Seeding an Open Marketplace for IoT Edge Computing

By September 19, 2018Blog

Guest post by Jason Shepherd, EdgeX Foundry Chair of the Governing Board and Dell IoT and Edge Computing CTO

Hello Members and Friends of the EdgeX Community,

I hope you’ve had a great summer with friends and family. As we head into some big project announcements at IoT Solutions World Congress (SWC) in Barcelona from October 16-18, I wanted to take the opportunity to make sure you’re aware about a few member opportunities.

First, a quick update on the project momentum. We’re seeing a big ramp in the number of unique code contributors on the heels of the switch to Go Lang for the baseline reference implementation in our recent ‘California’ release. We’re now approaching 70 as of this month. Net-net, more and more people by the day are seeing the benefits of our approach to facilitating greater interoperability at the IoT edge!

As a result, some very large names will be announced as new project members at IoT SWC on October 16. We see many more on the horizon as the word continues to spread and the community meets commitments on delivering a high quality foundation to facilitate interoperability across the complex IoT landscape.

The community has chosen to organize around an October/April semi-annual release cadence, so the Delhi runway is a little shorter. Still, we’re going to see some major enhancements including the first management features, more security enhancements, C and Go Lang-based Device Service SDKs and a reference GUI for demos and simple deployments.

The latest project overview deck including more on progress to date and where we’re headed can be found here.

Other big news at IoT SWC will be the impending release of Delhi code, the launch of our community demonstrator to showcase the value of the project and enable future plug-fests and hackathons, EdgeX developer kits and more Vertical Solution Working Groups (VSWGs). I’ll focus on the latter two for the rest of this project update.

EdgeX-enabled Dev kits

The IoT journey often starts with an aspirational view seeded through a simple PoC to work through architectural and business model considerations before scaling up into deployment. Low-cost developer (dev) kits comprised of a board, collection of pre-integrated sensors and integration with an IoT platform stack are great tools to enable software developers to quickly prototype their ideas with a “fail fast” mentality.

However, the plethora of dev kits out there typically lock the developer into a particular backend platform or cloud. In comparison, kits based on the EdgeX Foundry framework will provide developers with complete freedom of choice, backed by the vendor-neutral EdgeX APIs that bind together choice of devices and applications regardless of protocol, OS, or underlying hardware used.

These dev kits and associated plug-in value-add will give developers confidence that they can prototype with their choice of ingredients while taking advantage of plug-in components from the growing EdgeX ecosystem. And perhaps more importantly, they’ll be able to readily swap out elements later as they optimize their solution and ramp into production and day to day operation.

In all cases these EdgeX dev kits will enable developers to innovate rather than reinvent. The following is a high-level summary of benefits specific to two key personas:

Benefits for end-user developers:

  • Get started developing your IoT solution at a low cost of entry while maximizing options from edge to cloud and minimizing potential for vendor lock-in
  • Facilitate integration and build/buy/partner decisions by tapping into the open ecosystem
  • Have confidence that the foundation of your PoC efforts has staying power due to backing from a growing, vendor-neutral community

Benefits to developers with IoT ecosystem providers (e.g. Device Makers, OEMs, ISVs, SIs):

  • Realize drag from end-user developers earlier in their PoC efforts without having to support myriad custom integrations with your commercial offerings
  • Grow your business faster via the network effect stemming from an open ecosystem with transparent and trusted security and manageability
  • Influence the development of an open commercial marketplace for EdgeX-certified components

More detail can be found in the overview deck. As highlighted, there will be community and commercial tracks for the dev kits. For options in the community track the bill of materials will be purchased independently online, code downloaded straight from a special repository on the project GitHub and questions answered through forums like the EdgeX Rocket Chat. We’re going to start small here and let the open source contributions grow organically.

The commercial track will provide EdgeX members with the ability to seed the emergence of an open marketplace for IoT edge computing. In turn, this will afford end users with attractive options to get started with professional support so they can focus on their preferred value-add instead of working with open source code.

