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March 20th, 2021 - José Cruz - Wireless Rēbēl, Troy MI
Holt, Michigan USA
[Editor’s   Note :   This   is   version   2   of   an   original   post   from   LinkedIn   last   week.   Some   new   key   points   were   added,   and some   less   relevant   ones   were   edited,   ported   here   to   our   page   mainly   due   to   LinkedIn’s   post   format   tool   being   a   bit restrictive.   For   those   of   you   who   had   the   chance   at   reading   the   original,   congratulations !    You   will,   then,   appreciate   (and validate)   that   the   same   discussion   “essence”   is   still   here:   the   current   State   of   the   IoT ”   and   the   challenges   faced   by   all   who support   an   open-sourced   model   vs   those   that   do   not   (or   claim   they   do).   So,   without   further   ado   and   in   the   words   of   that illustrious Human Cyborg Relations  representative C-3P0: “ Here we go again .” ]   Since the term the “ Internet of Things ” (or IoT for short) was first coined by British pioneer  Kevin  Ashton  at  MIT  in  1999,  many  more equally coined terms have [re]surfaced as of late - with one particular mention : “ Open-sourced ”. And I write [re]surfaced ” because the term open-sourced, as some of you may already know, is  not  new.  Its  first  use  is  accredited  to Christine  Peterson  and  colleagues   more  than 20  years ago after Netscape decided to release their project source code  (for what later came to be Mozilla)  (1) and  as an  alternative term  to the somewhat  ambiguous  “ free software ”  one which some view problematic at the time.  In the end,  the  fundamental  goal  was  (and still is)  to establish  a  clear difference    between    proprietary    software    (or    code)    and    non-proprietary    supporters    that    make    their    source ”    code available to everyone. Let us start with some simple definitions (2) before we go any further. Open-source    denotes   a   software   (or   code)   for   which   the   original   source   code   is   made   freely ”   available   (following   the term’s   controversy   of   the   80’s)   and   may   be   redistributed   and/or   modified.   Popular   examples   are   the   Linux    operating system   (OS)   and   the   OpenOffice    application,   as   opposed   to   Microsoft   Windows ®   and   Microsoft   Office ®   which   are closed-source, proprietary ones. An   Open   System    is   one   in   which   the   components   and   protocols   (aka   the   set   of   rules   that   determine   how   data   is   sent and/or   managed   across   a   network   and/or   between   applications)   will   conform   to   standards   independent   of   a   particular supplier .   The   latter   part   is   the   one   which   I   believe   deserves   special   attention:   independent   of   a   particular   supplier(s),   or as some of us like to call it: “ no vendor lock-in ”. Fast   forward   to   the   present   day,   and   open-source   is   becoming   the   industry   norm    (3),   especially   since   it   offers   many advantages    over    closed,    proprietary    models    such    as    more    transparency,    better    reliability,    higher    security,    cost- effectiveness   and   faster   time   to   market   –   the   latter   three   which   are   personal   favorites   of   mine.   But   with   more   and   more IoT   projects,   players,   solutions   and   offerings   now   on   the   cross-hairs   of   every   tech   company   big   and   small,   there   seems to   be   a   misconception   (intentional,   or   not?)   that   every   open-sourced   offering   is   also   an   open   system,   where   every   player will   collaborate ”   with   each   other   and   everything   will   work   A-OK ”   –   in   our   experience   we   find   that,   with   very   few   notable exceptions, this is not the case. With   all   this   in   mind,   let   us   make   the   clarification   once   and   for   all:   An   IoT   solution   or   product   labeled   as   open-sourced will   NOT    automatically   render   said   solution   or   product   an   open   system .   Probably   not   a   big   surprise   to   the   many   that are following closely all the current affairs within AI, 5G and/or IoT. Not    too    far    off    from    the    same    IoT    open-source    discussion,    and    again    as    most    of    you    are    aware,    another    open technology   -   open   RAN”    (or   O-RAN    for   short)   –   also   looks   at   disaggregating   hardware   and   software    (in   the   case   of cellular   telecommunications)   by   bringing   new   vendors   to   the   mix   and   giving   telecom   operators   more   options   while breaking   the   same   vendor   lock-in ”   paradigm,   often   in   search   of   lowering   costs   (4).   But   just   as   the   case   with   IoT,   there are those pointing out still the #1 challenge is interoperability  (5). Which takes us back to the original discussion. Since   rēd   wireless’   humble   beginnings   began   in   2016,   we   have   seen   firsthand   the   still   ongoing   disconnect ”   in   the industry   between   wanting    to   be   viewed   as   an   open-sourced   player   (or   labeled,   piggybacked ,   as   such)   and   truly    being   one. After   testing   and   evaluating   dozens   of   open-sourced   hardware   manufacturers,   connectivity   and   network   providers,   data hosting   services,   software   and   developer   hubs   and   application   platforms,   we   can   say   with   a   great   degree   of   confidence that   each   open   anything ”   claim   must   be   taken   with   the   greatest   grain   of   salt:   from   nonprogrammable   open-sourced devices,   closed   firmware   in   open-sourced ”   hardware   and   highly   restrictive   open-sourced ”   networks,   to   questionable open-sourced ”   transport   implementations   and   little   to   no   documentation   in   open-sourced ”   applications,   you’d   agree with   us   the   disconnect   is   real.   