An Open-Source, Device-to-Cloud Solution for Tomorrow’s Connected Applications

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 10:33am
Sierra Wireless

The explosive growth in the “Internet of Everything” holds enormous potential. Modern machine-to-machine (M2M) technology can provide more processing power and intelligence at the edge than ever before, and support more complex and powerful connected applications. But the M2M marketplace presents a number of hurdles for developers seeking to capitalize on this potential. Barriers include:

  • No  standardized, M2M-ready OS: Linux is increasingly becoming the OS of choice for M2M because it’s open-source, easily customized and widely used among developers. But standard Linux is not designed for the unique requirements of embedded applications. Adapting it can be enormously time-consuming and expensive because you have to assemble all of the necessary libraries, development tools and APIs, and then integrate with a specific vendor’s hardware. Companies can spend many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars just to create a functional Linux-based application environment before they even begin testing and validation.
  • Poor scalability: Taking an M2M application from idea to proof-of-concept can be relatively easy. The problems begin once a prototype is approved for mass production. It can literally take years to evolve a proof-of-concept to a working solution that complies with industry-specific standards and protocols, mobile network operator (MNO) specifications, and regulatory requirements.
  • Limited portability: M2M applications are typically tied to a vendor’s proprietary software environment. That means developers usually have to repeat the entire integration, testing, and validation process for each hardware platform deployed. If an application uses one chipset in North America, another in Europe, and another in China, developers  have to build essentially custom solutions from scratch for each market.
  • Impeded innovation: The lack of a standardized, universal software platform is in many ways preventing the M2M industry from evolving as quickly as it should. Using proprietary, hardware-specific solutions makes it very difficult for anyone, other than the people building the device, to create software that runs on it. It also means that developers have limited ability to port their expertise from one project or platform to another, which makes it more expensive for OEMs and other companies building connected applications to bring in needed developer expertise.

With 2 billion M2M connections projected worldwide by 2018—representing nearly 20 percent of all mobile-connected devices—the time has come for a standardized M2M platform that can support universal device-to-cloud solutions. The smartphone industry saw explosive growth only when a standardized mobile operating environment emerged that let people develop applications independently of the underlying hardware. It’s time for that industry evolution in M2M.

Introducing Legato

Sierra Wireless is enabling this new generation of M2M software with Legato—an open-source embedded platform designed to simplify the development of M2M applications. It’s built on a fully-tested Linux distribution, with a tightly integrated application framework and M2M toolset that provide everything developers need to quickly build, deploy and connect their embedded applications. Legato provides all of these components pre-integrated and validated to run on Sierra Wireless AirPrime multicore modules, and the ability to manage applications over the air using the Sierra Wireless AirVantage Cloud Platform “out of the box.” So developers can ramp up applications from proof-of-concept to mass market deployment. And they can do it with more flexibility, using Legato’s fully customizable open-source platform that can support any vendor’s hardware, any cloud management platform, and any network or peripheral. Ready to Run For developers, Legato eliminates months of tedious custom integration work. It comes with an embedded application framework, M2M-ready Linux distribution, and all essential M2M components—middleware, industry-specific libraries, drivers, APIs—all pre-tested and validated for deployment.

Legato is not just a reference design, it is commercially ready-to-deploy code. Legato is based on standardized, open-source components that let developers port their applications with little additional effort.  In the same way that Android opened up mobile applications to easily move from one vendor’s hardware to another by abstracting software from the underlying hardware, Legato brings the same flexibility to M2M applications.

