October 6, 2023

[On the Job] Product and Service Development Made Easier With ‘Open Source’

In this installment of On the Job, we take a look into the Open Source Task at LG’s Software (SW) Engineering Center.

Three LG staff from Open Source Task at LG's Software Engineering Center

Software is the key to making our home appliances smarter. And to improve and advance software, the open sharing of source codes between developers around the world is important. Open source software can be freely modified to meet the needs of a given project or application, and saves programmers time by presenting them with a solid foundation upon which to build.

The Open Source Task at LG’s SW Engineering Lab. focuses, as the name suggests, on managing the internal usage of open source software and LG’s open source contributions. The center as a whole concentrates on improving the capabilities of the company’s software developers, by establishing open source and product security policies, researching software architecture, educating the developers and offering top-tier testing environments and infrastructure. Fitting within the broader scope of the center, the Open Source Task was created in the process of embracing the culture of the open source community, especially as open source began to play an even more important role in software development.

Kim So-im, professional at LG’s Open Source TaskKim So-im, professional at LG’s Open Source Task

“The Open Source Task supports everything relating to the use of open source code in the software applied to LG’s products and services,” said Kim So-im, professional at LG’s Open Source Task. “We check whether, in terms of the open source software employed in LG’s products, that we’ve met our obligations as per licenses, and we also develop and operate our own management tool to make better use of open source software.”

The task’s open source software management tool is used by both internal and external developers. In addition to analyzing new technologies and reviewing usage licenses to establish policies related to open source software or source code, the Open Source Task conducts activities to raise awareness around matters relating to open source copyrights.

An illustration explaining the definition of Open Source

“The concept of open source is that the source code necessary for developing software is freely available to anyone,” said Min Kyung-sun, professional at LG’s Open Source Task. “Free modification, copying, use and redistribution are permitted, and products developed with the open source software are also allowed to be sold.”

If the functions required to develop a product are already included in the open source software being utilized, the product’s developers won’t have to create software from scratch, saving both time and effort. “For example, when creating a calculator, a developer can simply download and run the relevant software, then move forward quickly from there – that’s the beauty of open source,” explained Min.

Park Won-jae, professional at LG’s Open Source TaskPark Won-jae, professional at LG’s Open Source Task

Open source software is used in most of LG’s products across all areas of business. “The webOS platform, which powers LG TVs and signage, operates based on open source,” said Park Won-jae, professional at LG’s Open Source Task. “And, for automotive software, open source software is used when LG collaborates with its external partners.”

A screencapture of a FOSSLight website

Before using open source software, it is important to review the specific license obligations attached to that software. To this end, LG created FOSSLight, a management tool that helps developers use open source software in compliance with the relevant licenses. It also assists with enhancing product security by helping to identify any vulnerabilities. LG is in the process of creating a comprehensive database containing a variety of information essential for developers using open source software. As of now, the FOSSLight database includes about 50,000 open source and 700 licenses. FOSSLight can detect the open source used in software, find the associated licenses, and monitor security vulnerabilities. For safety and convenience, LG’s system also supports all the processes required of developers working with open source software.

Approximately 2,000 developers currently use the system directly, and institutions and companies such as South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) already operates systems that utilize FOSSLight. The number of organizations and companies employing FOSSLight is expected to grow in the future, as is the number of active users.

Min Kyung-sun, professional at LG’s Open Source TaskMin Kyung-sun, professional at LG’s Open Source Task

While open source software is widely used due to the many benefits it presents, there are legal risks if companies and developers fail to comply with the license agreements governing its usage. “To prevent any issues, the Open Source Task is creating policies and processes for open source compliance,” explained Min. Open source compliance is a series of activities designed to manage risks by pre-verifying legal issues that may arise in the process of using open source software.

Another priority for the Open Source Task is the improvement of FOSSLight’s speed and accuracy. “We establish policies for product development to minimize inconveniences for developers who create customer value through software,” said Kim.

Three LG employees from Open Source Task working together

Open source software will play an important role in the future of LG and has already become a vital part of the consumer electronics business; used to develop software for laptops, IoT solutions and many other types of products run on. The net function of ‘open source’ can be said to be a ‘virtuous cycle of sharing.’

“We’ve benefited from the open source ecosystem, and through various initiatives, including FOSSLight, we’re giving back to the open source community – returning the value we’ve received,” said Park.

Three LG employees from Open Source Task having a talk

To create a better open source experience, the professionals at the Open Source Task are moving toward the realization of fully automated open source compliance tools.

“We want to increase the level of automation to provide a better software development experience,” said Kim. “FOSSLight means ‘Free/open source software that shines a light on the world.’ Aligned with this, we hope that LG’s open source platform will shine a brighter light on the software development environment, enabling developers to work more efficiently and increase the value of the products and services they contribute so much to.”

Stay tuned to learn more about the company’s latest innovations developed with open source software.

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