IoT Platform

What is an IoT Platform?

In the simplest terms, an IoT platform allows you analyze data at the edge from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. These sensors can be anything from embedded devices to cameras. A secondary feature of an IoT platform is the ability to connect to any cloud. A tertiary ability is the provisioning and deployment of analytics applications or functions near where the data is generated.

Regardless of the type of hardware or cloud you use, an IoT platform lets you provision, manage, and automate these connected devices. Complete with flexible connection methods, stellar security, and powerful data processing capabilities, an IoT platform can accelerate application development and improve scalability across various devices. 

IoT platforms are considered “middleware,” meaning they work between remote user devices and their applications. Not to mention, IoT platforms manage hardware and application interaction. An IoT platform ensures all IoT deployments run smoothly by merging hardware and application layers to deliver data insights, next-generation application enablement, and cloud connectivity. Because newer applications are containerized, an IoT platform is able to deploy these at planet-scale.

What Is an IoT Platform?

Components of an IoT Platform

To better understand IoT platforms, we first must examine the categories that define them. An ideal IoT platform should be:

Scalable

IoT platforms should enable effortless scalability to any endpoint at any point in time. While this is a no-brainer for public cloud deployments, on-premises especially benefit from flexibility to maximize the performance of a server cluster. 

Easy to use

When it comes to APIs, integration should be flexible and developers should be able to manage the code. An IoT platform should enable easy function customization and the ability to add new modules.

Interoperable

Hardware-to-software communication is crucial. IoT platforms must be able to support hardware and handle multiple kinds of devices over different communication protocols to send data to the cloud.

Deployable

Your IoT platform of choice should give you the option to deploy it either in a public cloud or your on-premises server.

Secure

As your data passes through various communication channels, your IoT platform should encrypt this information and provide control over user access and data ownership.

Why Businesses Should use an IoT Platform

Depending on your industry, adopting an IoT platform can pose different, unique benefits. Let’s examine a few business sizes and types. 

Small businesses and startups

An IoT platform can enable smaller, newer businesses to quickly integrate with their customers’ smartphones, customize alerts, deliver pluggable cloud services, enjoy real-time monitoring, and more.

Agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, etc.

Cost optimization is a major benefit for businesses in these sectors and more. Thanks to remote device and vehicle monitoring, predictive equipment maintenance, and real-time data analytics, businesses can enable better cargo tracking and safety measures. 

“Smart cities”

Businesses in this category can leverage IoT platforms to deliver new goods and services to their customers, other corporations, and more. 

Retail and customer-facing organizations

Improving the customer experience is crucial for nearly all business types, but especially retail, hospitality, healthcare, and travel organizations that interact directly with customers. An IoT platform can deliver personalized services and collect patient and customer data, freeing companies from these stressful tasks.

Benefits of an IoT Platform

The right IoT platform can do wonders for a business and ultimately, let them achieve the full value of their IoT performance. As businesses consider adopting a platform, they make their decision based on the following benefits.

First, businesses are always looking to optimize their cost expenditure. An IoT platform merges the hardware-to-application management process into a single system, which cuts down on manual tasks and costs. Plus, more IoT platforms are providing an incremental, pay-as-you-go consumption model, ensuring businesses don’t have to predict their usage.

Second, IoT platforms deliver real-time equipment analytics, letting organizations take the reins on their own processes and workflows. Not to mention, an IoT platform can integrate with outside data to deliver features such as predictive maintenance, improving overall operations.

Third, as businesses receive important insights from their IoT platform, they can leverage that information to deliver new, more targeted products and services. And during the product life cycle, an IoT platform can capture and analyze data at each juncture, letting business create new products and services with the most accurate data.

Fourth, while many businesses will notice a serious lack of enterprise-grade security with their IoT devices, they can enjoy greater protection on an IoT platform, which can deliver secure authorization and authentication, safeguarding IoT endpoints against a cyberattack.

Benefits of an IoT Platform

When Should I Use an IoT Platform?

Few organizations are IoT experts. That’s because IoT is a complex network of endless devices and applications, so it’s rare to master each and every segment. IoT platforms are incredibly useful for this reason, helping businesses conquer technical challenges without needing a dedicated team of IoT specialists to operate the system.

Put simply, nearly every organization that relies on IoT should also be using an IoT platform to cut down on specialist costs and wasted time. For instance, say your business wants to make “smarter” hardware. Traditionally, this would require hiring specialist software developers—an expensive, lengthy exercise. With an IoT platform, you can get that initiative going without specialists, letting you go to market much faster.

That said, businesses must consider the time-to-cost ratio different IoT platforms provide. Faster, time-saving IoT platforms usually cost more in the long run since they generally charge by use, and subscription fees can quickly rack up. While you still eliminate CapEx costs, it’s a tradeoff to keep in mind. On the other hand, less pricey IoT platforms may not be as fast and may require more effort on your part.

Choosing the Right IoT Platform

Before you hop right into any IoT platform, keep in mind that like all services and platforms, there is no single cookie-cutter solution. You’ll first need to examine and evaluate your own business needs to determine which one makes the most sense for your organization.

First, assess your budget to determine how much money you can allocate to an IoT platform. Since providers aren’t always transparent about the cost of their IoT platform, it’s important you understand what the actual subscription will cost. This also means your business needs to be straightforward about what you can and cannot afford. And remember that licensing an IoT platform isn’t the only cost required; you’ll also likely need to hire new onboarding consultants, integrate the system, and more.

Next, assess your business goals and determine which IoT platform matches your priorities the best. You’ll need to create new value streams and choose an IoT platform that supports those projects. For instance, if you’re prioritizing selling hardware, you’ll likely want to choose an IoT platform with an upfront licensing fee, so you can merge that cost into your hardware. Also, be sure you’re aware what your IoT platform’s fee model is. Know whether it charges based on usage, users, nodes, etc. 

Finally, like we discussed prior, ask yourself if cost-savings or time-savings is your biggest priority. Remember that generally, time-saving platforms are more pricey than cost-saving platforms. It’s all a matter of choosing which fits your budget and performance goals.

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