And   this   is   not   to   say   that   interoperability   does   not   exist   at   all,   since   it   is   precisely   the point   of   open   technologies   to   be   interoperable,   end-to-end ”   as   we   all   like   to   call   it.   But   it   is   definitely   not   a   given,   not even with an “ open-sourced ” label on it. Based   on   rēd’s   extensive   research   we   believe   that   the   root   of   such   disconnect,   much   like   the   case   for   cellular   O-RAN   and other   self-labeled   open   X ”   solutions,   is   that   most   players   (or   pieces   of   the   puzzle ”)   want   each   to   create   all   the   pieces themselves   in   order   to   have   their   own   end-to-end   closed   puzzle ”,   albeit   one   based   on   an   open   and   interoperable   labeled approach.   The   sensor   manufacturer   (whose   primary   forté    is,   of   course,   sensor   fabrication)   now   wants   to   offer   the network   connectivity   and   the   software   platform   as   well.   Then,   the   network   provider,   also,   wants   to   make   its   own hardware   and   software.   The   software   developer,   in   turn,   wants   to   connect   everything   and   everyone   with   a   network   of their   own   and   diy ”   hardware…   you   get   the   idea.   In   the   end,   you   get   what   we   have   seen   for   the   last   years:   fragmented, closed   solutions   offered   with   an   open-sourced   flair   that   are   neither   interoperable   nor   open,   which   was   the   whole   goal   in the first place. Does   every   technology   offering   have   to   be   (or   will   be)   open   as   opposed   to   close   to   be   successful?   Obviously   not.   In   fact, and   at   the   time   of   this   writing,   Apple   is   currently   the   #1   most   valuable   brand   in   the   world    (6),   priced   at   more   than   $241B (with   a   capital   B ”).   And   yet,   as   we   all   know,   its   iOS    operating   system   is   an   entirely   closed   system ,   thus   ensuring   that   they get   a   cut ”   of   any   software   that   operates   in   their   ecosystem   while   giving   them   almost   full   quality   control   in   the   process (7).   And   from   Apple’s   shareholders   point   of   view,   and   all   mentioned   above,   it   makes   perfect   sense:   their   main   and foremost   goal   is   to   maximize   efforts   and   finding   new   ways   to   increase   revenue   by   owning   as   much   of   the   puzzle    as possible. But   even   the   most   valued   company   in   the   world   has   tried   to   label   itself   as   an   open-sourced   supporter,   stating   back   in 2015   that   it   was   the   first   major   computer   company   to   make   Open   Source   development   a   key   part   of   its   ongoing   software strategy ”   (8),   a   highly   controversial   claim   that   was   dialed   back   quickly   by   Apple   after   facing   the   (unsurprisingly)   collective backlash   from   the   industry.   It   just   goes   to   show   that   even   someone   as   big   (and   closed)   as   Apple   sees   the   value   in   being (or,    at    least,    being    seen    as)    part    of    the    open-sourced    community .    Take    note    of    that    last    word:    it    is    precisely    a community ”   of   startups   and   makers   that   are   already   expressing   that   the   world’s   most   valuable   company,   although enviably enough, is not the norm but the exception  (9). Taking   on   a   closed   approach   and   trying   to   amaze   all   the   pieces   of   the   puzzle   involves   a   huge   gamble   and   undertaking, which   in   the   case   of   IoT   includes   (and   is   not   limited   to)   hardware   costly   national   and   international   licensing   and/or certifications,   such   as   FCC   or   UL,   that   could   prevent   your   product   from   even   leaving   the   lab;   commercial   wireless connectivity   that   involves   some   basic   knowledge   of   radio   frequency   planning,   link   budget   design   and   antenna   theory that   is   not   as   trivial   as   asking   for   the   Wi-Fi   password   at   your   local   coffee   shop;   network   and   cloud   legal   understanding   of Service    Level    Agreements     (SLA),    Quality    of    Service     (QoS),    security,    risk,    backups    etc.;    and    software    and    application requirements   such   as   user   experience   customization,   scalability,   data   retention,   etc.   All   these   and   many   other   factors can    break    a    project    even    before    it    starts,    which    is    why    research    shows    that    more    than    58%    of    IoT    projects    are unsuccessful  (10). But   probably   the   biggest   risk   of   all   is   straying   off   the   core   and   original   purpose   of   the   intended   solution   or offering .   This   is   one   of   the   reasons   why   already   aforementioned   Apple   decided   to   delay   its   iPhone   5G   launch    until   late last    year    (11).    