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2021 Open Source Crystal Ball: What I See For IoT and Edge Computing

Monday, December 21, 2020 - 15:43 by Frédéric Desbiens

As Edge Computing architectures and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to grow throughout multiple vertical markets, one trend that enterprises have made abundantly clear is that, in 2021, they expect their edge computing solutions and IoT technologies to be based on or leverage open source. This was confirmed in the most recent Eclipse IoT Commercial Adoption survey published in March 2020, which found that 60% of the organizations surveyed are factoring open source into their deployment plans. 

There are many reasons for this growing demand for open source. One significant factor is that  businesses want to tailor information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) builds to meet their specific requirements. This is best accomplished with solutions based on an open source model. In other words: while businesses certainly appreciate the cost and time savings open source offers, what they truly want and need is the control and flexibility it affords.

Perhaps predicting that open source software will play a big role in edge computing and the IoT is too obvious. With this in mind, let’s drill down a bit more and make some educated predictions on just how open source will impact IoT and edge computing in the coming year.

IoT Predictions

Open source AI/ML and IoT will become the foundation for automation in 2021 

Automation was a key buzzword in 2020 and for good reason. More and more IT departments are turning towards automating applications as a means of increasing productivity for everything from Industry 4.0 to smart grid solutions. Open source AI and ML solutions will provide an effective agile mechanism to realize this future. Eclipse DL4J is just one example of an open ML solution that delivers powerful functionality for automation in environments outside of a traditional data center, such as manufacturing and warehouse settings. 

Open source will help solve SCADA software interoperability

This prediction is a bit specific to the Industrial IoT (IIoT), but given the size of this market, everyone from Exxon to Intel are carefully building solutions based on open source to address this issue. While SCADA providers have fully embraced IoT as a concept, sector growth has been limited by lack of interoperability between proprietary systems. Open source IoT solutions, such as Sparkplug, will enable new innovations that finally allow for true widespread interoperability. 

Remote work and smart office applications will drive a need for open source IoT solutions

The pandemic is forcing a complete re-think of the office, from biometrics to security to environmental controls to worker safety. A key means of rapidly developing new solutions on this front will be to leverage open source solutions that drive permissionless innovation that are easy to use by everyone. 

Edge Computing Predictions 

2021 will mark the rise of the Hybrid Edge

Hybrid cloud was definitely one of the biggest buzzwords of 2020, but in 2021, we believe this concept will be applied to edge computing architectures. Just as hybrid cloud requires orchestration between public, private, and distributed compute architectures, so too will enterprises that may be deploying their own edge networks, using edge compute offerings from a cloud provider, and operating separate edge networks for different use cases (AI vs. IoT for example). 

Cloud providers will embrace open source edge computing

Late 2020 saw all three major cloud providers - AWS, Azure, and GCP - deliver their own edge offerings. We believe 2021 will not only see a continuation of this trend, but also see providers embrace open source edge solutions as a means of differentiation and to speed innovation within their own development efforts. 

Smart grid use cases will embrace the open source edge 

After a year of horrific natural disasters driven by climate change, combined with an incoming U.S. administration with a focus on green infrastructure, North America will see a sharp rise in smart grid innovation. The quickest way to get there? Open source edge computing. 

So, what do you think of my predictions? Let me know what you think! Whether I am correct or not, 2021 is sure to be be an exciting year in IoT and Edge Computing.