The Eclipse Foundation brings in Sparkplug Working Group for device communications standardization to IIoT, industrial automation

The Eclipse Foundation launched on Monday the Sparkplug Working Group, which is driving the evolution and broad adoption of the Eclipse Sparkplug Specification that enables the creation of open, interoperable, industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions utilizing MQTT. 

In particular, the Working Group will encourage the definition of technical specifications and associated implementations that rationalize access to industrial data, improve the interoperability and scalability of IIoT solutions, and provide an overall framework for supporting Industry 4.0 for oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, smart cities and other related industries. Founding members include vendors such as Chevron, Canary Labs, Cirrus Link Solutions, HiveMQ, Inductive Automation, and ORing.

The industry already relies on the open source specification known as MQTT, which is a proven, standard machine-to-machine data transfer protocol that has become the leading messaging protocol for the IIoT. MQTT was originally designed as a message transport for real-time SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems but does not define the data format or address issues around interoperability. Sparkplug solves these issues.

The Eclipse Foundation delivers a mature, scalable and commercially focused environment for open source software collaboration and innovation. The Foundation is home to the Eclipse IDE, Jakarta EE, and over 375 open source projects, including runtimes, tools, and frameworks for a range of technology domains such as IoT, edge computing, automotive, geospatial and systems engineering. The Eclipse Foundation is a not-for-profit organization supported by over 275 members, including industry leaders who value open source as a key enabler for business strategy.

Within a given industry segment, it is essential that all devices and software services share a common representation of the data format and operate according to the same lifecycle stages of the device information. The intent and purpose of the Sparkplug specification is to define an MQTT topic namespace, payload, and session state management that can be applied generically. By meeting the operational requirements for these systems, Sparkplug will enable MQTT-based infrastructures to provide more valuable real-time information to business stakeholders as well. 

In other words, Sparkplug augments MQTT devices to provide standardization for most devices “out of the box,” enabling vendors, manufacturers and other industrial end-users to develop an ecosystem of solutions and devices that can interoperate.

“With the rapid adoption of Sparkplug within multiple markets critical to the Industrial IoT, we are in an excellent position to bring industry leaders together to drive standardization around this transformative technology,” said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. “Sparkplug leverages the ubiquitous MQTT standard already in use throughout the industry to provide standardized communications between industrial devices. The Sparkplug working group will help drive new levels of interoperability across devices and vendors in industrial automation.”

The Eclipse Foundation has a track record of enabling developer-focused open source software collaboration and innovation earned over 15 years. Overall, the Foundation’s more than 375 collaborative projects have resulted in over 195 million lines of code — a $10 billion shared investment. Eclipse IoT projects have been adopted by world-leading companies across verticals to deliver commercial IoT solutions and services.

“The demand for interoperability of industrial systems has never been stronger,” said Jeff Knepper, executive director for Canary Labs. “An open source protocol that provides operations with access to the data they need while balancing IT’s mandate for security will deliver the adoption of IIoT solutions. MQTT is the necessary protocol, Sparkplug is the needed specification, and the Eclipse Foundation is the perfect steward for the community of developers that will maintain the solution.”

“As one of the co-inventors of MQTT over 20 years ago, I couldn’t be more pleased to see the Sparkplug specification bring MQTT back into the original market sector it was developed for in the first place,” said Arlen Nipper, CTO of Cirrus Link Solutions. “The Eclipse Foundation’s successful track record in this space with projects like Eclipse Paho and others is precisely what the emerging IIoT industry requires if the Internet of Things hopes to evolve at the speed of the Internet of People.”

“Sparkplug is the ideal means to promote the successful use of MQTT in IIoT applications,” said Dominik Obermaier, HiveMQ’s CTO and co-founder. “A big part of what we do is making it possible to build connected products for applications where safety is critical. As a result, we are excited to provide a highly reliable and highly scalable MQTT broker for customers who are deploying Sparkplug.”

“Our Ignition platform is designed specifically to bridge the gap between IT and production systems, so ensuring interoperability for systems spanning the IIoT ecosystem is critical to our business,” said Don Pearson, Inductive Automation’s chief strategy officer. “This new working group is a critical component to making industry-wide interoperability a reality.”

“It is ORing’s great honor to work with the Sparkplug Working Group founding members to develop MQTT-Sparkplug technology for the next generation of IoT and smart city solutions,” said Angus Shih, CEO of ORing. “ORing-PaaS with ORing MQTT-Sparkplug IoT devices work well with Ignition and Cirrus Link modules using standard MQTT-Sparkplug protocols. MQTT-Sparkplug is the best solution to solve IoT device compatibility issues and can manage the status of IOT devices in real time. ORing will continue investing resources to work with partners in the Sparkplug Working Group to provide the industry’s best IoT solutions.”

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