What do IoT and Chili Have in Common?

chiliI love chili! When you live in snow country like I do, there is no better wintertime meal than a great bowl of chili. It warms you up and gives you all that protein to go out and snowboard, ski, make snowmen and do all the other fun winter stuff.

The International Chili Society (yes, there really is such a thing) doesn’t know when the first steaming bowl of chili was served. It really could have been a Stone Age meal, made simply by mixing some fresh meat and a few peppers. Now the varieties are endless. There’s competitions, chili champions, thousands of varieties and, of course, legends of the chili world that have “earned their peppers.”

All that endless debate, unlimited varieties, and constant experimentation and evolution of chili recipes reminds me of the networking protocols in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. There are as many ways to move IoT data as there are chili recipes, but the debate about what’s better and what should be used in a particular application is just as endless.

I’ve just written the chapters on competitors to OPC UA for my new OPC UA book. When I started looking at the ways to move data from machines to other places, I realized I could keep writing for the next two or three months and not cover half of the technologies. Here’s some of the more popular ways to move factory floor data around:

OPC UA – This is one of my personal favorites. It’s very comprehensive, secure, has a wonderful information model, and it’s scalable. OPC UA would be equivalent to a premier chili with the best ingredients. It would have something to satisfy every taste.

MQTT – Message Queuing Telemetry Transport is another IoT mechanism for moving data. MQTT is focused on applications where you have to publish voluminous small data packets to consumers using low-bandwidth, high-latency or unreliable networks. This is the chili you would serve at the homeless shelter. You’re satisfying hunger for a lot of people – not necessarily providing an epicurean delight.

XML – eXtensible Markup Language is your go-to chili for the family dinner. It’s easy to make, everybody understands what you’re going to get, and pretty much everybody likes it and will eat it.

REST – REpresentational State Transfer (REST) is not so much an IoT protocol as it is an architectural concept for moving data around the Internet. The REST architecture or a RESTful interface is simply a very flexible design, usually built on top of HTTP, for Client devices to make requests of Server devices using well-defined and simple processes. REST has become the simple alternative to SOAP and Web Services Description Language (WSDL). This is the big gallon can of Hormel chili. If you have a bunch of teenagers over, you can open that can and get them all fed.

HTTP – HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the connectionless, stateless protocol that is used every time we access a web page. Vendors have implemented this as the core of their IoT strategy. It’s the equivalent of pouring ketchup over cheap hamburger meat and calling it chili.

MTConnect – MTConnect is a simple technology built on two very well-known standards described above: XML and HTTP. MTConnect is the Machine Tooling industry standard for sending machine shop floor data to enterprise applications using XML files and HTTP Get instructions. It’s very specific to that one industry –sort of like Texas chili or New Orleans chili. It’s really part of a very specific environment.

Of course, there are lots more. There’s XMPP, M3DA, AMQP, DDS, SSI, LWM2M… etc. The list really is endless – just like the chili recipes.
Well, I’ve made myself hungry so I’m off to the kitchen to make chili – without the pasta (hate pasta in chili). It’s much more fun to experiment with chili recipes than trying to comprehend all these IoT protocols.