The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

The Industrial IoT: A Consortium and Community Come Together

By Cynthia S. Artin October 11, 2017

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and EdgeXFoundry have announced they are joining forces to further both their similar missions to make it easier for suppliers of technology, equipment and services to build solutions for enterprises and organizations that are "industrial strength."

The world of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues to grow and spawn ecosystems, standards bodies, open platforms, communities, working groups, testbeds and more, in large part because it is nearly impossible to survive as a lone wolf in as complex and interdependent an industry as IoT and IIoT have become.

The number of IoT platforms on the market surged 25 percent between June 2016 and June 2017, with approximately 450 open for business, according to German IoT market research firm IoT Analytics.

The July 2017 report said platforms for industrial and manufacturing is now the largest sector, accounting nearly one third, followed by smart city (21 percent) and smart home verticals (21 percent). Previously smart home was the leading vertical.

But neither the IIC nor EdgeX Foundry are platforms, which is not to say platform providers are not part of either or both of these watering holes. Platforms facilitate security, monitoring, control, maintenance, and connectivity associated with IoT devices, with data, big data and analytics as outputs, providing the connective tissue between devices and applications. They blend up physical connectivity and digital computing, and while most of the brands in front of these platforms claim they make IIoT and IoT easier, a lot of businesses may be even more confused by the variety and combinations available in a still fragmented marketplace - ripe for consolidation.

The IIC and Edge X are different and the same, in that both are membership organizations, but with different emphasis. The IIC has been building a very active community focused more on new models in service of "transforming business and society by accelerating the Industrial Internet of Things," while EdgeX Foundry, a Linux-backed, open-source project has been "building a common interoperability framework to facilitate an ecosystem for IoT edge computing."

Under the agreement, the two communities will work together, according to their news release, “to align efforts to maximize interoperability, portability, security and privacy for the industrial Internet.”

Crossover between the people involved in both efforts has been inevitable, as they share a number of member companies in common including other non-profit organizations solving for IIoT. Based on the IIC's listing, there are nearly 250 members, and only a few weeks ago, the IIC announced a similar "liason" with oneM2M saying with a different flavor, providing feedback to each other on use cases, reference architectures, and technical requirements, and promising educational events including workshops, showcases and interop activities.

EdgeX Foundry, a much younger organization, established in Spring 2017 and introduced at the Hannover Messe mega-show for industrial technologies, has between 60-70 members at the moment, with large companies joining recently as platinum members, including Samsung, which is moving more and more into industrial IoT realms after being arguably one of the most successful companies in the early days of primarily consumer IoT, with wearables and smart home appliances.

So how will companies like Samsung, who are members of both organizations, benefit from a more formalized collaboration between the IIC and EdgeX?

“EdgeX Foundry’s primary goal is to simplify and accelerate Industrial IoT by delivering a unified edge computing platform supported by an ecosystem of solutions providers,” said Philip DesAutels, senior director of IoT for The Linux Foundation in the news release. “Formalizing this liaison relationship with the IIC is fundamental to unlocking business value at scale. Together, we will provide better best practices that will drive the unification of the industrial IoT.”

That sounds good, and sounds a lot like what many similar organizations aim to acheive - a more perfect union and harmony between so many moving parts, including moving particles when it comes to the Internet of fiber optics. Orchestrating between hardware, infrastructure, software and networking in ways that actually work, and rarely or never break has turned out to be not so easy given the natural complexity of widespread, large industrial deployments driven by big brands and enterprises.

James Clardy, co-founder of NetFoundry, was named to serve as the liaison between the IIC and EdgeXFoundry combination.  James stated that specific joint activities between the two will include:

  • Identifying and sharing best practices
  • Collaborating on test beds and experimental projects
  • Working toward interoperability by harmonizing architecture and other elements
  • Collaborating on common elements
  • Periodically hosting joint seminars

“We are already seeing cooperation between IIC and EdgeX," Clardy said. "Last week, Micron and NetFoundry, both of whom are members of both the IIC and EdgeXFoundry, described their unique identity secured cloud networking solution with Microsoft Azure."

Keith Steele, CEO of IOTech Systems, and Chairman of the EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee, said "I can see no better fit than for these two organisations to collaborate together in the future. EdgeX is producing accessible open source technology for the IIOT Edge; a key area of need for IIC members. Joining need, requirements with implementation a winning combination in my experience."

Here at IoT Evolution world, we look forward to following the experiments and sharing with our readers how this and other "consortia & community" lead to real world projects that take concepts to commercialization. Will 2018 be a year of consolidation and contraction? Feels like it may, given the sheer number of platform, hardware and connectivity service providers trying to gain traction. We continue to see massive growth in the development and sales of sensors, more and more investment in edge (fog) computing, and a race to secure the IoT after botnet after botnet showed up in attempts that could be only initial forays into hacking things and not just datasets.

If getting organized and aligned will help the world of IIoT and IoT avoid the kind of "in the billions" attacks we've seen recently on Yahoo, Equifax and more, with a common cause to ensure every layer in the stack and endpoint at the edges, we may all benefit from not just spikes in growth, but sustainable growth over years to come. Even those platforms and people whose initiatives are gobbled up in natural consolidation will have contributed to what we all intuitively know needs to happen - practical approaches that make it simpler to build and market real-world solutions.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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