The Internet of Things – connecting everything to everything else. It’s nigh on impossible to conjure all the possibilities the IoT will bring to our personal and professional lives, but here’s just one example:
Picture this: You’ve hit the snooze button on your phone’s alarm for the third time. Your phone sends a message to your coffee machine to postpone the morning brew. Your coffee machine then tells your bike to delay the morning’s engine warm up. Your bike checks the traffic conditions and sends a message to your boss’ smartwatch to say you will be 58 minutes late to work. The smartwatch checks your attendance record and sends a message back to your phone to inform you of your termination.
Yes having a whole day, if not just a morning automated by the Internet of Things would be grand - and as our example shows also just a little bit big brotheresque.
The key to this technology is in the collection and use of data – each component drawing insight from the next. Imagine the possibilities then, if every single component of your business were equipped with sensors that could collate and relay all their data.
IoT is inherently a complex networking environment which requires the right platform to build applications and receive the most benefit. The right platform provides a wealth of knowledge and the functionality to help you solve problems, such as remote-configuration of components and workflow automation.
Today we look at some qualities that every IoT platform must have. We also look at platforms currently out in the market who have those qualities - the ones with the potential to transform your entire operation.
What to look for
The below qualities are necessary for an IoT platform at an enterprise level. If you’re lacking even one of these elements, then you may compromise the integrity of your platform, the security and the standard of your data as well as ensuring that your investment is future proof.
Devices are the key pieces in an IoT system. Your chosen platform should allow you to easily integrate your old legacy items and implement the new. It should also provide a two-way channel of communication both for data collection and transmission. Remote access should provide you with seamless updates, debugging and device maintenance. The platform should provide a toolset comprehensive enough for per-device control, with the ability to define and set capabilities for each.
A great platform can support a wide range of protocols and standards as well as providing protocol translation from any device without the need to learn a new language. This is important for two reasons: Firstly, it enables the seamless onboarding of legacy devices and secondly, it’s flexible enough to integrate new devices using emerging protocols.
Ideally, the platform should also allow for any feature to be altered as needed. Apps, workflows, data, security systems and protocols can be updated, replaced, added or removed as needed to accommodate the evolution of business requirements.
Reliability trumps innovation when it comes to the critical functions of an IoT platform. The platform should be proven and tested under traffic-intensive environments. In the event of component failure, the system must exhibit high degrees of fault tolerance and include disaster recovery protocols.
The platform should provide end-to-end security mechanisms with each connected device being authenticated and authorised separately. The platform must also include proper safeguards to security breaches and adhere to privacy requirements.
Data is the bread and butter of IoT. The platform should have a full suite of analytical tools to both extract value from the copious amounts of data while simultaneously preventing an information-overload from its constant influx. The platform should provide basic descriptive, predictive and perspective analytics as well as data visualisation capabilities.
The potential to transform your operations
Now that we know what to look for in an IoT platform, here are ones that fit the bill:
Known for its cognitive computing capabilities, IBM WATSON is a platform popular among developers. The platform boasts comprehensive device management, real-time data exchange, secure communications and data storage.
- Create IoT apps using Bluemix
- REST and real-time APIs
- Secure device data when connecting to the cloud
- Rich data storage and analytics
Who it’s for:
Developers seeking the securities that come with platform maturity. IBM WATSON is for developers seeking to rapidly publish their code without being too concerned with the underlying infrastructure.
One of the most popular IoT platforms and acquired by PTC in 2013. ThingWorx offers a full suite of tools and capabilities for rapid enterprise application development.
- Supports connectivity to devices via third party device clouds, direct network connections, Open APIs
- Bi-directional connectivity between sensors, devices and equipment
- ThinkWorx Composer – an end-to-end application modelling environment
- Codeless mashup builder – allows for the creation of interactive apps, collaborative workspaces and mobile interfaces with the need for coding
- SQUEAL – can correlate data to draw insight and deliver problem solutions using search, query and analysis functionality
Who it’s for:
Both novice and expert developers looking for a robust toolset to quickly build feature-rich enterprise applications.
Amazon Web Services IoT
A managed cloud IoT platform that uses AWS’ public cloud to store, process and analyse IoT devices.
- AWS IoT Device SDK – enables users to quickly connect hardware devices and applications through one-to-one and one-to-many communications
- Secure device gateway – providing authentication and encryption at all points of connection
- Registry – establishes identities for devices and tracks metadata for device recognition
- Device shadows – creates virtual versions of each device so apps can read messages and interact with it
- Rules engine – to analyse data generated by connected devices at a global scale without having too much infrastructure
Who it’s for:
AWS IoT offers the ability to scale to over a billion devices. Developers focused on scalability and have the resources to draw value from enormous amounts of data will find this platform fitting.
An open source middleware platform to develop IoT apps. The platform has the capacity to manage millions of devices at a time and provides data collection, analysis and visualisation.
- Manage a large number of devices
- Open-source and completely free
- Geographical redundancy – no single point of failure
- Strong community and commercial support
Who it’s for:
Developers looking to substantially cut down on development costs and relish in the collaboration of online support communities.
Carriots is a PaaS IoT platform able to build and host IoT applications, manage devices, send API requests and comes with a host of management features.
- SDK engine – for java scripting using the Groovy programming language
- Send data to a simple and standard REST API
- Immediate scalability
- Free to start, only pay for used resources
Who it’s for:
Developers who value simplicity in design and require intuitive integration features for external apps. Carriots will also appeal to those who like looking at beautiful dashboards.
Mate, look at this beauty.
The perfect platform
The Internet of Things may one day come to be known as just ‘things.’ Everything connected to the internet – our homes, our appliances, our cars and every part of our businesses will be in constant communication. The current capabilities are amazing and the future possibilities are endless. There are so many platforms available to build IoT apps that jumping in can seem daunting. It may also be a challenge to communicate the enormous value IoT can have on business operations. Starting with the right platform for your business goals is a sure-fire way to deliver the value promised by the Internet of Things and stay relevant in an ever-connecting world.
Would you like to know more about the latest technological trends and how they are going to shape the future? You should check out the Enterprise Mobility 2017 @ CeBIT program today.