Farewell open source

A year ago today we found ourselves in San Francisco proudly accepting an Elastic Search Award.

A year ago today, COVID-19 had not yet been declared a global pandemic, and the Elastic Stack was open source. Today, the Elastic Stack is no longer open source, and we’re in the second wave of a global pandemic. Reflecting on the past year we ask:

How is it that we were able to double down on open source (software and hardware!) during a global crisis while some organisations instead changed course?

Organisations?   As in more than one?   Yes.   Here we are referring to Oxford University reversing its decision to open source their coronavirus vaccine. And Elastic’s license change which was announced in January of this year.

What’s so special about open source, you may ask?

In a word, community. At Elastic{ON} 2020 we were impressed by many things, but none more than the strong sense of community among Elastic’s diverse and distributed workforce and network of contributors, partners and investors. A project on the scale of the Elastic Stack inspires purposeful contribution, not just to the code base, but to the project as a whole, from the community and, critically, for the community.

Open source is about distribution terms (i.e. implications for the community), not just access to code. Hence the OSD: Open Source Definition. And that’s where Elastic’s recent license change establishes terms outside of this definition, with resulting implications for the community, even if the code remains as accessible as before.

Imagine now the Oxford vaccine being distributed as open source, as originally intended. Imagine the strong sense of global community this would have instilled, let alone the purposeful contributions it would have received to facilitate both distribution (130 countries still had not administered a single vaccination around the time of writing, according to UNICEF!) and continuous improvement as new challenges and strains of the virus emerge.

Why the departure from open source, you may ask?

In a word, pressure. We invite the reader to inform themselves and draw their own conclusions as to the source(s) of pressure for both Oxford and Elastic to reverse course on open source. And, critically, to identify what prevented each organisation’s leadership from successfully resisting that pressure?

Indeed we too received pressure against open sourcing Pareto Anywhere and its precursors. This past year, our decisions to open source DirAct and our ca-va-bracelet open hardware collaboration were strongly contested. How were we able to successfully resist? The ownership structure of our purpose-driven organisation affords us—and only us—the final say.

Will we continue to use the Elastic Stack?   Yes, of course. It remains an outstanding example of open source collaboration and we remain proud of our award and contributions! Let’s look back again in a year to see what impact the recent license change will have had for the community.

Will people still get vaccinated?   Yes, of course. The global vaccine effort has been unprecedented even if the precedent of proprietariness remains unbroken. Let’s look back again in a year to see what impact this approach will have had on immunisation rates for the global community.

Finally, were we ourselves A Fool to Open Source? We mused tongue-in-cheek about the subject in our traditional April Fool’s blog post five years ago. As we hope we’ve shown, there is clearly no consensus—even in the software industry where the open source movement began decades ago. For those who bade farewell to open source this past year, we trust that their communities—of which we are a part—will continue to fare well. We nevertheless maintain our philosophy that open source is what’s best for the community.

Open for business today and a better tomorrow

As we begin 2021 in the second (or even third!) wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the world have by now, with few exceptions, been forced to shift, scale or even suspend their operations. During the first wave, many companies and organisations sought out contact tracing and social distancing solutions to minimise or delay any such disruptions. Indeed, we were proud to have mature interaction detection technologies such as DirAct ready to contribute to these endeavours, which, moreover, offered to serve as a launching pad for businesses to adopt and integrate location insights throughout their operations, thereby emerging from the pandemic with a competitive edge.

That’s why this week we were pleased to read the market research note How Bluetooth® Technology is Enabling Safe Return Strategies in a COVID-19 Era. The report’s conclusion begins by validating what has been our value proposition before—and continues to be during and beyond—the pandemic:

While it is clear that many solutions are emerging that target COVID-19 related applications, there is benefit in devising an overall RTLS and smart building strategy that can leverage location insights using Bluetooth® technology to provide both COVID-19-related and other, wider use cases in a holistic manner while also opening up the possibility for additional valuable use cases to be added over time.

Case in point, our Desjardins DTM deployment, which features a building-wide real-time location system (RTLS). The office tower provides occupancy analytics from ambient Bluetooth® devices, data which proved to be particularly pertinent as occupancy patterns shifted drastically following lockdown and subsequent safe return initiatives. Desjardins’ smart building strategy proved its merits and, with our location infrastructure already in place, lends itself to new contact tracing and/or asset tracking use cases as part of a safe return strategy simply by introducing Bluetooth® badges and/or tags from any vendor.

