Interview

An Easy Route to Interoperability – Interview with Andy Piper on Eclipse Paho

Chris Mayer
paho

We talk to Eclipse M2M IWG Community Member Andy Piper about the fledging Eclipse project devoted to creating open source protocols for M2M and IoT solutions

Can you summarize in one sentence what the Paho project
is?

Andy Piper: Paho is a
project to provide scalable Open Source implementations of
lightweight protocols for existing and emerging applications for
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT)
solutions.

M2M is a rapidly growing field: In your project proposal
it says that by 2020, the number of connected physical world
devices is expected to be in the range of 50 billion. Why is it so
important to provide open source solutions for M2M
communication?

AP: Well, we’ve been here before. Over the past thirty years or
so we’ve had a range of incompatible protocols and solutions
emerge, usually with a single commercial entity behind them with an
interest in creating a closed ecosystem. The data within those
“closed loop” systems is useful more broadly and therefore we’ve
ended up having to scrape it, or otherwise break it out of the
loop… but with a set of standard and interoperable open
protocols, the chances of the M2M space being successful are far
greater. With the numbers of devices we are talking about, the
problem of fragmentation is so much greater, so a set of protocols
that are open and easy to adopt between devices and vendors
provides more of an opportunity for interoperability.
Publish/subscribe lightweight messaging has proven itself to be an
easy-to-understand and reusable model for these kinds of
applications.

Paho was founded under the umbrella of
the M2M Working Group, whose goal is to provide open-source
solutions so as to overcome market inhibitors in M2M systems. What
are some of the market inhibitors that Paho tries to
address?

AP: The M2M Industry Working Group is trying to address several
“layers” within the Internet of Things solution space. The umbrella
IWG is discussing a number of issues such as the overall solution
architectures and use cases, and data formats. The Koneki project
is targeting runtimes and tooling solutions. Paho is specifically
aimed at the protocol space, with the initial step being an
implementation of MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) clients. By making
use of this existing production-strength protocol originated by IBM
and Eurotech – one which has been in use for over a decade – and
providing solid and open reference implementations that remain true
to the original design goal of simplicity, Paho can offer device
and application vendors an easy route to interoperability.

What would be a typical use case for
components/applications developed by the Paho project?

AP: MQTT has been used for a number of years for device and
application interoperability in a number of fields, from oil field
instrumentation and river water level monitoring, to smart
transportation systems (for example, real-time awareness of train
locations), smart energy metering, home automation, mobile
messaging, and healthcare systems. One of the neat things is that
because the protocol is simple and lightweight, it is useful in a
broad range of situations. It scales down to small sensor-type
devices, through mobile solutions where battery power and bandwidth
are at a premium, up to simple messaging applications.

How does Paho benefit from Eclipse
technology and the Eclipse ecosystem?

AP: The Eclipse Foundation has proven itself to be an excellent
curator of a variety of Open Source solutions over the past decade.
Commercial organisations like the Eclipse Public License as it
delivers the ability to reuse solid code which has been subject to
strong IP scrutiny. M2M actually fits in really nicely at Eclipse,
since Eclipse technology has been used for developing embedded
solutions for some time. An open and reusable protocol which is
applicable across a range of industries is something that fits well
with the Eclipse philosophy. There are also opportunities to build
tools to test and interact with MQTT-based applications within the
IDE too, of course.

What connections does the project have
so far with other projects in the M2M WG and other Eclipse
projects?

AP: Paho has a particularly strong affinity with the Koneki
project, which is also under the M2M umbrella at Eclipse. Koneki is
building tooling for embedded devices using languages such as Lua
(which is naturally suited to being embedded within different
language runtimes).

The initial code contributions were made
by IBM last March. What other companies are actively involved, and
how have you tried to get more companies and committers interested
in the project?

AP: A range of organisations are involved in the Eclipse M2M IWG
ecosystem – IBM, Sierra Wireless, Eurotech and Band XI. Within days
of the IBM contribution, Andy Gelme had offered his Lua client
implementation to the project, and the Paho team is working with
him to bring the contribution into Eclipse. The MQTT community has
existed for some time, and the Paho team is in the process of
promoting the new home of the reference implementations and
bringing more contributors in.

What will be the next steps in the
project?

AP: We’ve presented on the next steps at the last two major
Eclipse events – EclipseCon in Reston, Virginia and the recent
Eclipse Day in Toulouse. Primarily Paho needs to move towards a
solid release, bring new client contributions into the Eclipse
fold, and work on requirements for a “broker” within Eclipse.

Just of curiosity: What does the word
“Paho” stand for?

AP: That’s a very common question! We’ve actually documented the
answer on the wiki page. Both Paho and Koneki are Maori words. Paho
is a verb meaning “to broadcast, make widely known, announce,
disseminate, transmit” – ideal for a publish/subscribe messaging
system!

Interviewee Bio:

Andy Piper is an Eclipse
M2M IWG Community Member and has been involved with the Paho
project since it started, particularly through his former role
advocating the use of MQTT at IBM, and helping to run the

mqtt.org
community website. Andy has a
passionate interest in small and mobile devices, cloud, the
Internet of Things, and Arduino and related technologies.
He
works at VMware, writes at 
http://andypiper.co.uk and
tweets at @andypiper.

 

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