In my previous column, I pointed out that free software was now so successful, and in so many fields, that people might wonder whether there's anything left to do. The question was rhetorical, of course, of course: the ingenuity of the open source community means that people there will always find new and exciting projects. And not just the big one that I suggested of baking strong crypto into all our communication tools. There are countless other novel uses for open source, as these three very different examples below indicate.
Here, for example, is one from Mozilla. As I noted a few weeks back, its Firefox OS is great example of free software that could have a massive impact on the world, and of how an organisation that began life as a laudable attempt to salvage something from the trainwreck of Netscape has morphed into one working on a mobile operating system for the billions of people that don't currently have access to smartphone capabilities. But it certainly hasn't forgotten its hacker roots, as this new project makes clear:
Firefox OS is Coming to Raspberry Pi
We are looking to demonstrate that Firefox OS can be a viable and valuable operating system for Raspberry Pi boards, and for the wide variety of use cases that are being imagined today by the Webmakers of tomorrow.
we are actively seeking the development contributions that can extend Fx OS functionality on RaspberryPi devices to
be at parity with Raspbian/RPi as a hobbyist environment. Users will be able to read from sensors and control motors, LEDs, solenoids, slave boards, etc. A modified Fx OS for Raspberry Pi will be able to fly a drone.
be competitive with other media player OSes available for Rpi.
be competitive with other IDEs for FxOS on Raspberry Pi targeted at beginning programmers, like IDLE and Scratch.
enable programmers (via DOM/CSS) to develop robotics etc. by building a declarative model of a reactive system. With one type of output device, the actual electronics could be interfaced with. With another type of output device, the model could be simulated on a client computer.
Firefox OS on RaspberyPi is obviously aimed squarely at the hacker community (including those found in educational contexts.) Here, by contrast, is a fascinating new open source project from the Eclipse Foundation that is for companies and professionals working in a hot new area: electric vehicles (EV). The background:
The ISO/IEC 15118 standard, entitled "Road vehicles – Vehicle-to-Grid Communication Interface", is a digital IP-based communication protocol which defines the communication between an EV and a charging station, also known as an Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The communication mechanisms are defined with regards to the conductive as well as inductive charging process and allow for an automated authentication, authorisation, charge control and billing based on a single contract installed in the EV and without the need of further user interaction.
Here's the proposed Eclipse project:
RISE V2G allows you to create an EVCC instance acting as the client sending request messages related to the respective charging scenario as well as an SECC instance acting as the server which is responding to those requests. EVCC stands for Electric Vehicle Communication Controller (inside the EV) whereas SECC is short for Supply Equipment Communication Controller (inside the EVSE).
Again, it's really great to see open source being applied in entirely new contexts, particularly one that could be important not only economically, but environmentally too.
Finally, here's open source popping up in the consumer space. It's a Kickstarter project called Lumera, which is an add-on for cameras:
Today’s camera manufacturers create products with amazing sensors and stunning lenses which give users high quality images, but most of them don't provide a connection to the cloud and social networks. On the other side, cellphone manufacturers create amazing devices completely immersed in the cloud but with poor optics which give users low quality images.
Through years of working with experts on the field, we deeply understood photography as the art and science that it is. So we came up with the idea of building a device to make this experience even more exciting and friendly with new technologies and social trends. This is how Lumera idea came to life, to connect camera and phones through WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and bring a new world of possibilities...
What that means in practice is the following:
Lumera comes with a built-in dual wireless connection using Bluetooth low energy to remotely control camera parameters and saving battery mode, and WiFi for video live view and fast image/video transfer.
With Lumera Android-iOS App, you will be able to:
Wirelessly capture images and videos.
Remotely view and edit camera parameters like shutter speed, ISO, focus and zoom area, white balance, drive mode, aperture, image quality and format and more features to come.
Wirelessly stream live view to your iOS or Android device.
Setup timelapses from your smartphone.
Tag GPS location to your photos, when you need to.
Here's where free software fits in:
Lumera main technology is based on open source PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol) software to communicate with most popular cameras and reverse engineered open source libraries to communicate with some closed protocol cameras. According to this our future goal is to support a lot more cameras.
But it's not just that PTP code:
Lumera will be open source and open hardware, it will come with Linux based OS. We can't wait to see what hacks you can build on top of Lumera. We are glad to invite you to help us grow our community through our wiki and forums websites.
Again, we see the amazing power of zero-cost, rock-solid and naturally-customisable open source code that can be adapted for almost any purpose. As the three new projects outlined above indicate, there really is no danger that free software will run out of exciting ideas, at least not while there's any human ingenuity left in the world.