The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, is a promising branch of technology that together with Big Data is conquering the digital world now. The idea of smart interrelated gadgets and consumer electronics able to work independently has been evolving since the end of the 20th century. This technology has successfully resulted in a highly-developed far-reaching system of middleware between the devices and user applications. The universal popularity of the IoT strategy is easily explained by the fact that there are billions of devices worldwide in all aspects of human life: medicine, industry, commerce, farming, lifestyle, to name just a few.
You should bear in mind, though, that open source solutions are not totally equal to free software. The terms may mean the same and are used interchangeably sometimes. However, open source software (OSS) goes both ways: it can come to you at no cost as well as offer you quite expensive price tags. The difference lies in its open nature of the software development approach as it allows side code enthusiasts to easily join the programming process.
Needless to say, the majority of businesses treat emerging tech trends as an invaluable asset with an eye on their subsequent monetization. Quite obviously, some organizations opt for having the competitive IoT-backed solutions integrated with their processes, like these actionable use cases for Automobile and Sports industries. Some decide to double down on buying out or creating their own open-source platforms to maximize revenues. Either way, it leads us to the exponential increase of software development initiatives driven by IoT. Here’s a list of some facts that just add fuel to the fire of IoT-based potential.
- Gartner forecasts the rapid growth of connected things from 14.2 billion in 2019 and 20.4 billion in 2020 up to 25 billion by 2021.
- Many advanced technologies, like AI, ML, clouds, IoT, blockchains, are developed within open software platforms. In 2018 IBM buys Red Hat and Microsoft buys GitHub – the homes of contemporary software innovations for all branches of business.
- According to the Red Hat report, 77% of surveyed IT leaders plan to expand the usage of open source solutions in the next 12 months. 75% of respondents consider it very or extremely important.
- Open source-based business solutions are among the most discussed technological topics of 2019 alongside with cryptocurrency and self-driving cars.
- Here is an in-depth guide on how open-source software is used by major organizations like Google.
Open-source IoT frameworks to consider
Many companies look for the out-of-the-box open-source platforms while trying to find the best IoT tools that can provide robust analytics and interoperability between their connected devices. Let’s get a brief overview of the 5 most deployed open source IoT frameworks to see if they meet your business needs.
Price: by request
DeviceHive is an open-source IoT cloud service management platform, licensed under the Apache License Version 2.0, with a particular focus on big data analytics. This function-rich technology can:
- support Python, Node.js, Java and other client libraries
- provide scalable public, private or hybrid cloud resources
- support Docker and Kubernetes deployment options
- handle single and multiple production volumes at scale
- deprive of minor technical peculiarities
- connect any devices with REST API, WebSockets or MQTT protocols
- leverage the benefits of Apache Kafka, Spark and Cassandra solutions for big data analytics.
What is more prominent about DeviceHive is that it is mostly free to use and change, though also having fixed price services. Both professional developers and consultants support the platform’s implementation.
DeviceHive offers robust tools to set up communication between smart IoT devices. It fills the gap between cloud development, embedded, and mobile app development.
Price: from $ 650 /unit
ThingSpeak is a relatively young IoT platform that tightly collaborates with MathWorks. This gives the possibility to leverage from timely MATLAB data analysis from numberless sensors. The platform comprises:
- live data streams aggregation and analytics;
- data recording from public channels to be further used in newly created private channels;
- assignment of public channels to share data;
- visualization of collected data;
- updates of channel feed via the REST and MQTT APIs;
- MATLAB® online analytical tools for exploring patterns and relationships;
- TimeControl function that enables event-triggered alerts. To sum up, this framework’s biggest advantage is that it really makes things communicate with you.
Price: from $500 /month
Mainflux is an open-source and patent-free IoT platform that has a rich number of advantageous tools for data collection and management, core analytics, and event scheduling. No matter the industry, Mainflux provides:
- connectivity of things and users via HTTP, MQTT, WebSocket, CoAP protocols;
- device management and provisioning;
- container-based deployment by Docker;
- container orchestration by Kubernetes;
- enhanced data security with customizable API keys and scoped JWT;
- low OPEX (operating expense) benefits;
- both protocol and device agnostic.
This platform is written in Golang and can be deployed as an on-premises, hybrid, or cloud-based model. Prices may vary, starting from absolutely free-of-charge installation modes and support plans to fully-managed business and custom variants.
Price: from € 3.95 / month
Thinger.io is an open-source ready-to-go platform for cloud IoT projects. This software enables deployment through Docker containerization methods. Among its beneficial features there are:
- smooth multi-hardware integration;
- hardware support of Arduino IDE, Linux, Sigfox andARM Mbed boards;
- easy-to-use cloud admin console;
- live data streaming to websockets;
- device data visualization in the cloud via real-time dashboards;
- support of both iOS and Android mobile apps;
- IFTTT event-triggered settings for multiple IoT devices This OSS tool is highly sensible, easy-to-use, scalable, and secure. Both free and paid subscription plans are available.
Zetta is the first API-oriented open source IoT framework that basically serves for non-stop streaming loads of data. This technology is deprived of vivid data visualization but its main advantage remains “reactive programming”. The feature list consists of both commonplace and unique characteristics:
- smooth integration with customer’s business logic
- based on Node.js;
- harnesses Reactive Hypermedia patterns for data streaming;
- uses Siren Format to build a solid API for IoT devices;
- network protocol agnostic;
- secured connection between peering servers;
- consistent data transition over websockets;
- ability to send data to other analytical platforms;
- a SQL syntax for queries and notifications. No matter the Zetta community is comparatively small, this IoT dashboard open source counts a great number of devoted followers.
Utilizing OSS: Some benefits and drawbacks explained
At first glance, the IoT tools mentioned above may seem quite similar and enlist homogeneous features but these platforms can come in handy going far beyond. Alternatively to proprietary software, open-source technologies are completely customizable and scalable – as the code is open it can be adjusted and modified to the businesses' needs. OSS allows developers and enterprises to move between different frameworks without complications – the necessary toolkit provided.
With a great number of automated protocols and functions, open-source frameworks save much time for IoT engineers and tech-professionals. This IoT solution is better for handling deployment flexibility issues and reducing expenses. Being of the major priority, data privacy and security is the main standpoint of any business, so you may choose from diverse open-source framework vendors worldwide.
There are still some challenges you can face on this far-reaching way:
- Open means free access, i.e. contributors are not always specialists;
- Secure maintenance is always vulnerable;
- Data privacy gains a growing legal interest;
- A number of best open source platforms may cost a fortune;
- Bugs happen;
- The set of available standard features doesn’t fit all your business needs;
- Open source IoT platforms are not for a mediocre user.
Whatever you are looking for, remember that you may choose any way to materialize your business concepts and you are free to change your mind at any point.