Panasonic Commits Royalty Free Code to Internet of Things

In the high stakes game of moving everything to the cloud, the idea of truly Open Source code (implementation) and protocol specifications for the Internet of Things ( IoT) can be elusive. Now Panasonic has committed to a patent non-assertion policy on some of its core software code used to connect everything from in-flight entertainment on Boeing jet planes to massive solar farm collectives managed in the cloud. The company said its policy will include royalty-free access to both source code and protocol specifications that will help empower the open source community developers working on IoT initiatives.

“We already made a decision to contribute 400,000 lines of code from our software library and 500 pages of protocol specifications. As to specifics we offer to AllSeen [the Qualcomm backed IoT consortium], we will work with the group, and offer our technologies that complement, and help strengthen, what they already have”, according to Todd Rytting of Panasonic. He emphasizes the code’s strengths include connectivity, authorization and scalability from enterprise to consumer level devices. Here’s the non-assertion pledge.

For example, the group used its object-oriented framework, creating a gateway that will bridge different systems (implementations) allowing access and ultimate analysis of each database plus management all from the cloud. “We’re getting very good at bridging, [and] providing security down to resource-constrained small devices, which typically use less memory and less powerful processors”, according to Rytting.

Turns out the Internet of Things (IoT) is not as new an idea as previously thought, as early as 1996 a Salt Lake City, UT based company called emWare was developing a cloud solution for home management systems and even had its technology adopted into the Boeing 747 in-flight entertainment system connected to a NOC in California. They also developed software to connect “hundreds” of solar panel farms most using different communication protocols. As part of Panasonic’s shift from consumer to more B2B activities, the Japanese consumer electronic giant bought software company emWare back in 2005, after working with the group on projects for several years. Key was connectivity of diverse systems all controlled by a network operations center using a distributed object framework methodology, that is now being offered to the open source community through the AllSeen Alliance consortium and Panasonic’s OpenDOF Project.

We are beginning to see the rise of two major camps both moving forward with plans to empower the Internet of Things by defining the connectivity requirements of – well everything. Each is led by powerful chip manufacturers, the Intel-led Open Interconnect Consortium and Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance (not to mention non-chip maker Google and its moves in this space using its Chrome platform). Both chip-based groups claim open source interoperability with source code, but so far this open source concept has fallen short of the mark. Panasonic’s Rytting said the open source community is “disappointed as they find out in some instances that they can get the source code, but some constraints are applied when it comes to the use of specifications”. He said the AllSeen Alliance offers its AllJoyn SDK “universal software framework”, and likes that group’s approach to patents and the diversity of its members.

Analyst Comments

Make no mistake the stakes are high with a whopping 212 billion (with a B) “things” reckoned to be connected to each other globally by the end of this decade alone, and some 30B installed connected (autonomous) things all needing powerful microprocessors as “the smarts” to make this happen. Like the move from the static desktop to mobile (Intel and Qualcomm respectively) the IoT initiative is seen as the next big thing in technology that will shape our future with no less impact than what we have experienced to date and most likely well beyond. – Steve Sechrist