I have been interested for a while now about the integration of cloud services to the embedded systems that traditionally haven’t been able to communicate in anyway. Naturally, I’m not alone in this interest of course and that is for the good and if you are reading this article it’s a very good chance that you have an interest in the topic as well.
My master’s thesis was a mapping study of embedded systems that have been enhanced by the cloud and connectivity in general. I was also interested the current state, development, benefits and problems of these systems. One of the key issue that I found was the lack of industry supported, open protocols that would allow more ubiquitous connectivity. Different manufacturers use different protocols that cannot communicate with each other like for instance any Wi-Fi or Ethernet connected device supporting common protocols can.
So, the issue is not that there aren’t any industry supported protocols but rather that those protocols are fragmented and at times very jealously guarded. Good examples are the protocols used by Belkins WeMo and Phillips Hue. These are not by far the worst offenders since both of them offer an API. I have experimented with Hue’s Bridge API which is implemented as a very elegant RESTful web-service. However it’s still unique only to Hue.
Recent news from the Linux Foundation gives hope. The foundation and several big players in embedded devices industry such as Qualcomm, LG, Panasonic, Haier, Silicon Image and TP-LINK, Cisco, Sears, and Wilocity have formed the AllSeen Alliance, that is according to the Verge-article is “dedicated to building and maintaining an open-source framework that lets devices of all shapes and sizes seamlessly communicate with each other”.
The foundations efforts are initially based on the Qualcomm’s existing AllJoyn open source project. Qualcomm demonstrated the fruits of the technology all ready last years CES. These were just demonstrations though.
Cloud enhanced embedded systems, Internet of Things and the like are on their infancy. The academia has proposed many ways connecting embedded systems, there is excitement and experimental projects. There are even some consumer products such as the previously mentioned Hue lights, WeMo switches, Withings scales and so on. They are accessible from the Internet and their connectivity provides extra value to otherwise quite traditional products. However, they are still playing comfortably in their own sandboxes and not extending their services to other devices. The true revolution happens when something pushes these devices to out of their sandbox and into the wilderness of technology where collaboration can save (your devices) life.
I will be keeping an eye on the project and I sincerely hope success for it. This is an opening. We have had these before. But when the time is right I’m predicting a bright future to this category of devices and systems.
AllSeen Alliance: https://allseenalliance.org