In a related blog post, Kaivan Karimi provided a description of the new one box platform. In this post, he explains why it’s important.
The one box platform is not just another converged gateway platform, but a true “secure service delivery infrastructure based on open standards” – from the core of the network all the way through hierarchical gateways, reaching the smallest edge/sensing node at the edge of the Internet of Things (IoT), and it provides enterprise grade security through the Java platform from the cloud all the way to the tiniest edge/sensing nodes.
What takes the one box platform beyond a typical converged gateway? The addition of a service layer based on enterprise-grade Java as an open standard, along with full security, on top of the whole system, including the smallest resource-constrained sensing devices. It’s a blueprint for an ideal secured service delivery infrastructure for the IoT — one that solves some of the common problems that have limited the advancement of the IoT:
- Lack of standards: The one box platform supports coexistence with legacy standards and is built modularly (both hardware and software) to support future standards. It also supports protocol conversion functionality and is extendable to a variety of use cases, from consumer to industrial.
- Lack of security (see my blog on this issue titled “Why harp on Internet of Things security and privacy issues?”): While Java is an open platform, it will be implemented in ways similar to Java’s use in enterprise settings (which is being used by the U.S. government for its security capability). We have also implemented best-in-class hardware and software security technologies and best industry practices.
- Only big companies can develop solutions for the IoT, and small companies can’t participate: We believe, like in any new market, it’s the small players that will bring the majority of the innovations to the table. The fact that the one box platform is open and based on readily available software and hardware will promote participation by smaller players and drastically decrease the barriers to entry. Our edge node devices based on Kinetis microcontrollers (built on the ARM architecture) and our sensors are available for less than $15 on our Freescale Freedom development platform, with all of the tools needed. Java is readily available to download and license.
- IoT services will be difficult to roll out because the infrastructure is not there: The one box platform address this issue, making it possible for a new generation of service providers to enter the market. You don’t need to be a large telco to provide services to the IoT market.
- Each IoT end segment (telehealth, smart home, industrial automation, etc.) will need a different architecture: Each end segment has unique requirements; however, the service delivery infrastructure is practically the same, and the one box platform accounts for and can accommodate the unique requirements of each. For example, an RTOS will be required when real-time apps are required in an industrial setting, while the Linux OS may be desired in consumer setting. The platform is architected in a way to account for that, and Java will interface to each OS as needed. Also, the hardware platform is modularized. For example, instead of Wi-Fi and ZigBee, you can plug in ISA100, wireless Hart or Profibus.
What’s the difference between the one box platform and what some of telco operators are now offering in the United States and Europe for home automation and digital living?
There are a dozen or so telcos around the world that have announced or are planning to roll out such services. What is common among all of them is that they support some basic home automation services and security monitoring. I studied one of those telco boxes in detail. It supports Z-Wave, Wi-Fi and 3G, but no ZigBee, 6LoWPAN, Bluetooth or BTLE and ironically no gigabit Ethernet, or any means for a wired link to the cloud. And, at the moment there’s no path to address any industrial or healthcare standards and markets, and most importantly they are all closed platforms. No one from the maker community can build sensing/edge node devices for them, and no additional service providers can use the box (for example, elderly monitoring, telehealth, pet sitting services, remote education, etc.). Their actual box is very similar to the existing telco boxes – it’s more an aggregation and routing box, rather than an IoT service provision box.
A gateway is not a gateway is not a gateway. Their box doesn’t seem to do any on-board processing or data analytics. They don’t have an end-to-end framework from the cloud all the way to tiny sensors, etc. I agree that they sound the same, especially with the first version of the one box platform we are demonstrating at JavaOne that currently supports only home automation and smart energy. But, within the next couple of months, three additional verticals (telehealth, wearables and smart cities via vehicle charging station and sync up with the grid and utility provider) are planned to be added. Three more industrial applications are planned to follow in spring 2014.
Is one box platform similar to AllJoyn?
I consider AllJoyn to be complementary to what we are doing here. It reminds me of the features of UPnP and DLNA combined, for mesh networking of MPU grade smart devices to share multimedia and gaming experiences. The FAQ document from the AllJoyn indicates that “AllJoyn is an enabler for applications like multiplayer games, photos sharing, real time multi-player orchestra, etc.,” and “applications integrating AllJoyn will only work over Wi-Fi.”
While there may be a small overlap, I don’t consider AllJoyn competing in the same space as CoAP as it is focused on big consumer devices. Protocol-wise it could be competing with RESTful HTTP web services. AllJoyn has what is called a "Thin Client" mode (where the overlap is), which basically lets an "embedded" WiFi device hide behind a full-featured AllJoyn device. The thin client device takes at least 25 kB of flash, where a full client takes 250 kB+ of flash. This in contrast with what ARM-Sensinode’s implementation on one box platform with small CoAP solutions suitable for MCUs, where a superset of it only takes 5K of flash space, and in most cases it takes less than 2K of flash space.
They provide no information about its efficiency, but considering that the main aim is at big consumer devices and WiFi, it doesn’t seem to be aiming battery operated devices and low-power networking needed for IoT. Their choice of an app example shown on their website also indicates the same: Gaming and play, multi-screen, and proximal social.
In the part three of this blog, I will provide additional information about the platform, as well as try to answer most of the common questions that we have received during JavaOne in San Francisco this week.
Kaivan Karimi is Executive Director of Global Strategy and Business Development, MCUs at Freescale.