Dechacca Ponnappa, Industry Analyst-South Asia, Middle-East, Frost & Sullivan
Internet of things (IoT) has become one of the most relevant trends in the history of the technology industry with practical applications of IoT technology in many industries today, including precision agriculture, building management, healthcare, energy, and transportation. As connectivity, storage, and compute become more pervasive, we are seeing an explosion of IoT solutions.
The rapid evolution of the IoT market has caused an explosion in the number and variety of IoT solutions. Cloud has been the most suitable and preferred platform for IoT to connect and collect data from devices from disparate platforms. Today, there is a lack of consistency and standard across the cloud services used by different IoT solutions. Thus the need for standards and consistency is becoming more relevant in IoT deployments.
Emergence of IoT Cloud Platforms
In its simplest form, an IoT platform is just about enabling connectivity between “things” or devices. The architecture consists of an infrastructure platform, an application development platform, or an analytics platform. In a more sophisticated form, a true end-to-end IoT platform consists of the following important architectural building blocks:
Devices and management. These devices, or things, connect to the network to provide information they gather from the environment through sensors, or to allow other systems to reach out and act on the world through actuators. Device management is similar to other IT asset management that involves provisioning, operating, and updating the devices.
Gateways and connectivity. A gateway manages traffic between networks that use different protocols. A gateway is responsible for protocol translation and other interoperability tasks. An IoT gateway device is sometimes employed to provide the connection and translation between devices and the cloud.
Database, storage, and pipeline processing. Pipelines manage data in terms of transforming (convert to specific formats), aggregating (averaging data by adding compute), enriching, and moving data. The database also is offered to store scalable data in a relational way for structured and unstructured data of transactions. Cloud storage allows data to be segregated to frequently accessed and archival data to be stored in a systematic fashion for analysis or compliance.
Rule processing, streaming analytics, and visualization. Cloud allows writing custom logic that can be applied to each event as it arrives. This can be used to trigger alerts, filter invalid data, or invoke other application program interfaces (APIs). Analytics services provide large-scale data exploration, analysis, and visualization for being useful for multiple-use cases, depending on which other data it is combined with.
External interfaces. External interfaces integrate with third-party systems and the rest of the wider IT-ecosystem via built-in application programming interfaces (APIs), software development kits (SDK), and gateways.
IoT platforms are being carved by varying entry strategies of various companies trying to capitalize on the IoT potential. Innovative start-ups, hardware and networking equipment manufacturers, enterprise software, cloud service providers, and mobility management companies are all competing to become the best IoT platform on the market. Various strategies visible with the companies are:
- Bottom-up approach: Starting with the connectivity part and building out platform features from the bottom-up
- Top-down approach: Starting with the analytics part and building out platform features from the top-down
- Alliances and partnership approach: Striking alliances to bring together a turnkey solution.
- M&A approach: Inorganic approach to acquire strategic and targeted companies to provide these solutions
- Investment approach: Tactical, adhoc, and execution-based investments throughout the IoT ecosystem
Building IoT solutions involves creating value across a wide range of domains. Cloud platform brings scale of infrastructure, networking, and range of storage and analytics products that can be used to make the most of the device-generated data. To create a true IoT ecosystem, where systems of systems interact and generate value from diverse streams of data, interoperability is essential. No single IoT platform will be able to cover the wide spectrum of existing and potential use cases yet to be captured.