Industry-Grade Open Source Software for Industrial Automation

The Eclipse Foundation, together with its research and industrial partners, is fostering creation of a Working Group that’s focused on open industrial automation to bring industry-grade open source software to shop floors. The goal is to provide reliable open source technologies that meet the needs of industries and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as they evolve to digital factories.

The Working Group is an opportunity for innovative companies to:

  • Share the effort and cost of developing reliable open source software
  • Actively shape software development according to their needs to avoid vendor lock-in to proprietary solutions and accelerate time to market

Closed and Proprietary Systems Limit Industrial Automation

Since the last century when computers first found their way onto shop floors, the basic concepts and computational paradigms used in industrial automation haven’t changed much. Most innovations have been confined to vendor-specific, proprietary ecosystems.

With the advent of the internet and the digital economy that came with it, supply chains and markets did change. But, industrial automation cannot develop to its full potential.

The outdated computational concepts used in closed and proprietary environments limit the new production capabilities and business models that become possible with open and highly interconnected systems. Those who are first to overcome these obstacles will gain a competitive advantage thanks to the flexibility that results from easily understood, networked, and adaptable production processes.

A User-Driven Approach Meets Strategic Requirements

Eclipse Working Groups provide a vendor-neutral governance structure that allows organizations to freely collaborate on new technology development. The core principles of Eclipse Working Groups help to ensure development of a reliable, open platform that is free to use, adapt, and redistribute, and that is in sync with users’ requirements and strategic goals. 

Membership in the proposed Open Industrial Automation Working Group is centered around open source software users and producers.

User members are from organizations that need software components that are developed under a vendor-neutral open source software license that leverages collaboration with industry partners to decrease time to market and costs and eliminate vendor lock-in.

Producer members are from organizations that develop open source software for industrial automation or build solutions and products based on open source.

Here’s how the relationship between the two works:

  • User members collaboratively define the vision and details of the software that will be developed based on what is strategically important to them.
  • Producer members listen, discuss the requirements, and ultimately implement them.
  • The work is jointly funded by user members.
  • The process of defining requirements, having discussions, and collaboratively developing software are transparent to all Working Group members and the results are available as open source.

It’s All About the Code

Contrary to other well-known and successful industrial automation initiatives, the Eclipse Foundation Open Industrial Automation Working Group puts a clear focus on code — code that is open source, solves real-world problems, and runs reliably in production environments.

In addition to providing governance and infrastructure for open source industrial automation software, the Working Group supports existing standards and interoperability in an open environment with the following characteristics:

  • Compatibility: The ecosystem will have the ability to expand to support existing and upcoming standards and technologies such as new communications standards or data formats. We welcome organizations that want to make their standard or product compatible with our ecosystem.
  • Integration: The technologies provided by the Working Group are licensed under the Eclipse Public License 2.0 and will form an open platform that provides base technologies and solutions. Commercial or open source products can be built on top of the platform.
  • Standardization: The Working Group is committed to standardizing the core elements of the technologies provided. An important example here is the Eclipse BaSyx project Asset Administration Shell, which is currently standardized among industrial associations and can provide a backbone for interoperability within the Working Group.
  • Practice: The Working Group will collect reference solutions and provide educational materials for implementing the next generation of production environments.

For more information about the Eclipse Open Industrial Automation Working Group and what it means for your organization, email

About the Author

Marco Jahn

Marco Jahn

Marco Jahn is research project manager at the Eclipse Foundation. He obtained his diploma in computer science from Ulm University in 2006 and his PhD from RWTH Aachen in 2016. He worked as software developer at denkwerk GmbH before moving to Fraunhofer FIT. There, he has been working as researcher and (technical) project manager in various European research projects in the areas of IoT and Smart Cities. Furthermore, he led the IoT Platforms team and coordinated the IoT Large-Scale Pilot Project MONICA. He joined the Eclipse Foundation in 2019 where he participates in the foundation’s research activities, helping to turn innovations into successful open source projects.