Ready to Build

Legato is a powerful, flexible, open foundation for M2M software with:

  • Pre-integrated M2M building blocks: Legato has a suite of pre-built, customizable middleware components to support a wide range of common M2M functions (configuration data base, logging, resource arbitration, secure IPC, etc.), as well as industry-specific capabilities. The platform also includes a mature board support package with hardware interfaces and power management capabilities pre-validated on AirPrime multicore modules. One of the biggest advantages is the tight integration between the application framework, Linux distribution and development environment. Features like an Eclipse-based IDE with built-in awareness of the Legato API give developers a huge head start in moving applications from design to deployment.  
  • Feature-rich development environment: Based on Eclipse and the Sierra Wireless Developer Studio, the Legato IDE provides a large, extensible, and familiar toolset for developing M2M applications. The IDE includes everything developers need to build M2M software, including industry-specific libraries and drivers, built-in API awareness, and extensive diagnostic tools for debugging from the device or remotely, troubleshooting, monitoring, and profiling. But developers don’t have to use the IDE, they can also use Legato’s command line capability and integrate into a third-party tool chain. Legato also provides multi-language support and tool plug-ins. Whether developers prefer C/C+, Java, Python, etc., they can use the right tool for the job. And unlike many current M2M development platforms, all of these capabilities are included with Legato at no extra cost, along with ongoing support.  
  • Pre-integrated Linux distribution: Legato includes a fully tested Linux distribution optimized for M2M applications, with common M2M features already integrated. The customizable distribution is based on the Linux Foundation’s Yocto project, and includes a variety of free, pre-validated open-source packages such as Busybox, OpenSSL, DHCP and OpenSSH. Developers don’t have to update the kernel themselves, because it’s based on the Linux kernel hosted by the Linux Foundation. They can leave updates to the embedded systems industry, and focus on building innovative new features instead.
  • Tight security and control: Legato’s application sandbox provides a secure environment to run and control multiple applications on the same platform. Developers can ensure applications don’t interfere with each other, and they can tightly control the resources, hardware and software capabilities accessed. With this degree of security and control, developers can confidently integrate multiple applications, and even third-party applications, within a single M2M device. At the same time, because Legato is a customizable open-source platform, developers have the flexibility to handle the security of their applications as they choose. They can add as much or as little security as the application requires, and easily integrate future security and encryption standards.

Ready to Connect

Legato comes ready to integrate with the Sierra Wireless AirVantage M2M Cloud Platform “out of the box,” including everything needed to manage the entire application lifecycle. Developers can use Legato’s APIs to access services like voice calls, SMS, data and radio controls, and easily connect with virtually any network—mobile, wide-area network, WiFi, home-area network, etc. Legato’s APIs can also be used to integrate with other cloud platforms, and because it’s an open-source platform based on Linux, developers can connect to a wide range of peripherals using pre-existing drivers.

Legato in Action

How does Legato change the way developers create and deploy M2M applications? An automotive supplier building a government-mandated eCall emergency response system can use the same solution to run a third-party “pay-as-you-drive” insurance application—completely securely and  on the same platform. An energy industry OEM can use Legato’s development tools and included APIs to build a smart meter that connects to a customer-facing energy application over a home network.

In both cases, developers benefit from the ability to use pre-existing, pre-validated building blocks and industry-specific protocols to build their applications. They also can securely manage and update applications over the air with pre-integrated cloud connectivity. In both energy and automotive, where solutions need long operational lifetimes, developers benefit by building applications on an open-source Linux kernel that will be supported by the industry for many years.

A Platform for M2M Innovation

M2M has come a long way. But to support the explosive growth analysts anticipate over the next several years, the industry needs to evolve faster.

As enterprises embrace more advanced M2M applications, developers need tools to simplify the process of developing embedded applications, and make them easier to design, deploy, and port. Legato provides these critical capabilities in a standardized, open-source platform right now.

As a pioneer in M2M software development and creator of the Open AT application framework, Sierra Wireless is leading this industry transformation. With Legato, Sierra Wireless provides an end-to-end solution to accelerate the development of connected applications, encompassing powerful multicore hardware with ARM processors, pre-tested and validated software, and a cloud platform capable of managing millions of devices over the air.

By building these capabilities into a standards-based, open-source platform, Legato gives developers the flexibility to build embedded applications how they choose, independent of the underlying hardware. Developers can turn their skills and energy away from tedious integration tasks, and toward creating innovative new applications. 

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