We    can    all    agree    that    the    iPhone    is    probably    one    of    the    most    advanced    technological    pieces    of engineering   ever   made   (and   this   coming   from   an   Android   user ! ),   but   in   the   end   it   still   must   be   able   to   make   phone   calls –   it   is   called   an   i   Phone ”   after   all.   In   contrast,   take   this   next   example   of   highly   popular   crafting   device-maker   Cricut,   well known   for   their   closed   sourced   software   model   approach   and   who   was   forced   to   completely   abandon   its   pre-IPO   “SaaS” master   plan    (for   now)   after   a   furious   maker   community ”   pushback   (12)   since   it   meant   forcing   all   device   owners,   millions of   them,   to   begin   paying   a   subscription   fee   with   highly   limited   use   that   was   not   previously   disclosed   -   until   now. Reminds   me   of   that   famous   Julia   Roberts’   movie   scene   moment   where   she   goes   back   to   the   store   that   had   previously treated   her   in   a   condescending   manner…   Big   mistake! ”.   Indeed.   And   not   just   simply   another   example   of   closed   vs   open ”, but   also   on   how   it   completely   missed   the   original   core   objectives   within   its   maker   community ”,   on   top   of   an   even   worse timing than Apple’s late 2020 5G iPhone launch. rēd   wireless,   very   much   a   part   of   the   startup   community   deemed   by   many   as   the   Backbone   of   the   U.S.   Economy ”   (13), decided   early   on   to   follow   an   open-sourced   business   approach   for   many   of   the   same   reasons   already   discussed   and since   we   are   not   hardware   manufacturers,   or   network   providers,   or   software   developers.   We   are   solution   providers, integrators   and   wireless   connectivity   connoisseurs    with   vast   experience,   obsessed   with   attention   to   detail   and   customer satisfaction,   seeking   to   leverage   all   our   know-how ”   and   combine   it   with   those   few   selected   hardware,   network   and software   partners   into   real ,   interoperable    and   open    IoT   solutions   –   sort   of   the   boots   on   the   ground ”   for   the   industry; the   fronthaul ”   for   all   customers,   ours   and   non   alike.   As   such,   it   is   not   our   main   purpose   to   advocate   against   a   certain business   model   over   the   other.   We   all   have   our   own   personal   and   business   biases   and   act   on   them   accordingly,   with   all the   good   and   bad   consequences   that   follow.   What   we   are   advocating   rather   passionately,   though,   is   for   all   of   us   to   do   a better   job   at   discerning   the   difference   between   them,   and   to   be   truly   open    (pun   intended)   with   companies,   associates, employees,   shareholders   and   customers,   especially   if   one   decides   to   jump   in   the   open,   interoperable   bandwagon ”,   sort   of speak,   to   promote   goods   and   services   not   just   to   startup,   small   businesses   such   as   ourselves   but   to   all   alike.   We   have been   fortunate   enough   to   have   a   very   handful   of   collaborators   and   partners   that   have   shared   in   this   endeavor.   But   we feel is not enough, seen evident by the industry’s gross miscalculation of connected devices by 2020  (14). Hopefully   this   sheds   a   bit   more   light   into   what   needs   to   be   done   before   we   can   have   truly   open-sourced   open systems ,   which   is   where   most   of   the   IoT,   AI   and   5G   attention   is   on   these   days.   This   will   require   better   efforts   put   in place   when   labeling,   promoting   or   featuring   IoT   (or   any   other)   products,   goods   or   services   as   open-sourced ”   when   they are   in   fact   closed.   If   not,   at   least   by   stating   the   difference   between   the   two.   rēd   wireless   is   committed   in   doint   its   part   in making   the   Internet   of   Things   live   up   to   the   expectation   set   forth   more   than   five   years   ago,   but   we   cannot   do   it   alone. Maybe the time has come for a new “ coined ”, global collaborative term to be born with a brand-new industry focus; so here it goes: The Interoperability  of Things? #5G #opensource #IoT #InternetofThings #opensystem #interoperability 1-https://opensource.com/article/18/2/pivotal-moments-history-open-source 2-Oxford Languages 3 https://opensource.com/article/17/8/enterprise-open-source-advantages 4-https://www.rcrwireless.com/20200714/open_ran/securing-5g-the-role-of-open-ran 5-https://www.rcrwireless.com/20210222/open_ran/solving-test-and-integration-challenges-for-open-ran 6-https://www.forbes.com/the-worlds-most-valuable-brands/ 7-https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/08/31/the-problem-with-apples-closed-apps-universe 8-https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/07/apple-swift-open-source-software 9-https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/21/apple-is-an-exception-to-nearly-every-rule/ 10-https://www.whyiotprojectsfail.com/ 11-https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-battles-5g-iphone-production-delays-pushing-on-time-launch-2020-7 12-https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/03/cricut-fully-abandons-plans-to-make-device-owners-pay-subscription-fee/ 13-https://www.inc.com/jared-hecht/are-small-businesses-really-the-backbone-of-the-economy.html 14-https://www.rcrwireless.com/20160628/opinion/reality-check-50b-iot-devices-connected-2020-beyond-hype-reality-tag10
Open Source ≠ Open System (aka The Interoperability of Things )
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