Open and Transparent

It’s been an interesting few days in OpenSensors HQ. My fairly harmless comment about privacy and security for the Internet of things on Twitter turned into a fracas. A fairly prominent blogger and activist, Aral Balkan, took issue with our use of the word Open in our company name. Twitter is not the best medium for nuanced debate so I wanted to address the points raised.

The central point of Aral’s comments can be summed up by his tweet If you have a closed platform, don’t call it open. Is that too much to ask for?

For clarity, here is why we are proud to call ourselves OpenSensors.

Who we are

We are an Open Data and Internet of Things startup incubated in the Open Data Institute, founded by our hero Sir Tim Berners Lee. If you have never come across open data please check out his great talk about what it is and also see the great Open Knowledge Foundation’s write up.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a very broad term for connecting day to day objects and sensors to the internet. In the IoT world open refers to Open Source Software (OSS), Open Data, Open Hardware, Open Protocols and the Open Web. The common thread that holds these ideals together is that accessibility is key to creating value and benefit.

We strongly believe in all of these ideals. We write open source code and we develop firmware for Open Hardware devices and our guiding principle is to support Open Internet of Things and Web protocols.

OpenSensors aims to create a real time public data exchange. Most public sensor data sets are currently sitting in silos and we will make them available for reuse by anyone with Open Data Licences. Publishers of data sets include individuals, cities, etc Data such as Air Quality information, flooding, parking etc is so much more useful when it’s accessible and reusable by as many people and services as possible.

In order to do this, we have built a hugely scalable core, thanks to existing Open Source projects. We use standard web technologies such as HTTP as well as Server Sent Events for easy real time transfer of data between sensors and the web. In addition, we use Open Sensor protocols such as MQTT to enable M2M applications and we will soon have support for another great open protocol CoAP.

Will all our code be Open?

We will develop open source software (including our core azondi). We will also contribute back in some way to the huge amount of open source software we use such as Cassandra, Elastic Search, Postgres, Netty, a ton of clojurewerkz projects and have incubated Cylon, a security library, from Alpha. We have plans to release a ton of other OSS projects for things that we needed to scratch our itch. We recognise that we stand on shoulders of the giants of the computer science world.

All that being said please be aware that we are not a social enterprise and there will be parts of our code base that will be private. We are ultimately a for profit company and our aim is to create a sustainable business model for an engineering led business to thrive.

  • We want to hire amazing developers to solve hard problems, enable them to unleash their creative energies and love the product.
  • We pay everyone from interns upwards a sustainable wage.
  • We value diversity and spend time and money organising community groups for free to give back.
  • We do not charge to speak at or to arrange community events.
  • We run paid training events where at least 30% of attendees places will fully or in part covered by Open Sensors for those that don’t have the means to pay the full price.
  • We do not depend on government funding and our pricing structure is very clear https://opensensors.io/pricing.

We have a freemium model around open data that will hopefully create a lot of value to a lot of people. We also will enable our paid clients to build connected products for a charge in order to pay for servers, salaries, office costs, etc.

We aim to find enough people to give us their hard earned money by building an amazing product. It is that simple. We do not resell private data or try to create revenue from insight into private user behavior.

Do we have the right to call ourselves Open and claim a seat at the table?

Hell Yes! No one gets to play at un-appointed gatekeeper in our communities especially using exclusionary language and labels, not even the founder of the web and open data.

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