Mozilla Jumps On IoT Bandwagon
Mozilla Jumps On IoT Bandwagon
Written by Ian Elliot   
Friday, 04 March 2016

Mozilla has been clarifying some of its plans to convert the Firefox OS project into four IoT based projects. At a casual glance this seems like a naive move that is doomed to failure.

Just about everyone wants a slice of the action that is the Internet of Things (IoT), but few are very clear how to make it happen or what is required - even though they are all 100% sure that they know. Mozilla had a really good idea with Firefox OS. but the implementation was poor and progress slow. Without a market success it seems that Mozilla lacked the resources to keep working on it. So it decided to stop working on it, see Mozilla Confirms End of Firefox OS For Smartphones.

Instead Mozilla has proposed four IoT oriented projects: 

  • Project Link: Your personal user agent that understands your preferences for how you want to interact with the world of devices in your home, and automate your connected world for you. All of this still done conveniently and securely, but completely under your control.

This sounds something like a sub-standard Siri or Cortana or something like Amazon's Alexa. It's also close in concept to Silk Labs Sense, from the IoT start-up founded by Andreas Gal, the former Mozilla CTO who has taken the Firefox OS team with him. The problem here is that projects of this sort require lots of resources by way of AI expertise and lots of cloud computing. Neither of which Mozilla has. 

  • Project Sensor Web: The easiest path from sensors to open data for contributors to collaboratively build a detailed understanding of their living environments. We are launching a pilot project to build a crowdsourced pm2.5 sensor network.

mozillasensor

As anyone who has attempted to do the same sort of thing will tell you, building sensor webs is very difficult. Not because the software is hard, it isn't, but because the hardware is very tough to get right. Even if you design the right sort of hardware or use off the shelf hardware, you have the problem of organizing the communication network. Again you need significant cloud computing. 

  • Project Smart Home: A middle ground between “in a box” solutions like Apple Homekit and DIY solutions like Raspberry Pi. Combining modular, affordable hardware with easy-to-use rules, Smart Home empowers people to solve unique everyday problems in new and creative ways.

This is a more reasonable project and there is a significant software problem to be solved. Of course, others have already solved it, Cayenne for example, and it does all depend what you mean by "middle ground". Again there is probably a need for significant cloud computing resources.

  • Project Vaani: An IoT enabler package to developers, device makers and users who want to add a voice interface to their devices in a flexible and customizable way. We will prototype interactions at home in near term, and in future, showcase the ability to access services from the open Web.

Again this probably needs significant AI expertise and a cloud to back it up. 

So what to make of these projects?

Mozilla is an open source organization and as such is free to do what it wants to. It doesn't even need to put money into the projects if it can get enough enthusiasts to dig in. However, at the point at which Firefox is dropping in popularity and Mozilla can't find the resources to work on Thunderbird or Firefox OS it seems strange to branch out into technologies that have very little to do with web browsers and a lot to do with advanced AI.

None of this is core Mozilla teritory.

It is also territory that a lot of other companies with much bigger resources are trying to capture. These are big, messy, risky projects that stand little chance of making much impact on the user. Jumping on the IoT bandwagon doesn't seem very innovative of Mozilla. 

The biggest problem of all is that Mozilla, despite receiving so much money from Google over the years, doesn't have an extensive cloud infrastructure of its own and all of the projects listed would need some cloud support.

Mozilla really does seem to have lost its way.

mozilla

More Information

Update on Connected Devices Innovation Process: Four Projects Move Forward

Related Articles

Mozilla Confirms End of Firefox OS For Smartphones 

Mozilla Gives Up On Firefox OS

The Perils Of Mozilla

Andreas Gal Leaving Mozilla 

Sense From Silk Labs

 

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