Of course, most businesses do not already have infrastructure in place providing location insights. And, as the market research note highlights, the unfortunate reality for a typical RTLS is that “the implementation cost [is] higher than the cost of equipment installed in many cases” and “lockdown measures have made it difficult for [vendors] to implement their equipment in the marketplace.” In other words,

good luck deploying a RTLS during a pandemic!

However, thanks to the proliferation of standard Bluetooth® devices and gateways, and accessible open source software like Pareto Anywhere, a location insights platform need not be costly nor complicated. Case in point, in the first months of the pandemic, a Canadian poultry processor was able to validate the contact tracing use case for their facility, where workers must perform their duties in close proximity, using our plug-and-play Showcase Kit which their IT team successfully deployed themselves. The tests they performed in their workplace suggested that personnel tracking would better serve their needs than contact tracing, and ultimately they were able to validate this and additional use cases using the very same equipment.

Ten months into the global pandemic, for many businesses, the priority remains to keep their workplace safe and open. Desjardins and other organisations with advanced smart building strategies benefited from location insights on day one. For others, as we’ve shown, there is an effective and viable means to catch up. As the market research note highlights, a single COVID-19-related use case opens up the possibility for additional valuable use cases over time.

When every day is a new normal, access to daily location insights provides an edge for a business to stay safely open today and to emerge stronger tomorrow.   Here’s to a stronger tomorrow.

Every Day is a New Normal

In the Spring of 2020, as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, and as lockdowns ensued, the question of the day was “when will we get back to normal?”

Soon thereafter, as the unprecedented socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic became apparent, the question of the day became “what will be the new normal?”

In either case, these questions suppose a certain stable state: normal. In the former question it is the previous stable state, in the latter it is an expected future stable state. But what if normal were in fact to become an unstable state, as it often has over the course of history, both of our species and of the universe?

What if normal were to become an unstable state?

Indeed, consider the countless individuals and organisations for whom normal has already become anything but stable. Perhaps the question we should be asking today is whether every day will be a new normal?

What if every day is a new normal?

It may well be. And for some time at that. Even if history tells us we can expect an eventual return to stability, there is no certainty in how soon.

For those who embrace change, what an opportunity this period represents!

When every day is a new normal, it is normal to expect breakthrough innovation on any given day. The tireless champions of progressive policies within their organisations may see changes for which they advocated for a decade be adopted in a single decision. Agile, forward-thinking businesses will capture footholds and disrupt even seemingly invincible hegemons, wherever and whenever the incumbents are too slow or indecisive to adapt. As reality changes, so do ideas.

Speed will outpace size as a critical determinant of survival.

We incorporated reelyActive 8 years ago envisaging a radically different—and better—future enabled by technology. Looking back, our greatest challenge was not one of technology, but rather of overcoming resistance to change. To those individuals and organisations who have tenaciously endured this challenge with us, know that we’re with you. So long as every day is a new normal, every day is an opportunity for significant and meaningful progress. Let’s combine our strengths and energies to make the most of every day in this unprecedented period of time in human history.   Seriously.   Contact us.

GR8 changes ahead

It’s July 2020, and today we celebrate reelyActive’s eighth anniversary of incorporation amidst a global pandemic and a tumultuous global climate, both political and planetary. If anything is certain, it is that great changes lie ahead.

After the team flew to San Francisco in March to proudly accept an Elastic Search Award for “making physical spaces searchable like the Web,” within a matter of days, everything changed with the global spread of COVID-19. We abruptly lost our single biggest active client to bankruptcy, and, due to lockdown, lost access for visitors and prospective clients to our new Park Avenue Research Centre (connu également comme Crap), which was core to our business strategy.

We had to change our business to survive. And we did.

Businesses that are adaptive and resilient stand the best chance to survive the indefinite disruption to the economy and to their operations. Moreover, as a “new normal” emerges, such businesses are most likely to see the inevitable changes as opportunities rather than obstacles. Those businesses are now our best prospective clients.

Almost exactly one year ago we asked Are we selling discomfort? The answer is YES, and it is good that we are because buying (and selling!) comfort isn’t a viable strategy for the foreseeable future.

The businesses, organisations and individuals that will emerge the strongest are those that find their comfort in continuous change, embracing a culture of continuous improvement.

And if the “new normal” which emerges is to be led by such forward-thinking actors in critical numbers, is it too ambitious to imagine this as the definitive start of the third industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 and/or catallaxy? Many of the authors featured in our bibliography would surely argue that this essential to the advancement of humanity—if not the very survival of our species!

Again, if anything is certain, it is that great changes lie ahead. From a macro perspective, it is not difficult to argue that such change is both necessary and overdue. It’s a good time to embrace change, and we at reelyActive enter our ninth year with exactly that in mind.