Open minds, open IoT

Meet Adrian Fernandez, LaunchPad Product Manager, Texas Instruments. He's a speaker here at ESC Boston. He's pro-open source and knowledge sharing. And he's your next partner and customer.

He or someone very much like him, that is. I call out Adrian as an example after attending his “Rapid Prototyping of Cloud-Connected Applications Using Open-Source Modular Hardware” presentation Thursday at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Boston and stealing a few minutes of his time afterward. But he's a simple representation of many of the engineers who attended this ESC, with many interested in open-source and standing room only in some such technical sessions.

In fact, according to UBM Electronics' 2015 Embedded Market Survey, 3 of the top 5 form factor boards currently in use and planned to be in use are open-source based.

Fernandez, a TI engineer, is unsurprisingly partial to BeagleBoard in his presentations. He says of TI's open-source push, which includes serving events like ESC, as well as Maker Faires and various hackathons, and continuing with traditional TI products while folding in new open source: “What we are trying to do is provide multiple points of entry. Our potential customers are changing. We have be flexible.”

Yesterday's presentation saw Fernandez create a multi-node sensor network live on stage that aggregated data to the cloud using MQTT. Each node featured a sub-GHz radio that sent sensor data to a Wi-Fi-enabled gateway that aggregates data from each node and publishes them to the cloud. Using cloud-side rapid prototyping tools, he triggered customized events in the cloud, including a call to his smartphone to advise him his home was flooding when the network was submerged in water during the demo. In short, he demonstrated instant IoT (Internet of Things) thanks to modular open source in less time than it would take to pick up a coffee.

The “instant” part concerns some engineers. There's an often heard argument against open-source that it's too easy to use and that learning is inhibited because what once took multiple skills to master now can be accomplished with plugging in a small, inexpensive platform. But, says Fernandez, that's what will be the fuel of IoT.

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