The Benefits of Using Microservices for Edge Devices
The way electronic devices are made has always been monolithic and never evolved.
While it’s possible to create very sophisticated devices with lots of features, the downside is the monolithic stack that results.
In our view, any electronic project is 25% innovation and 75% reinventing the wheel. Each year, there are 1 million new smart devices designed. We estimate that between $500,000 and $5 million is wasted reinventing the wheel for each device. Globally, the impact of this colossal mess means that as much as $5 trillion is wasted annually!
For this reason, embedded edge services, also called cyber physical systems, have a lot of advantages over traditional code. It’s possible to reuse code on different devices and to deploy to one or multiple microcontrollers. With smaller chunks of code for specific purposes, the code is easier to read, therefore easier to maintain, and less likely to have bugs.
We believe the electronics industry needs to evolve in the same way. And we’re doing this with an open-source architecture that turns electronic devices into full connected microservices architectures.
This technology could first allow hardware microservices for electronics and embedded systems, but it could also merge them with microservices in the software industry. To be sure, this implies a whole new way of considering these industries and their future.
We believe that the solution to unleash this new technology is using a piece of embedded software and any kind of network to link all the applications in a single system image.
Electronic design becomes:
- Universal – We can use several technologies to implement a function, and it works the same way. For example, exchanging a brushless motor with a stepper without changing any code.
- Scalable – If a device needs 10 motors with fine control, one can be built then duplicated nine times versus building a giant electronic board. Plus, it’s easier to debug and maintain the former.
- Plug-and-Play – With hardware/software microservices, it’s possible to re-use designs in a plug-and-play way for other versions or projects capitalizing on existing designs.
- Collaborative – With a modular architecture, different team members can focus on tasks where they have expertise; no one person has to be expert in every part of the project.
We believe that electronic design should be “microservice-able” and are working on an open source library that helps separate code into services so that it is easy to integrate and maintain into a project.
We chose open source because it gives everyone access to the code and ability to customize it for their needs. This will start to address the problem in the electronics industry which suffers from a lack of code and project sharing. Today, the problem is that we recreate projects from scratch, we rack our brains on problems that some people may have already solved, and we waste time redoing what has already been done.
This need to share and evolve is especially visible in cloud-based devices. Many edge devices are connected to the cloud, but we believe that the true power of microservices will be unleashed when devices are able to work together at the edge, without the need for a constant connection to the cloud. For example, Tesla is able to adapt the characteristics/features of their cars depending on geopolitical events overnight.
Cloud products are commonly known as edge devices with different boards and sensors. By its plurality of needs, the used boards gain agility when they are interchangeable. The interchangeability allows a board to be updated without the need to reprogram the entire system. This is the best way to make efficient and low-power devices. Luos facilitates device agility through the cloud.
Edge Microservices Becomes Agile
Thinking about microservices means thinking about sustainability, how to minimize a project’s impact on resources and dependency on different factors. When we see the impact of a microchip shortage on global production, it becomes clear that we need to rethink the way we make things.
By using microservices, we can build very efficient and low-power devices, which is a key factor when we talk about the Internet of Things (IoT).
We have seen some impressive results with this approach. Pollen Robotics used some ready-to-use Luos services and hardware to develop Reachy in a modular and sustainable way. The developer was able to quickly add new features, such as remote control and monitoring, without changing the existing design.
We believe that this technology can have benefits and a huge impact on the way electronic devices are designed and manufactured. We are just at the beginning of this journey, and we are excited to see what the future holds.
We recently created a community on Discord to create exchanges among these developers from around the world. This allows anyone to share their projects, needs and ideas for developing edge and embedded projects. Everyone is welcome to join.