by Dr. Stan Schneider, CEO Real-Time Innovations (RTI) & Industrial Internet Consortium, Steering Committee Vice Chair
Recently, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and The OpenFog Consortium (OpenFog) announced that they are joining efforts. The combined organization is clearly the world leader of the new distributed computing paradigm connecting devices, fog, edge and cloud. As Vice Chair of the IIC’s Steering Committee and also one of the first OpenFog members, I’m excited for what this means to the Industrial IoT market.
Separately, the IIC and OpenFog were the top two leading horizontal IoT consortia. Together, we will present a united front to the market. There is no other organization like the new IIC, now including OpenFog Consortium. It combines the strength of the IIC across the industrial landscape with the breadth of the OpenFog distributed computing architecture. Together, we are the clearly-dominant leader. The organization combines nearly 300 companies, 50 liaisons, regional teams in five countries, dozens of academic organizations, nearly 30 testbeds, and key relationships with many other consortia and standards development organizations (SDOs). United, our organization is positioned to set the stage for the future of the IoT.
The market needs this cooperation. Market clarity is a key blocker to the fast realization of the IoT’s potential. The IIC’s core mission is to develop the guidance needed to enable all industries to enter the smart machine era. Similarly, OpenFog worked on technical guidance, focusing on combining IoT, 5G, and AI for fog computing. However, the market today suffers from a mix of terms, architectures and testbeds. We are plagued by confusion.
Fortunately, confusion is a disease of isolation; the cure is interaction. Before joining forces, both the IIC and OpenFog made great progress with initial designs. However, without tighter cooperation, these designs confuse terms, architectures and results. Despite our core missions of market clarity, significant cooperation and many shared members, our dual voices confused the market.
Now together, we can bridge the work. As one organization, we will provide the industry a single mixing point for technologies, markets and ecosystems. Working together forces the deep interactions and constructive debates that clarify opportunities and differentiate technologies. For members, we offer greater influence. For the market, we offer clarity. For end users, we offer unified technical and business guidance for the future. All in all, as one organization, we can offer the clarity the market needs to confidently move faster.
The consolidation is also a strong indication that the industry is maturing—consolidation is always a mark of industry maturation. Our guidance to the industry will now be unambiguous – dramatically lowering the risk of investment in bold new product architectures. The confusion fever is ready to break. Removing that blocker should help release the large wave of IoT investment.
While the message has been confusing to date, perhaps surprisingly, in practice, IIC and OpenFog are very complementary.
For instance, the IIC’s pioneering work on the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA) provides system architects with an overall design for secure, interoperable systems. Along with many whitepapers and deep frameworks for security, connectivity and analytics, the IIRA is the industry’s most complete system design reference, now a cornerstone of IIC’s Resource Hub (hub.consortium.org). Meanwhile, OpenFog’s Reference Architecture focuses on intelligent distributed connectivity in the field. The IEEE adopted it as the first standard-based architecture for fog computing. Both deliverables represent hundreds of hours of collaborative work by industry and research leaders and have been downloaded thousands of times throughout the world. They are both relevant to the Industrial IoT and smart machines. But the space is so huge that their focus on different parts of the problem imply little overlap.
In fact, we had been working together to leverage the synergy before this change. For instance, the OpenFog Security Workgroup published distributed security and privacy hierarchies – a framework that influenced the IIC’s Security Framework. And the IIC’s Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) is heavily referenced in the OpenFog connectivity design. The work teams in both organizations often included many of the same member companies. Of course, our cooperation was inefficient as two organizations; now we can make faster progress.
The complementary technical work is only part of the picture. OpenFog includes many academic institutions, rounding out IIC’s academic and research organization list. The IIC has a very well-developed testbed program with many testbeds; OpenFog has only a few. Both organizations have country teams, but mostly in different countries. The IIC has a large and active business Working Group; OpenFog focuses on technology. Opportunities for synergy abound.
Together, we are much stronger. The new organization combines two deeply talented pools of technical architects, researchers, engineers, security experts and market experts. In my opinion, the IIC gains the world’s most advanced research and leadership in fog nodes and crisp architecture for edge-based intelligent systems. OpenFog gains breadth up and down the technology stack and across industries. Together, we span cloud, edge, fog and devices. Together, we have active testbeds in many verticals, ensuring our relevance to end systems. Together, we can harness the immense opportunity of the Industrial IoT.
If you are an IIC or OpenFog member, welcome to the new clear market leader! Our opportunity to lead means that you can understand and influence the market like never before. If you are not yet a member, I invite you to join us in the work ahead. Ironically, by combining in the fog, we have greatly clarified our road to the future. It’s a great time to join our journey.