PORTLAND, Ore. -- The world's first App Store for the Internet of Things (IoT) was announced today by Canonical Ltd. (Douglas, Isle of Man) the makers of Ubuntu Linux. The company already has an app store for computers running the Ubuntu operating system, but the new IoT App Store will be for devices that have no graphic user interface (GUI).
Drones and robots are the first target for Canonical's IoT App Store. Use examples include loading an IoT app into your quadcopter drone so it follows you around (homing on the WiFi from your smartphone) to document your vacation with aerial pictures. Real estate agents could download a drone app that flies through a home taking pictures of every room. You could download an app into your kitchen robot to brew coffee so its ready to go when you wake up. Or an industrial user could download a robot app that finds and welds-up leaks in a pipeline. The possibilities are endless, according to vice president of Internet of Things at Canonical, Maarten Ectors.
"We give away the OS software for your IoT device, with the built-in capability to use a store to sell apps for it developed by anybody," Ectors told EE Times.
Robotic quadcopter produced using Canonical's Ubuntu Core.
(Source: Erle Robotics for the Erle Copter photo, and photo)
Specifically, Canonical gives away a new stripped down version of the open source Ubuntu Linux OS called the Ubuntu Core, which is minus the GUI and other memory hogging modules needed to run a full-blown OS. Developers use regular old Ubuntu (which by the way means "the universal bond that unites humanity" in South Africa where it originates) to develop their pint-sized Ubuntu Core OS for the IoT. Developers then use the plain-old Ubuntu to develop apps that run under the Ubuntu Core on the IoT and sell them in the store.
Ubuntu has already signed on the biggest developers of cloud-based apps by making its OpenStack the popular OS in public clouds like Amazon's and Google's. As a result, Ubuntu already powers smartphones, smart-TV’s and other devices focused on technology convergence. Canonical is also developing its own smartphone brand to be announced later this year. In fact, Canonical was named the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for 2015 by the WEF. Now with the opening of its app store for any sort of IoT, including high-end wearables, Canonical is poised to skyrocket in popularity, according to Ector.
Odroid robot controller board produced using Ubuntu Core.
(Source: HardKernel for the ODROID board)
"Our app store takes care of all the details developers would have to waste time on, like bullet-proof security and automatic updating," Ector told us. "We expect Unbutu Core to be used in everything from smart-refrigerators, -diswashers, -vacuums, -set-top boxes as well as all sorts of commercial and industrial uses -- from agriculture to building inspection."
Unbuntu Core is available as open-source for both ARM- and x86- IoTs and high-end wearables (its overkill for single-user unconnected wearables since it takes up 40 Mbytes). Hardware developers can use the $35 ARMv7 Odroid-C-1, Beaglebone Black or the Raspberry Pi boards to get a quick start. App developers will be able to prototype apps on their own Ubuntu-powered computer, test and validate on Canonical's cloud, then immediately deploy in its IoT App Store. Users can also deploy from their own cloud with an open-source ownCloud kit from Canonical.
Canonical was founded by entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth who was the first African to go to space (on a Russian Soyuz mission). Ubuntu is the foundation of the Open Source Robotic Foundation, according to Shuttleworth, The first member of the IoT App Store is the Erle-Copter as the world’s first Ubuntu Core powered drone. The second will be a new version of the Ninja Sphere, a smart mobile robotic device with sensors and navigation.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times