Mozilla Takes the Curtain off Its First IoT Projects

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2016-03-07 Print this article Print

Mozilla is revealing more details about its first Internet of things efforts since the company ended its failed Firefox OS smartphone in December.

Mozilla announced the first of its Internet of things projects that are evolving out of what was once its promising Mozilla Firefox OS operating system initiative.

Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla's senior vice president for connected devices, unveiled the first four IoT "experiments" in a March 1 post on the Mozilla Blog, just a month after the company announced that it will soon end support for Firefox OS on its now-defunct smartphones. Mozilla's smartphones and its operating system were the victims of poor consumer response in the marketplace.

After dropping the smartphone efforts back in December, the company said it would keep its Firefox OS alive as it worked to see how it could be used with the IoT.

Jaaksi's post describes the first of those efforts.

The first four experiments include Project Link, a "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," according to Jaaksi's post.

The second experiment is Project Sensor Web, which is designed to help map out "the easiest path from sensors to open data for contributors to collaboratively build a detailed understanding of their living environments," Jaaksi wrote. "We are launching a pilot project to build a crowdsourced pm2.5 sensor network."

Next is Project Smart Home, which covers a "middle ground between 'in a box' solutions like Apple Homekit and DIY solutions like Raspberry Pi," wrote Jaaksi. "Combining modular, affordable hardware with easy-to-use rules, Smart Home empowers people to solve unique everyday problems in new and creative ways."

The fourth experiment is 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," wrote Jaaksi. "We will prototype interactions at home in the near term, and in the future, showcase the ability to access services from the open Web."

To grow the projects, Mozilla is now seeking developers and IoT enthusiasts to join its efforts to push the code and the projects into new directions, he wrote.

"We cannot do this without our dedicated and passionate community of developers and volunteers serving in an array of roles, as they are critical at ensuring each project has the best opportunity at making an impact," he wrote. "If you are interested in participating as a developer or tester, please click here to get involved."

The development is being organized through "a gated innovation process that includes time to brainstorm solutions to real life problems and evaluate the market opportunity for these ideas," Jaaksi continued. "Additionally, we are aligning ourselves with users when it comes to simplicity, ease-of-use and engaging experiences, while ensuring everything is built with the Mozilla values of openness, transparency, privacy and user control at the core."

Community participants are being asked to help develop, test and evaluate the first four projects, he wrote.

"We look forward to giving you updates on these projects as we continue to innovate with you all, out in the open," he wrote.

In February, Mozilla announced that Version 2.6 of Firefox OS for smartphones will be the last version to be built and that plans for its eventual end are being formulated, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Also being shuttered is the Firefox Marketplace across various platforms, including smartphones, Firefox desktop and Firefox for Android.

Mozilla had announced the end of its two-year-old smartphone line in December after it failed to ignite the imaginations of consumers. At the time, Mozilla said that its Firefox OS would not disappear, however, and would continue to be used for smart TVs and potentially other devices in the future, including Panasonic's Smart TV line of products.

In a related announcement, Mozilla said it is also ending live technical support in May for the Firefox OS after Version 2.6 on smartphone.

The Firefox OS effort first began in 2011 under the name Boot to Gecko (B2G) and was rebranded Firefox OS in July 2012, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Gecko is the name of the core rendering engine that powers Firefox, and the idea of B2G was to have a thin Linux base tightly integrated with Firefox as the foundation of a new operating system. 

The Firefox OS system had the look of an Android operating system on the phones, with a home page full of app icons. Facebook and Twitter were preloaded. Also included was an adaptive app search system that lets a user search based on intentions, rather than proper nouns. If you put in "sushi, "for example, you wouldn't just get apps with the word "sushi" in them but information on local sushi restaurants and maybe information on how to make sushi. A search for a band would turn up not just albums but information on buying concert tickets.



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