Why the IoT needs ‘open & exposed’ devices
We like devices... and we like IoT devices, but what we really want are exposed and open routes to be able to program functionality onto IoT devices. Image credit: WS02

Why the IoT needs ‘open & exposed’ devices

As we have said before on Internet of Business, interoperability is the lifeblood of the Internet of Things (IoT). But to make interoperability happen between hardware and software (and particularly between software and software) we need this thing called middleware, so what’s life like in the middle?

Middleware, an unloved thing

It’s true to say, middleware is an unloved thing. About as popular around the IT family table as ’embedded computing’ was before the IoT brought it to front of mind. Middleware used to be about as popular as kale, before the fibrous green brassica enjoyed its recent positive PR surge.

By way of a definition, middleware basically glues together other pieces of technology.

As TechTarget defines it, “Middleware often sits between the operating system and applications on different servers and simplifies the development of applications that leverage services from other applications.”

If we accept the importance of middleware and we further realize how important ‘gluing’ technologies like this are (along with Application Programming Interfaces or APIs), then we can start to see why IT shops, software application developers and systems integrators will now want an easier route to being able to use it.

This is some of the justification behind why open source middleware firm WSO2 is promoting the use of its eponymously named WSO2 IoT Server.

This is not a server in the sense of a physical server in a box, this is open source software with a componentized architecture so that firms can deploy just the aspects of it that they need to run the IoT jobs in hand.

What does ‘expose devices’ mean?

So what is this software and what does it do? Essentially, WSO2 IoT Server combines the ability to manage IoT and mobile devices and then ‘expose devices’ (in the form of APIs) for further app development. So by expose we really do mean the ability to provide programmatic access and connectivity to a particular device… and then, to be able to build new software applications that run alongside the device’s existence and be able to make use of its data.

In addition to providing this open exposability, WSO2 reminds us that its technology will also secure access, manage apps and analyze device data. All good stuff, this is what the spin doctors would call ‘highly extensible device management functionality’… but we can just call it device management.

According to the firm, WSO2 IoT Server lets organizations start building an enterprise-grade solution (based on IoT, mobile or both) in one downloadable pack.

“Enterprises worldwide are harnessing mobile computing and the Internet of Things to revolutionize their business models. Increasingly these technologies are working hand-in-hand as mobile phones and tablets become command centers for controlling IoT-enabled lights, autos, retail kiosks, manufacturing systems, and more,” said Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana, WSO2 founder, CEO and chief architect.

IoT use cases for device exposure

WSO2 IoT Server is designed to support the needs of:

  • Product strategists and architects in device manufacturing companies that seek to enable IoT-driven solutions such as remote controlled locks, water quality controls, temperature and humidity monitors, medical equipment sensors, geo-location for smart cities and IoT-enabled in-store retail and banking platforms.

For the more technical reader, WSO2 IoT Server exposes devices as REST (the underlying architectural principle of the web) APIs to support users’ application development and integration efforts, including the ability to integrate devices into existing solution architectures.

Provisioning, management, visualization

There are also centralized app provisioning and management functions here. Deeper still, there are pre-built graphs for instant visualization of sensor readings, such as temperature and velocity.

Suddenly middleware (and its ability to help control the IoT) just got that little bit more interesting, didn’t it?