We define an Internet of Things (IoT) platform as a complete set of multi-layered services and integration capabilities that facilitates the management and maintenance of connected IoT devices as well as the development and deployment of logic on those IoT devices. But now that you have decided to opt for an IoT platform, selecting the right IoT solution is still on the agenda and not everyone defines an IoT platform in the same way. Also, not all IoT platforms that are currently on the market have similar IoT capabilities and potentials to remain relevant in the face of future innovations. How do you recognize which IoT platform is best for you?
How do you pick an IoT platform that is future-ready?
When it comes to implementing IoT solutions in a corporate context, companies have several simple goals. They want to streamline processes, increase production, reduce costs to the greatest extent possible, offset risk, and gear up for a future of exponential innovation growth. With these goals in mind, it is easy to focus on the very obvious benefits of an IoT platform. To truly evaluate the capabilities of a platform, however, one needs to look further than those benefits and also assess a platform in terms of potentials. Platform performance should be contextualized within the larger picture of the specific challenges faced within a particular environment.
Selecting the best IoT platform within a highly diversified landscape can be challenging. And, instead of expecting an immediate short-term return on investment, one has to get ready for the long haul. As Daniel Sexton writes on hackernoon.com, “Emerging technologies, such as IoT platforms, should be treated more like strategic partnerships than assets or commodities because time and expense predictions for technology projects, in general, are abysmal.” At the end of the day, the IoT platform that is best for you depends on your specific IoT use cases and the singular conditions within which you operate. You don’t want your IoT platform to be too limited: either confined to just one industry-specific scenario, unscalable or without support for certain services.
Core Selection Criteria for IoT Platforms
When comparing different IoT platform vendors, users have repeatedly cited a recurring cluster of characteristics that they look out for when selecting a platform solution. The following list of criteria from an industrial engineering report written at ETSEIB shows the characteristics that matter most to the largest number of companies:
- Flexibility: the capability to integrate with other external systems;
- Scalability: able to accommodate a rising number of IoT devices and still function correctly in contexts of increased complexity;
- Services: the range of services each IoT platform has and the interaction between these services;
- Ease of connection: the time and difficulty involved in creating the gateway;
- Analytics solutions: how the data coming from IoT devices is stored on the platform, how easily it can be accessed for analysis and data visualization;
- IoT application development: the possibility to develop new functions and IoT apps according to the needs of the business strategy;
- Pricing: transparent platform costs plus the possibility to explore via a free trial or a freemium option. This is how you find out if the IoT platform is the best one for you. You can test the platform capacities and make a fully informed decision.
Other sources, such as this article from the market insights provider IoT Analytics, cite a list of both customer-specific and platform-specific selection criteria that are crucial to decision-makers when selecting the best IoT platform. The recommendation here is to aim for a fine balance between the concrete customer scenario and the platform capabilities.
Our IoT Platform Checklist
We have prepared a list of platform capabilities that we present in our IoT platform checklist:
- ease of connection: establishing IoT connectivity using any standard protocol
- completeness of offering: an end-to-end solution
- interoperability: allows for third-party integrations
- open-source technologies
- end-to-end security and privacy
- provision of tech support
- IoT edge computing
- smart algorithms
- machine learning models
- plug and play (within reason)
- real-time data
- data storage
- support for data analytics
- support for data visualization
- free trial/freemium offering
And this is what we add to this discussion: There is no universal IoT platform to cover all possible development scenarios and act as a single source of truth. To remain open towards future developments, a viable IoT platform does not simply provide solutions but serves as an enabler. On the enablement platform, you work in a development environment where you craft your own custom solution tailored to your specific case.
You build your IoT solution by writing live code and deploying your applications, creating and managing different device groups, and adding an unlimited number of IoT devices to your profile, creating a library of independent or intersecting IoT solutions. The best IoT platform allows you to collaborate with others and exchange ideas—both cross-company and globally.
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