IoT Platform Definition and Choice Specifics

It is predicted that IoT devices worldwide will generate 90 zettabytes of data by 2025. To take advantage of the flow it’s vital to know how to handle it.

9 min read, Dec 11
iot-platform-basics

Being familiar with IoT architecture it’s hard to diminish the value of the layer that brings the technology specifics and operation results to users as close as possible leaving only one stage between - solutions.

It outlines one of the fundamental layer purpose - application enablement. The overall IoT platform strategy comes with a multiplicity of objectives including receiving, controlling, processing, analyzing and presenting data incoming from IoT devices that in their turn should be monitored, managed and maintained.

The same goes for network and the whole system connectivity. The layer is providing functionality for ensuring its stability and overall conformity with the set requirements including access, security and possible integrations.

Basically, IoT platform enables deployment and assures the accomplishment of its goals. It securely connects available hardware using certain standards and protocols to the infrastructure (on-premise, cloud or edge) to transmit data for further handling.

It also provides required tooling for developers that help to provide necessary functionality and maintain required scalability and compatibility. It simplifies the creation of the next layer of IoT ecosystems - user applications.

According to GSMA, IDC, IoT market’s value shifts from connectivity to platforms, applications, and services. The reason is that technology has become an integral part of digital transformation making solution providers to be more scope-oriented due to the rising demand from particular industries.

To ensure the required complexity of platforms support is required for other advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable sophisticated data acquisition and advanced analysis.

So to sum up IoT platform capabilities are:

  • System integration and security
  • Data storage and processing
  • Connectivity monitoring and maintenance
  • Device management and system configuration
  • Application development and deployment
  • Data analytics and visualization

IoT platform architecture

IoT platform itself is a multi-layer system that allowing fulfilling all implying tasks. The basis is the infrastructure level where it’s being enabled. Here stored required components for internal operations including container management, messaging and maintenance of the entire IoT architecture.

The interaction between devices for proper performance is implemented on the communication level where they connect to the cloud rounding out the data flows and ensuring access to all information types: processed, stored and newly received.

The next stage can be named as a functional layer that embraces all in-box features from device connection and configuration to updating the software that takes care of the mentioned operations. Gathered here data reasons the necessity of the following level - analytics.

However not every option embraces all possible operations and focuses only on certain aspects. It reflects in the existing IoT platform types

End-to-end

Purpose: maintenance of the whole IoT ecosystem

Examples: Particle

Cloud (Application Enablement)

Purpose: data storage, transportation, and analytics

Examples: Microsoft Azure IoT, AWS IoT, PTC

Connectivity

Purpose: connection management between all elements of IoT architecture

Examples: Jasper by Cisco, IoT Accelerator by Ericsson, and Pelion by ARM

Device

Purpose: hardware building/management

Examples: Intel, Nordic, Xilinx/AT&T IoT, IBM Watson IoT

Analytics

Purpose: specific and comprehensive data analysis

Examples: C3 AI, SparkCognition, and UpTake.

Considering that the majority of IoT systems created for monitoring and metering and the fact that their operation itself generates a significant amount of data, analysis, and reporting is a necessity. It allows grasping numbers for the required metrics that are valuable whether for the system purpose or its flawless performance and timely error notification and fixing.

Best IoT platforms 2019

The most notable IT market players offer own solutions to bring the world of the Internet of Things closer to business. Let’s take a closer look at their offers.

AWS IoT

Amazon Web Service except cloud storages offers comprehensive IoT platform services to support established device systems. Its functionality covers all layers of the architecture that implies data exchange.

Device software to ensure a secure connection and constant communication between all system components using diverse protocols including custom.

Solutions: Amazon FreeRTOS, AWS IoT Greengrass

Device management to assure proper system operation through verification and control of the performance, connectivity, scalability, and security.

Solutions: AWS IoT Core, Device Management, Analytics

Data analytics to extract the required value from the received information from each device and the whole system through its proper collection, organization, and complex analysis. The layer also prepares the ground for the creation of IoT applications.

Solutions: AWS IoT Analytics, SiteWise, Events, Things Graph.

Scopes: Smart Home, Smart City, Industry 4.0, Healthcare

Benefits: easy start, high-performance, security, integration with other AWS services

Pricing: depending on the subscription plan, solutions, connectivity, and usage

Google Cloud IoT

A complex platform that comes with extensive tooling and includes manageable scalable cloud services. Thanks to machine learning features it ensures smooth integration and fulfillment of the possible IoT needs.

