Dirk Riehle's Industry and Research Publications

Where is open source in factory automation?

An important benefit of an open source project is that it is long-lived and can’t go out of business. Unlike a closed source supplier, which can go bankrupt, your usage and update rights to an open source software can’t suddenly disappear.

From working with customers I know very well that the manufacturers of (comparatively) expensive machines like cars, trains, and planes have long warmed up to open source and appreciate that open source projects will stick around when (some) closed source suppliers are long gone or killed their products.

But what about heavy machinery? What about factory automation, energy turbines, power plants? I just realized that I know very little about open source in these application domains. I’m aware of an initiative that I started, the openKONSEQUENZ consortium of open source software for the smart energy grid (and related) but so far that is mostly control room software and not embedded and out there in the wild and devices. The LF Energy project provides related components. Also, from a copyleft kerfuffle, I know that open source is present in defense systems and weapons, but these tend to be short-lived products… (And I also learned that national security law overrides copyright concerns.)

There is plenty of open source in home automation, see for example OpenHAB (even has a foundation), and others. But that’s the consumer space. There is OSADL, but I’m not sure where it is going? Industry Fusion? Seems focused on networking. But in the devices of traditional factories? Generators? Plants? How are updates handled in this domain? Any pointers to known (published) cases are appreciated. If I get a good collection, I’ll compile and blog it. Thanks!


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