The dev kit program will also help shape the definition of the formal certification program within the EdgeX project targeted for launch with the ‘Edinburgh’ code release in April 2019.  This program will enable anyone to certify that their proprietary offer is “EdgeX-compliant” based on following the specified set of interoperability APIs in Core Services regardless of additional IP added.

 

This is why the project is called “EdgeX Foundry” instead of the obvious “Edge Foundry” – the “X” allows the name to be trademarked. Imagine that “X” on your website which gives your customers comfort that you’re part of a broader, interoperable and trusted ecosystem. Stay tuned for more on this front and we welcome you to get involved in the certification planning working group!

Getting back to the dev kits, there will be several options available to you as a Technology or Services provider in the commercial track:

  1. “Core”: Offered by a provider who’s supporting the baseline EdgeX framework in a ‘Red Hat’ model while ultimately being completely neutral to all value-add such as hardware, OS, connected devices, analytics, security enhancements, platform, cloud, etc.
  2. “Platform”: A kit linked to a specific IoT software platform or cloud, enabling the customer to dive right in with your offer while still being able to take advantage of the ecosystem of plug-in EdgeX value-add
  3. “Plug-in”: Discrete plug-in value-add for devices/sensors, analytics, database, security, management, etc.

The benefit here is the network effect, for example if you offer an IoT platform you don’t need to support the baseline open source EdgeX framework if you don’t want to. Instead, you could partner with a “Core” commercial dev kit provider and simply support an Application microservice for your platform that complies with the APIs in Core Services while leveraging the communication protocol of your choice (standard or proprietary).  In another example, you might be a sensor maker who only supports Device Services in your chosen protocol and programming language (plugging into others’ “Core” and “Platform” dev kits), and so forth.

In order to participate in the dev kit program simply get going with the EdgeX code to develop your offer, establish your preferred commercial terms and contact pr@edgexfoundry.org to let the Linux Foundation team know your plans no later than October 5 if you want to be included in the IoT SWC press release.  More information will be available publicly closer to the announcement.

Note that we’re limiting the benefit of advertisement of commercial dev kit offers through official EdgeX channels to EdgeX project members at this time in order to limit scope while we perfect the process. This ultimately leads to an open commercial marketplace, so get in early and ride the wave!

Vertical Solution Working Groups

The Vertical Solution Working Groups (VSWGs, led by Samsung) are an important function within the EdgeX Foundry project.  We’ve had groups for Smart Factory (Samsung) and Oil and Gas (NOV) for some time to work through the process and are now ready to start ramping more groups to accelerate the strong foundation we’ve built to date. The VSWGs serve several important purposes:

  • Developing unique requirements and code contributions for their respective markets
  • Feeding requirements back into the EdgeX core working groups to optimize the baseline framework to be suitable for as many use cases as feasible spanning Industrial to Enterprise to Consumer, including B2B2C crossover in the domains of retail, healthcare, insurance, utilities, etc.  After all, the true promise of IoT is bringing together a system of systems, and what better way to span private and public domains than an open interoperability framework!

We welcome any member to volunteer to lead a new VSWG or join one already in flight. It’s a great way to demonstrate thought leadership while making sure the EdgeX foundation has the right features and specific extensions for the verticals and use cases that matter the most to you.

We’ve talked with members that are considering working groups around Buildings, Retail, Transportation, Healthcare, Smart Cities and Smart Homes so if any of these areas or others interest you, join on in, or create one for another domain! It’s a low time commitment to help speed up time to revenue in your respective space, not to mention learn from and influence others focused on the same space through open, vendor-neutral collaboration.

To learn more or start a new VSWG please email EdgeX-TSC-Vertical-Solutions@lists.edgexfoundry.org.

Exciting times ahead!

In closing, we have a lot of great things going on as a community just 16 short months since we launched the project, and we’re just scratching the surface of the opportunity ahead. Our future is bright, let’s really put on the gas as we head into the tail end of 2018!

Regards,

Jason Shepherd

Chair of the Board, EdgeX Foundry