LF Edge Member Spotlight: IOTech Systems

By December 19, 2019 Blog, EdgeX Foundry

The LF Edge community is comprised of a diverse set of member companies that represent the IoT, Enterprise, Cloud and Telco Edge. The Member Spotlight blog series highlights these members and how they are contributing to and leveraging open source edge solutions. Today, we sat down with Andy Foster, Product Director, at IOTech Systems to discuss the importance of a growing ecosystem, their IoT framework, the impact LF Edge has made and what the future holds for the company.

Can you tell us a little about your organization?

IOTech’s vision is to build and deploy the pervasive secure, open IoT software platform for edge environments that helps drive innovation, global adoption, market velocity and scale.

The company is leveraging an open source strategy based on the LF Edge’s EdgeX Foundry project to accelerate growth of a global partner ecosystem and dramatically increase deployment velocity of IoT systems by reducing custom systems integration. The EdgeX project is aligned around a common goal – the simplification and standardization of the foundation for edge computing architectures in the IoT market.

IOTech is supporting the rapidly growing EdgeX global developer community and partner ecosystem by providing a fully commercialized version of the EdgeX called Edge Xpert.

This licensed offering comes bundled with a range of industrial grade connectors to popular North and Southbound and is available on multiple hardware and OS combinations with regular software upgrades and different support and maintenance service level options. Complementary professional service offerings include training, pilot project support, accelerated product extensions and third party product integrations.

Additionally, IOTech has extended  EdgeX with its recently announced Edge XRT, the first “hard” real-time edge IoT platform.

Edge XRT is designed to meet the needs of industrial edge applications faced with one or more of the following key challenges: deployable on ultra-low footprint embedded edge nodes; latency and response times measured in microseconds; requirement for predictable real-time processing and execution.

Why is your organization adopting an open source approach?

IOTech’s core business execution strategy is to support an open source business model. We believe that this is the only model that can realistically facilitate rapid global scale out of this technology in the window of opportunity that exists, both in terms of removal of barriers to development, deployment and Time to Market (TTM) for new products and services. IoT is also fundamentally about managing heterogeneity we believe that the market is demanding an ‘open’ versus proprietary approach at the platform level, our customers ultimately want choice of best of breed, not to be tied to one vendor’s solution.

Why did you join LF Edge and what sort of impact do you think LF Edge has on the edge, networking, and IoT industries?

We believe that the best way to address market fragmentation and drive edge technology adoption is through industry collaboration and an open architecture approach. LF Edge is creating an ecosystem of companies focused on addressing the key challenges faced by the next generation of edge systems.

LF Edge membership is growing rapidly and includes a broad spectrum of companies from major international technology leaders to new startups. The breadth of membership and expertise is helping to ensure a cross-industry approach, with organizations working collaboratively to solve a common set of edge related problems. By avoiding duplication while at the same time ensuring interoperability and re-use across LF Edge projects is key to speeding time to market and reducing the implementation risk of new edge technologies. 

What do you see as the top benefits of being part of the LF Edge community?

Firstly, by collaborating with other organizations on the development new open source edge technologies allows companies to pool resources and leverage the collective expertise of many of the world’s leading technology providers. For IOTech, this has the significant benefit of enabling us to bring new products to market more quickly and share the costs of developing these solutions.

Secondly, LF Edge is helping to shape the future direction of edge computing and being part of the ecosystem gives IOTech the ability to help influence that direction, something that is much more difficult to do if we were not a member. It also gives us much better visibility into the where the industry and market is moving with respect to edge computing technologies, as well as access to some of the best brains driving this change.

Finally, being part of growing LF Edge  ecosystem provides IOTech with many commercial opportunities to partner with other member companies to collaborate on new projects and drive business growth.

What sort of contributions has your team made to the community, ecosystem through LF Edge participation? 

IOTech are one of the founder members of the EdgeX Foundry project and have been actively participating in the project at various different levels from it’s inception. We have made significant contributions in terms of technical leadership and code contributions within the project. Members of the IOTech team currently hold the following leadership positions within EdgeX:

  • Keith Steele, TSC Chair and LF Edge Board Member
  • Jim White, TSC Vice Chair
  • Iain Anderson, Device Service WG Chair
  • Robin Chatterjee, Test/QA WG Chair

We have leveraged our expertise in OT systems to work extensively on EdgeX’s Device Service layer. This work includes the development of SDKs in Go and C and the implementation of a number of protocol specific Device Services including Modbus, BACnet, OPC UA, MQTT and Virtual.

As TSC Vice chair and original EdgeX architect, Jim White has been active across all of the project’s WGs, providing technical leadership and support to the EdgeX teams.  For almost three years Keith Steele has been Chair of the TSC, helping to coordinate the projects direction and actively promote its goals and objectives within the EdgeX ecosystem and wider industry.

In addition to IOTech’s contributions to EdgeX Foundry we are also participating other complementary LF Edge projects such as the Akraino Time-Critical Edge Compute project where our EdgeX experience can be shared within the wider LF Edge ecosystems.

What do you think sets LF Edge apart from other industry alliances?

Put simply delivery focus! Other bodies are focused on producing guidelines and possibly new edge standards, whereas LF Edge’s objective is to produce open source solutions that can be deployed in real system or proven blueprints that can be used to support real edge use cases. 

How will  LF Edge help your business?

Firstly, the collaborative development that is inherent in a open source project is allowing  IOTech to leverage a far larger pool of development resources than is currently possible on our own. This is helping us to bring new edge solutions to market more quickly.

Working within an ecosystem of the world’s leading-edge technology companies ensures that the technologies that we develop are addressing the real needs of industry. It provides our customers with the reassurance that our products were developed with broad industry support, helping reinforce the importance of openness and choice.

Finally, from a marketing perspective the profile of LF Edge generates a lot of attention in our target markets and the efforts of the LF marketing team provides member companies with lots of opportunities to complement their own marketing programs and also share costs, for example by attending key industry tradeshows as a co-sponsor on the LF Edge booth.

What advice would you give to someone considering joining LF Edge? 

From IOTech’s perspective we’ve hopefully outlined the key benefits of joining LF Edge. We also think that these benefits will apply to most organizations. Our recommendation is to join, embrace collaboration and most importantly get involved. Your return on investment will be multiplied depending the effort you apply and the projects that you support. Where else can a company leverage the combined expertise in edge computing and resources of the LF Edge ecosystem, especially when combined with the many commercial opportunities for collaboration and partnering.