From the time computers were first developed to the present when IoT is considered the next big thing in the world of technology and Industry 4.0 is driven by the burgeoning IoT devices, computer systems have all been providing users application services including communication, collaboration and data processing through the help of operating systems. For example, mainframes in the 1960s and PCs in the late 1970s both were driven and managed by hardware-based operating systems so that they could perform computation.
Through many years of development, operating systems are generally considered to provide two functions: Managing resources required to carry out computation tasks and furnishing an operating environment. That is, they provide a way for human-machine interactions to help users drive and use the resources needed to complete the tasks.
Personal operating systems running on hardware devices provide each user a unique account to build his/her own dedicated and private operating system so every user has his/her own private environment which prevents access by other users. As such, interpersonal communication across personal operating systems can only be achieved through application services.
In the 1990s, Internet became a popular and highly efficient way for information exchange. Personal computers also started to have browsers to send and receive information to and from the Internet. Today, Internet application services are becoming more and more mature and widespread.
However, the current development of collaborative work has run into a wall. There are only 5% of businesses across all industries capable of developing their own application programs or host their own websites. The other 95% of businesses and 99% of the public have to rely on platforms/application programs made available by third party companies for communication and collaboration.
New cloud technology leading into the era of cloud operating system
To resolve the bottleneck that personal operating systems can only rely on application services for collaboration and communication and the security risk that data is kept at third party platforms, Picowork, a cloud system provider based in Taiwan, introduces collaborative cloud computer (CCC) and collaborative cloud operating system (CCOS) solutions, targeting the demand for all-round collaborations among customers, channels, manufacturers and production chains arising from the development of IoT, Industry 4.0 and Big Data. By providing CCC, Picowork enables operating entities in a wide range of businesses to achieve self-managed security and also freely build a collaborative environment to benefit from common collaborative operations under an open and secure framework.
What exactly is collaborative cloud computer (CCC) and collaborative cloud operating system (CCOS)? "CCC is built with CCOS. Install CCOS on a hardware host and deploy it or set it up in your network server room or IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). Then, you can have your own CCC," explained Jun-Hsiao Lin, Vice President & CTO, Picowork.
As to CCOS, Picowork builds the solution as a binary computing environment on the Internet. One implementation is to provide a personal operating environment where each user is given a dedicated account for him/her to set up a personal cross-platform operating environment directly on the Internet. This helps the user access a variety of resources on the Internet and the user can only access his/her own account. The other implementation is to provide a collaborative operating environment where each user in his/her own operating environment can set up a collaborative operating environment specifically for a social activity. Different from a personal operating environment, the initiator of a collaborative operating environment can freely decide who can access the collaborative operating environment, e.g. company employees, industry chain business partners, and current or potential customers. These people can participate in common activities, share resources such as collaborative documents, companies' internal information systems, Web application services, etc. to accomplish collaborative work.
IoT use scenarios call for readily available cloud collaborative connections
From the above discussion, we can see that CCOS features the ability to work collaboratively in the boundaryless Internet environment. The entire IoT ecosystem basically seeks to gather Big Data through connected devices and send it to cloud for computation for the purpose of forecasting market trend for the next quarter and thereby providing accurate prediction to improve business operation and raise efficiency. The challenge lies in the lack of a common standard. Even if a common standard is established, businesses will have to make changes to their application programs so that they can negotiate business, which requires data exchange. The fact that the businesses have to spend high costs to exchange data hinders widespread IoT development.
In response to major business opportunities, organizations are all looking to find solutions with the highest efficiency, lowest costs, and least changes. Picowork's CCOS is the most effective solution. For businesses to take part in collaborative work and share resources, all they need to do is use their own cloud computer to set up a collaborative operating environment running on the Internet and make use of operations therein to send invitations to employees, enterprises, and supply chain partners via communication channels including email, text messages, messaging software and social media. All the people participating in the collaborative work can congregate in the same operating environment in no time.
When a brand vendor needs to conduct transactions with supply chain partners or a government agency is inviting bids for a tender project, they can create a variety of collaborative operating environments by themselves based on the purposes of collaborations (much like a workplace operating various social activities). In the collaborative operating environment, people can engage in one-to-one communication, conduct multipoint video conferences, send all types of text/media files and collaborative documents and can also install application programs owned by the participants directly in the collaborative environment. Each type of content can be configured with access rights. Accordingly, a demand-oriented cloud ecosystem is in the formation, enabling lowest costs and least changes.
Four requirements of cloud collaboration environment are mutually supportive, not mutually exclusive
The collaborative operating environment Picowork is attempting to bring to reality already has applications in collaborative sales, collaborative supply, collaborative service, collaborative education, collaborative manufacturing, collaborative control, and collaborative maintenance. Lin pointed out that the key to the implementation of widespread cross-industry collaborative operations is whether the four basic requirements by businesses engaged in collaborations can be fulfilled.
Controllable: The first requirement is an organization can have control over its cloud environment. If an organization with a main network structure can deploy its own CCC in its network server room, then it can have its own cloud computer and therefore control over its cloud environment.
Freedom: The second requirement is an organization can freely establish a collaborative relationship. That is, for different social activities, an organization can use its cloud computer to create its own cross-platform collaborative operating environments and can freely invite people engaging in the collaboration (e.g. company employees, industry partners and customers) to join the common operating environment and accomplish the collaborative work. The operating environment supports both freedom and control.
Extendable: The third requirement is during the course of collaboration, the initiator and participants of the collaborative operating environment can install, introduce or make use of internal and external resources that are compatible with both parties' network systems, including data, content, tools, applications and services, with the lowest costs and least changes.
Analyzable: The fourth requirement is an organization can keep track of all the operations and interactions during the course of collaboration, forming the basis for Big Data analytics for future reference and back-end statistics, generating Big Data benefits.
Working on building secure collaborative environments, Picowork establishes a complete patent portfolio
To meet the four requirements, Picowork has spent nearly six years on the R&D and testing of CCOS and CCC. In addition, Picowork began patent planning early in the development stage of its technologies. In the six years, it has filed applications for dozens of invention patents which have already obtained international priority based on PCT patent search results. Sixty percent of the applications have all Category A references cited in the search reports, indicated Lin at Picowork's CCOS and CCC product launch. Applications pertaining to its core technologies have been granted by the patent offices of many different countries, including the US, and Picowork continues with its patent prosecution for other major countries in the world.
Four aspects within the scope of Picowork's granted patents are chosen to enable further understanding on its future development goals:
1. Global Internet resources can be managed through a system.
2. An operating system environment can drive and make use of global Internet resources to accomplish tasks.
3. An operating system environment can be cloud-based and run on the Internet.
4. An operating system environment running on the Internet can connect people, tasks, things and information systems for collaborative applications (including the collection of Big Data).
These four aspects of Picowork's granted patents are indications of its tremendous development potential in the cloud ecosystem industry.
In the past, information security mechanisms focused on data encryption because data is transmitted by third party application programs on PC and encryption is needed to protect data from being compromised. In the case of a cloud collaborative operating environment, Picowork uses a Secured Container to execute the operating environment and install application services and content in the cloud operating environment. Therefore, if application programs carry viruses, the viruses will be contained in the Secured Container and will not infect the cloud collaborative operating environment.
Lin concluded that Taiwan has a complete hardware industry chain and a growing number of software R&D talent. However, the industry still lacks its own operating environment and therefore has no opportunity to define its own rules. This is why Picowork, seeing that future developments of IoT and Industry 4.0 will require widespread social collaborations, sets eyes on building collaborative operating environments with cross-platform cloud integration connecting different people and things. This will also be an ideal path leading the Taiwan industry to go forward.