Today, nearly every system you purchase and device you install comes with networking capabilities. “Connected” is the new enterprise default, and this includes non-user-facing endpoints like the Internet of Things (IoT).
Research suggests that companies are undeterred in their IoT investments. Despite the impact of COVID-19, nearly half (47%) of organizations are spending heavily on IoT. A big reason why they are so confident about IoT capabilities and a return on their investments is the rise of IoT platforms.
IoT platforms bring together and make accessible the various functions and services needed in IoT infrastructure or an IoT app/solution, at a low cost, without tedious development or further OEM spending. How do IoT platforms work? How do you choose the best IoT platform for your company? Read on to find out.
What is an IoT Platform? Definition
A platform for the Internet of Things is a collection of programs that manages the connection of devices and enables developers to create new IoT software applications. It facilitates device data collection and promotes business transformation. It also ensures a continuous communication flow between devices by linking disparate components.
Enterprises are integrating an expanding range and volume of IoT endpoints to get data from as well as better manage business-relevant tangible assets. In addition to these conventional advantages, typical IoT-enabled objectives can include new business prospects and revenue models.
To accomplish this, you must link your devices, irrespective of their diversity, to the cloud. This is facilitated by an IoT platform’s adaptable connection options, enterprise-grade safety protocols, and comprehensive data processing capabilities.
Gartner defines IoT platforms as:
“An on-premises software suite or a cloud service (IoT platform as a service [PaaS]) that monitors and may manage and control various types of endpoints, often via applications business units deploy on the platform.”
The Two Types of IoT Platforms You Need
To eke out the full value of IoT (whether in your own organization or by selling to end-users), you need two elements – the IoT infrastructure and the IoT solution. To that end, IoT platforms can be of two types:
1. An infrastructure platform
IoT Infrastructure is the aggregation of granular, low-level services necessary to construct an IoT Solution. In addition to asynchronous and synchronous communication systems, this encompasses authorization services, certification services, digital data storage services, queuing services, computation services, and advanced analytics services. IoT platforms of this type typically operate in a manner similar to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
2. Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions
These are the endpoint devices manufactured and supplied by vendors to provide advanced IoT platform functionalities. They enable the implementation of intelligent, connected devices in the field and/or utilize these devices to provide enterprise services to customers. IoT solutions may include firmware administration, device provisioning, and commissioning abilities, user account management, notification services, as well as mobile notification system integration.
With a COTS IoT platform, the project timeframe is measured in only weeks in terms of effort and time. Using an IoT infrastructure solution might prolong the time to market by several months.
Components of an IoT Platform
An IoT platform will always have four key components:
1. The endpoint or “IoT device”
This is the end device that provides sensing, control, or even both functions. Temperature is detected and reported by a thermostat, and the setpoint may be altered to manage HVAC and other climatic systems. In some situations, the end device might also serve as a gateway.
2. The cloud
This is where the IoT platform and the data it processes will be hosted. The cloud is a collection of remote servers owned or rented by the IoT platform provider so that the platform can be used without any scalability or geographic restrictions.
3. The central gateway
A gateway is a hardware or software element that facilitates communication between smart devices and the cloud-based services that support them. Without the actual chip that constitutes the gateway or the software that supports it, there is no “platform” upon which to develop the telemetry or control capabilities of the device.
4. The client’s UI
Through the client UI, the user interacts with the IoT device or device services (user interface). It is often a mobile app or responsive web page that can be accessed on a regular PC since IoT devices themselves do not always have interfacing capabilities beyond primitive controls.
5. Middleware capabilities
The IoT platform’s middleware is utilized to facilitate integration with practically every connected device and to integrate with the device’s third-party apps. This autonomy from foundational hardware and overlying software enables a single IoT platform to manage every type of connected device in the same manner.
Why Are IoT Platforms Important for Businesses?
Smart device suppliers and startups may provide their products with remote control and real-time monitoring capabilities, adjustable notifications and alerts, pluggable cloud services, and interaction with users’ smartphones and other devices by employing an IoT platform.
Cost optimization for businesses in the industrial, agricultural, and transportation sectors is another extensive use of the IoT platform.
CSPs, smart cities, as well as smart energy integrators, often use large-scale IoT clouds tool. Utilizing an IoT platform, businesses may offer several new services to current consumers. Among these are linked vehicular services, smart grid meters, citywide air quality monitoring, and smart building installations, to name a few. Lastly, an IoT network is the fundamental tech bedrock for enhancing the consumer experience in the retail, healthcare, hotel, and travel industries. Case in point: remote patient monitoring & treatment systems, that are extremely user-friendly and minimize hospital visits by a substantial amount.
All of this is powered by an IoT platform, providing core capabilities and simplifying development, delivery, and maintenance.
How to Choose an IoT Platform? Key Considerations
Typically, a modern IoT platform is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) framework that enables you to connect, manage, and analyze your devices in the cloud. Given the enormous array of IoT platforms’ duties and capabilities, it may, however, be challenging to choose the optimal solution.
Such platforms are intended to camouflage the complexities of IoT device orchestration and offer a simple user interface so that even non-technical individuals may build and design basic IoT applications. So, to get the equation right and find the perfect platform for your needs, consider these three factors:
1. Supported connectivity protocols
Connectivity is a crucial aspect of the Internet of Things. Each project and business has its own unique connection demands, which has a direct bearing on which IoT platform is the most suitable.
You should ideally choose a platform that can coordinate a variety of connection technologies, like LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE, 4G, 5G, and WiFi. The geographic location must also be considered. The IoT platform should be able to handle IoT devices and applications in all of the relevant geographic locations.
2. Platform Security
Attacks on IoT devices are on the rise, and consequently, it is crucial that you select a platform that places a premium on security. If your data has been compromised, you may be confronted with legal repercussions, as many businesses must adhere to stringent ownership and security standards for data. For credential management, your IoT platform must also be able to interact with standard cloud infrastructures like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services.
3. Ease of use
The most effective IoT platforms are intuitive and simple to integrate with existing systems. Customers (the users who will actually use the system, or end-users) and employees are the primary user groups to address in this context (those whose job it is to manage the system). The IoT platform must be as user-friendly as possible, with minimal friction and impediments, for both of these groups.
An IoT platform is a foundational pillar for the advancement and proliferation of the Internet of Things. Along with the above four considerations, also make sure to adopt the right IoT data analytics platform for the best results.