is a loosely coupled system of data inputs in a variety of protocols, almost an endless variety, if you will, and a loosely coupled system of applications (gray) brought together by a set of services (purple)—which are open source.

In other words, EdgeX describes the Internet of Things ecosystem bringing in data sources from a variety of protocols, storing the data, performing analytics, and serving out for visualization and action. This action is performed within a gateway device, let’s say for argument’s sake, a Dell Gateway product.

And as a side note, it is capable of also doing control. Now don’t get all excited about that, yet, but you and I both know engineers who like to try out new things that may give them some sort of advantage.

Let’s Contextualize

To place this in a context, this is close to what Siemens is doing with Mindsphere. Siemens is trying to be open. This project is also open source, taking it one step further. Except that there is no company of Siemens’ stature on board, yet.

I interviewed a company called Exosite at Hannover, which is the technology behind the Parker Voice of the Machine (to be described later). This company is trying to do a similar thing, but all within its system. That is its competitive edge—debases and analytics.

Similarly, SAP brings data from lots of sources into its cloud where it can perform all the work with its system.

Then there is Cisco. It controls all the data flow on most networks. Tapping into that data source, it also is building a proprietary system that can do much of this.

Rockwell Automation can do some of this, but again, pretty much within its own ecosystem.

Meanwhile, GE Digital has Predix.

All of those have open connectors into their systems, but the systems remain closed within their own walls.

Thinking Radically

Let’s step outside the box for a second and consider what ExxonMobil is trying to do with its attempt to build an open DCS. There are many similarities to what Dell is doing here. I think ExxonMobil would have been further along partnering with Dell rather than Lockheed Martin who is taking it into the big company direction.

Shepherd and team have already amassed 50 companies committed to the effort. He thinks another 25 are close. Consider that, ExxonMobil.

Shepherd also thinks this is finally the ideal opportunity for smaller companies to disrupt the big company hold on the control market.

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