IoT open source; advantages and disadvantages

When we talk about IoT (or the Internet of Things), we immediately imagine a series of devices – although IoT is much more than that, we often think of household appliances – working in a coordinated way, as if by magic.

But those who work with magic (like those who work with engineering) know that behind a great effect there is a complicated and laborious mechanism designed to make the trick work perfectly, and the audience is first surprised and then breaks into applause.

With the Internet of Things, it’s the same thing. Although we are still at the beginning of the development of IoT, in a few years’ time we will probably begin to be surprised by the amazing “tricks” it offers us, but these will not appear to us out of the blue, but due to the hard work of many people.

As with all magic, IoT must overcome many obstacles that are invisible to the viewer. We have already talked about some of them, such as interoperability. But there are also others: scalability, durability… The growth and commercial adoption of IoT will have to overcome many obstacles, and this is something that is a major headache for engineering magicians from the five continents. However, and for their comfort, some tools, such as open source, come in to help them.

What is open source?

In a very brief description, we can say that open source is a way of developing software based on collaboration between developers. The concept of open source is developed in the field of “free software”, and although it is not exactly the same, it is part of its philosophy.

So that a person can understand it: often, when a company creates software, it hides its code, so that the rest of the developers cannot know it or modify it. Typically, companies do this both for commercial reasons (they do not want their software for free) and to maintain the integrity of the code (they do not want it to be modified). And both are good reasons.

Free software, on the other hand, is intended to offer a development (usually free of charge) and leave the door open for programmers to make the changes they consider appropriate to the code in order to improve it.

There are a number of requirements for consideration of possible open source or free software, but it is not the subject of this article to develop them. If you want to know more about the subject, your pal Wikipedia offers more information about it.

How can open source help IoT?

As we were saying, it’s not easy to do magic. And if we have to put thousands of magicians together to achieve a great effect, it is much more difficult.

IoT involves and will involve millions of devices, created by thousands of different manufacturers. And many of them will have to work in a coordinated manner, transmit information from one to the other, so that the “magic” of IoT works as it should, how can this be done in this “Tower of Babel” in which each programmer, each engineer, each device speaks his or her own language?

One of the solutions (not the only one) could be open source. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which it might help.

– Interoperability

This is perhaps the main reason to talk about IoT open source. We have already mentioned it: millions of devices “speaking” the languages of their manufacturers – how can we make them understand each other? Open source may be an answer. Communities that work with open source use common standards and open protocols, enabling greater integration into their platforms.

– Commercialization

We have already said it: it is not easy to do “magic” in the field of IoT open source. Consumers want products that really improve their lives; otherwise, they will not adopt the Internet of Things, or they will do so in a very reduced way.

IoT open source could be a weapon to facilitate and accelerate the commercial expansion of the Internet of Things. And while it’s true that it often involves free (even partial) use, companies have known for years that there are many ways to extract economic benefits from software development.

– Innovation and renewal

IoT must, by definition, be a constantly changing technology, and that is something that closed-source codes make difficult. Open source, on the other hand, is more dynamic and continuous transformation is part of its DNA. Open communities and collaborative work are an ideal ecosystem to make software evolve, innovate and renew constantly.

– Sustainability when it comes to IoT open source

Closely related to the renovation. The development of IoT promises to be revolutionary and accelerated, and that’s fine, but the user doesn’t want the devices he has purchased today to become obsolete and useless within a few weeks. The flexibility of open source can contribute to a greater durability of your developments, through greater adaptability over time. Some have already said it: “reinvent yourself or die”. In open source, renewal is continuous and, therefore, its life is usually longer.

But, beware; it’s not all advantages

Or is there something in life that has no drawbacks? While open source may offer some benefits in the IoT area, it may also be hampered by disadvantages. Let’s get to know some of them.

– Higher technical training requirements

Not everyone is prepared to use open source software. In addition, proprietary software often offers training or support that is more difficult to provide if you choose open source software.

– Lack of warranties

In the area of open source “everything belongs to everyone” and “nothing belongs to anyone” at the same time. Often lacking a clear headline, open source also often lacks a manager to deal with problems that may arise, which can lead to mistrust among users.

– Lack of products

While some areas of open source software may grow rapidly, others may be less attractive and may not find open source solutions, or may be of lower quality than those offered by closed source. In particular, areas requiring high specialization often lack open source options.

– Changes in the environment

Sometimes, open source software ends up being acquired by companies, which then charge for its use. If this happens, there may be situations where a large structure may be working with open source and, in time, be forced to pay for its use or, on the contrary, may have to stop using it.

As you can see, there are reasons both to link IoT and open source and not to do so. And now that you know a little better the relationship between them, how about taking a few minutes to get to know Pandora FMS?

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