By Ondrej Tomcik, Kistler Group
As OCF’s Chair of Cloud Technology, I am passionate about solving the critical issues that the IoT cloud-to-cloud communications face today, as well as addressing the absence of IoT interoperability. Today, cloud communications suffer from vendor lock-in and customers have trouble plugging non-interoperable IoT devices into different IoT platforms. It is nearly impossible to develop an IoT application that is cross-platform, and/or cross-domain. These issues are important to solve, as they ultimately prevent the emergence of IoT technology at scale.
OCF sees the massive potential for the IoT but recognizes that the market is fragmented. Discussions and collaboration among OCF members allow for a better understanding of how various IoT manufacturers and vendors operate. These discussions help guide OCF strategies, which are developed to mend the fragmented market and create a fully interoperable IoT. McKinsey Global Institute’s Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype report points out the substantial connection between interoperability and the IoT’s predicted economic value. Particularly, the authors state that 40% of the market potential can be obtained with interoperability among IoT systems. Even though the value of interoperability is clear, it remains on a side-track, with more focus on proprietary vendor lock-in solutions. The IoT industry must shift its focus and realize the value of interconnecting devices and resulting economic gain. When assessing value, it is the number of connections that devices create, rather than the number of devices themselves.
Officially launched in July 2020, the OCF Universal Cloud Interface (UCI) standardizes connectivity between different manufacturer’s cloud servers and between devices and the cloud. To promote the OCF UCI and the ability to enable interoperability among cloud vendors, Kistler Group participated in the Bosch Connected World Hackathon (BCX2020) in February 2020. There, we were able to speak to different companies about OCF’s work and discuss the struggles that developers face. We found that most developers struggled with different data models, as well as obtaining and understanding the data. Making two different IoT solutions interoperable is not an easy thing to do. It’s not only about bridging the protocols, but also about the interoperability of the data model. Luckily, with OCF technology, even if the device comes from a different IoT Solution, we can map it to the standardized model that OCF defines.
At the BCX2020 event, we demonstrated how two IoT cloud offerings (Microsoft IoT Hub and Bosch IoT Things) can be interoperable on the cloud-to-cloud level. The Kistler team was able to successfully present Account Linking using OAuth2.0 as it is specified in the OCF UCI specification: After logging into the Bosch IoT Things, the user was able to use his Bosch IoT Dashboard to the Account Linking process with the Microsoft IoT Hub. Once there was successful authentication and consent approval, Bosch IoT was then allowed to communicate on behalf of the Microsoft IoT Hub user with his/her devices. As a concrete example of this communications, the user had a device with a light connected to Bosch IoT Things and a switch connected to the Microsoft IoT Hub. Both devices were visible in the Bosch IoT Things dashboard and the user was able to control the light through the interoperable cloud interface.
Following the success of this OCF C2C demonstration, Kistler Group continues to be an active OCF contributor and developer of the plgd cloud technology. I encourage developers to read the OCF Cloud specification and give it a try. It is both easy to implement and use. This technology will help ensure that you can communicate between your system with member IoT Devices over their cloud. In addition to OCF UCI, we have launched plgd, an open source OCF cloud reference implementation. This open source solution provides a complete set of tools and services so you can manage your devices at scale in a cloud native way. It is secure from the start, with end-to-end security built in. Developers can access the plgd open source solution on Github to begin taking advantage of OCF UCI today.
For more details on OCF UCI technology, read our previous OCF blog, which describes today’s cloud landscape and how OCF UCI solves the roadblocks to cloud Interoperability, security and partnerships.