A high profile open source project working on software-defined networks has given birth to what could become an important standard for bringing unity to the fragmented Internet of Things.
A robust middleware platform can unlock innovation and fulfill the promise of the Internet of Things. Such an approach is the IoT Data Management (IoTDM) project, an open source middleware solution recently started at the Linux Foundation under the auspices of the OpenDaylight project.
OpenDaylight is the leading open source platform for software-defined networking (SDN). Its latest release is expected to be embedded in over 20 commercial products, and it is being embraced by other open source projects including the Open Platform for Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and OpenStack.
The core OpenDaylight software allows computer networking applications to intelligently access and configure hardware network elements. Similarly, IoTDM provides a service layer that acts as an IoT data broker and enables authorized applications to post and retrieve IoT data uploaded by any device.
IoTDM is compliant with the oneM2M effort which provides an architectural framework for connecting disparate devices via a common service layer where a given application can be associated with a dynamic network of users, devices and sensor data. The service layer allows users and operators to control, for example, how often a remote sensor captures data or to reconfigure devices with a needed security update. The oneM2M project is backed by more than 200 technology companies, standards bodies and government agencies.
The IoTDM platform can be configured for the needs of various use cases. It can deliver only IoT data collection capabilities where it is deployed near IoT devices and its footprint needs to be small; or it can be configured to run as a large, distributed cluster with IoT, SDN and NFV functions enabled and deployed in a big data center.
The ease of use of this middleware platform was recently proven when a group of Boston University students used IoTDM along with common mobile development languages and server-side tools, to build a pair of Smart Cities apps. Their work was showcased in the DevNet Zone for IoT hosted by Cisco at its annual Cisco Live event in San Diego in June.
These applications provided visualizations of mobile device positions on interactive maps of both indoor facilities and aerial/satellite imagery. They combined signals acquired from disparate things including Bluetooth low energy beacons, Internet routers, and GPS signals. To speed development, the students made extensive use of open source software including iOS and Android mobile location apps, as well as sigma.js and node.js to support the browser-based functions.
One application allowed users to search for other registered users on their mobile devices and view a heat map that displayed realtime people traffic and historical data. The other app provided visualization of the IoT network nodes and data including the applications, users, devices, and the aggregated IoT sensor data. Users could directly edit the graphical representation of the network, using a cursor to select specific nodes on their display for editing, as well as creating new nodes, or searching for nodes not displayed. In this way, users could easily add, update or delete data.
These applications were written by students and required 600 and 1,000 person-hours of work each. They are representative of future IoT applications that will easily combine data from multiple and disparate sources, providing insights that enable smart decisions. The underlying technology solutions that can perform the required data aggregation, sensor service management, and application integration are maturing quickly.
--Jim Ballingall is executive director of The Industry-Academia Partnership, an association of university professors, students and industry leaders in pursuit of common goals in cloud computing education, research and product development.