IoT Platform – What is it?

In my book(s) I have focused on the IoT Devices – see Table of Contents. However, in many ways this is only the bottom of the food-chain. The devices deliver data to cloud solutions, and this is where the big guys are fighting for the market. These are e.g. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, SAP and IBM.

These huge companies are each promoting their own “IoT Platform”. In some cases this includes the device-layer – or the “fog” as it is sometimes nicknamed – but mostly it doesn’t.

On http://iot-analytics.com the company IoT-analytics have created some interesting white-papers. One of these discuss these IoT platforms. The company also does a nice attempt to identify the main building-blocks. You can download the white-paper for free, so here I will just recap the main blocks as described by these consultants. They are described as building blocks, although they are depicted as layers. In reality they are probably more like services, that may be used in several layers. Here they are – top-down:

  • External Interfaces. API’s and SDK’s for external systems.
    This an important part that is often forgotten. Many vendors aim to be the “one-stop-shop” that delivers the full solution, but this is rarely how the implementation ends up. It’s important to be able to interface to other systems.
  • Analytics. Advanced calculations and Machine learning.
    This is probably where the real money is. If the system does not just give you the data, but also the conclusions from the data, the value is considerably higher.
  • Additional Tools for prototyping, reporting etc.
    Important for the integrator.
  • Data Visualization.
    This works hand ind hand with the analytics, either documenting the conclusion, or helping the user get to the conclusion.
  • Processing & Action Management. Various “cooking” of the “raw” data from sensors & devices.
  • Device Management. Monitor status, Firmware download, updates etc.
  • Connectivity & Normalization. Harmonizing protocols and data formats.
    This sounds simple, but can be a lot of work. If the vendor can demonstrate interfaces to all sorts of existing devices, it is gold.
  • Database (Depicted as a vertical repository for the above 7).

The above 8 layers/functions/services are probably not found as isolated blocks in all (any?) of the main offers from the major vendors. However, I think that the list is a great starting point when you go shopping. What do you need in each of these areas? What do you get?

 

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