IIoT Gateway: The first of its kind open source distro to be made in India

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Developed in Pune, the IIoT Gateway is open source, free and focuses on the Industrial and Internet of Things (IIoT) sector. The OS can be used to design, deploy, and develop applications for machine monitoring, data acquisition, and visualisation in core industry sectors like automotive and pharma. It also has inbuilt application designing facilities in high level languages like Python, NodeJS, and Java.

IoT Gateway is a ‘Made in India’ GNU/Linux distro consisting of a software package designed for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
It bridges the gap between IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) by offering an easy-to-use Web UI for Modbus/OPCUA data acquisition, LTE connectivity, and MQTT communications, along with the capability to develop, host and deploy applications according to user requirements.

Harshad Joshi, the inventor of this gateway, says, “All the code in this gateway is open source and training or consulting is available for end users if required. Base applications can be developed in the Python programming language, NodeJS, and the Java platform, as everything is preconfigured and preinstalled from start to end. IIoT Gateway is completely free for use and distribution with no limitations or licensing required.” This OS can be
installed over a VM, an enterprise-grade server, or just your desktop. There are two people working on this gateway at present – Joshi’s partner, who is an expert in PLC programming and systems integration, and Joshi himself, who works as a systems software designer. The duo plan to add more freelancers and independent vendors to the team for further growth, once the industry resumes normal functioning in the coming months. The official website for this project is https://sourceforge.net/projects/iiot-gateway/. It has a mailing list, bug
reports and ‘Help’ documents for users.

Applications can run locally in factory premises
When asked why he thought of developing something like this, Joshi says that existing hardware and software solutions are very expensive and require costly training. They
also have strict licence requirements that are hard for new developers to meet. Moreover, emergency support for customised applications is quite difficult to get and because of the
proprietary nature of the applications and design, one cannot use Google or the Web to search for answers like IT people normally can do. It is difficult to find help for any issue in industrial applications. This leads to financial losses for end users and in turn, a loss
of reputation for the systems integrator.

Joshi adds that the technology used in the Indian manufacturing and production industry is quite old, and none of it is taught to students in colleges or training institutes. Joshi says, “After spending many daunting years in this field, one fine day in late 2018, I decided that enough was enough — unless someone designed a system made for India which would enable affordable and simplified application development (designing while making use of open technology), I would continue facing issues on and off-field. And given my core competency and interest in Linux, I decided that someone ought to be me. So I started development and testing applications from mid-2019. There was a special emphasis on ensuring that the open standards operational in the industry were supported out-of-the-box.” This OS can be used to design, deploy and develop applications for machine monitoring, data acquisition, and visualisation in core industries like the automotive, pharma and process sectors. Unlike other existing systems, the OS is designed keeping network administration and remote users in mind. The applications can be hosted on the cloud, and users can get or view remote data on their mobiles using an Android application. Apps can run locally in factory premises or can be hosted on the Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud platform.

No more expensive and proprietary software or technology
What makes IIoT Gateway unique? Joshi says that it is the first OS distro that’s been made in India, which focuses on the Industrial Internet of Things — and it’s free for use. No existing player in the IT or industrial sector has done something like this before. “The user is empowered with technology that can be used as per requirements, with no hassles involved. It also has inbuilt application designing facilities in high level languages like
Python, NodeJS, and Java. Computer science graduates, tech enthusiasts, and people interested in making career shifts can try to cross over considering the impending slowdown in the Indian IT sector. There needs to be no more relying on expensive and proprietary software or technology to get a head start in your career — everything is open. A DIY person will find this better,” Joshi says. So, why did Joshi open source this innovation? He replies, “The base of IIoT Gateway is the Linux kernel, which is the heart of the overall OS. It is released to the public under the GNU License, which requires users to release all the source code they have developed to the public; so any work that I or
anyone does is required to be released under the Open Source Software Clause at no or minimum maintenance cost.

This is applicable for all base software like Python, NodeJS and Java that are used to develop applications. However, the code that is enterprise-specific or which has got some trade secret, cannot be released to others, since every user’s requirements differ. For that, we can have a different licence like LGPL.”

The benefits of IIoT Gateway
Joshi states that the open source model comes with various benefits like flexibility, agility, cost effectiveness, information security and bug fixes. He adds that open source enables
technology agility, typically offering multiple ways to solve problems. It helps prevent IT organisations from getting bogged down just because a particular capability isn’t available from a vendor. Instead of waiting for the vendor to deliver that capability, it can
be created inhouse. Also, open source can reduce the planned obsolescence, which costs enterprises a lot when working with closed source developers.

Open source solutions are also typically much more inexpensive, and they give enterprises the ability to start small and scale up. Joshi adds, “Open source has a solid information security record. The responsiveness of the open source community and vendors with respect to information security problems has been very good.” Enterprise problems can be solved while effectively sharing some of the maintenance costs. One big advantage of open source is the community involvement. Instead of writing an application and having to sustain it yourself, one can share the cost of maintaining and sustaining applications
among multiple participants from the community. Joshi adds, “Lastly, building a community around open technology is more beneficial than maintaining closed source software for
personal benefits.” This gateway can be accessed at https://sourceforge.net/projects/
iiot-gateway/files/20_may_2020/installer_19052020.iso/download. It will download a 1.5GB DVD image, which can be burnt and run on a real computer or any virtual machine software. Instructions and software details are available at https:// sourceforge.net/projects/iiot-gateway. The Bufferstack.IO IIoT Gateway has a home at http://bufferstack.io/.OEMs and systems integrators Regarding the business model for this
gateway, Joshi says that business in this sector revolves around two key components — OEMs and systems integrators (SI). The latter are experts appointed by OEMs to provide sales, service and support to solutions created using OEM hardware and software technology. Joshi says, “The OEM and systems integrator are targeted by using the
Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), whereby the OEM uses the IIoT Gateway platform for adding remote control, monitoring, and other smart features and the SI designs applications as per client requirements. Apart from these two elements, freelancers and tech enthusiasts can tweak and use this OS for their own requirements.”
Joshi adds that on a personal level, designing his own OS and development tools made him a confident and better professional than when he was using closed source software. It allowed him to enhance his programming problem-solving skills and resulted in an overall broader view towards software engineering. On a professional level, it gave him
an opportunity to interact with leading developers and industry experts. Joshi informs that he is currently in talks with freelancers and independent service vendors from the industrial
automation field to test this gateway with industrial hardware that is used in factories for PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and VFDs (variable frequency drives). There are plans to hold system demonstrations, seminars and training for engineering students
as well as industrial users after the lockdown is over, across Maharashtra and India. The sample application code has been released online on GitHub at https://github.com/hj91/iiot_gateway_python_sample_code. Joshi is also working on other
upcoming open source projects. One of these is the Super Container OS — a live Linux OS that makes use of Linux containers technology for quick installation, deployment and
distribution of cloud based applications. It is targeted towards the IT sector. After that, he has plans to develop computer vision applications using AI and machine learning tools for
industrial automation.

Indianising global technology

These kinds of innovations will have a big impact on India, Joshi believes. He says, “In a very simple manner, this gateway comes with low-cost installation and maintenance. There are no exorbitant licensing fees for terminals. Linux systems operate much faster and
rarely crash. Being open source, they are developed constantly and therefore any
bugs are fixed rapidly.” “This product is one small step to Indianise global technology to suit
Indian needs and Indian requirements along with providing a stable and secure means to operate, develop and deploy IoT, IIoT, and even IT enterprise-level applications,” he concludes

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