Data capturing and integration to perform different kinds of analytics to raise business agility, improve decision-making and increase operational efficiency.

Solutions: Cloud IoT Core, Pub/Sub

Device management and localization to control the proper level of connectivity and performance and enable visualized asset and fleet monitoring with the existing IoT system.

Solutions: Cloud IoT Core, Google Maps

Data analysis including real-time starting from streaming to specific metrics and warehousing for easy access and querying. The layer also allows complete ML modeling using the offered engine.

Solutions: Cloud Data Flow, Big Query, ML Engine.

Scopes: Industry 4.0, Logistics, Smart Cities, Smart Home

Benefits: easy-in-use, AI/ML, map-based location tracking

Pricing: depending on the traffic, subscription plan, and solutions

IBM Watson IoT

The platform focused on connection AI and the Internet of Things to bring asset and facilities management on another level. Its functionality embraces the whole IoT landscape starting from the core.

Platform integration and proper data collection according to business requirements concerning conditions, scalability, security, and risks.

Comprehensive monitoring and management from devices to assets that raise the IoT system and business process transparency and maintainability

AI-driven analytics that can be visualized for better data understanding and application for workflow optimization and improvement.

Scopes: Industry 4.0, Logistics, Smart Home, Real Estate

Benefits: real-time and secure data exchange, AI/ML, cloud

Pricing: depending on the subscription plan and configuration

Among the leading IoT platform companies, this and for the upcoming year are Microsoft Azure, Salesforce IoT, Oracle IoT, and Cisco IoT.

Choosing an IoT platform: what to think about

Even options from the top providers are enough to make the decision hard enough. Functionality or compatibility, security or budget conformity? To avoid harmful compromises you should start by outlining your needs and goals before diving into the features and price lists.

To define the search guidelines it's important not just to follow current IoT trends answer the following questions:

What should be managed or enabled?

Do you want to take care of the whole IoT ecosystem or focus on the particular layer of IoT architecture? Considering that providers don’t have as an objective to provide as wide as possible product line it will significantly narrow down the search.

What are the specifics of system structure and elements?

What are the types of devices, connections, gateways, protocols, infrastructure, and the complete architecture have you chosen? Each aspect comes with certain possibilities and limits which not every platform can embrace, especially if you’re looking for an end-to-end solution.

What your IoT project budget?

How big and flexible your funds are dedicated to system deployment and usage? Consider that platform acquisition implies recurrent payments. Even if you opt for building an iot platform the result will require regular maintenance.

What data do you need to store and analyze?

What data types are collected and streamlined through the system for its purpose fulfillment? What processing and analysis it requires? The answers to these questions will define the storage space, access, location as well as analytical approaches and technology necessity.

What value the collected and stored data have?

How long data should remain available? Who should have access to it? Is it open to external access? Not only system but also platform security can extremely vary. To avoid data leaks, it's important to check out used encryption algorithms and user access management.

What employees will deal with the solution?

What the level of their qualification? Should they work independently or in a group? What functionality each one should be able to use? The user-friendly status also has different levels that’s why you should be sure that the chosen option will be suitable for your staff.

What goals are set for the future with this IoT system?

How long do you plan to work within the existing configuration? Do you plan to narrow/extend it? What is the system scalability? IoT platform software comes with its own scalability, compatibility and integration specifics that’s why make sure that it fits now and will in the future.

How unique the establish IoT architecture?

Was it an application of the common solution for a certain industry or its the result of from-scratch development? Have you been able to find similar IoT case studies? The more unusual is the system the more customizable the platform should be.

How much time do you need to test the solution?

Do you need the period to verify your choice in real-life conditions? How much you can afford to pay for the possibility? A free trial can come in handy whether for a startup or enterprise. Ensure that it has the required functionality enabled though.

IoT platform application is a robust part of building any IoT architecture that enables the system operation, proper performance, full functionality, and complete purpose fulfillment. It should be completely compatible with the layer it deals with as well as the whole system not to compromise its unity.

Whether it’s an open-source or custom solution it should be seamlessly integrated and appropriately handled to ensure data accuracy, analytics efficiency, and ecosystem security. Despite its integration can be challenging it's an important step of your company's digital transformation.

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