Despite the Internet of Things (IoT) solution you are thinking to build, an IoT app development platform remains the core component of the entire IoT ecosystem. It is not possible to work on the IoT application until you have the right platform in place.
And selecting the right IoT platform is a decision that will hold a lot of weight on your journey to creating your IoT solution.
Thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) are developing IoT projects, and many are considering a modular IoT app development platform to handle the data flows, provide analytics and help in application development.
Using the modular platform ensures faster time to market, reduced cost and complete support. However, choosing an IoT platform is not easy as there are many options of IoT platforms available.
Being experts in IoT app development, we have come up with a well-structured strategy to select the best IoT platform that meets your business’ requirements, whatever they may be.
We shall first focus on defining the functionality of an IoT platform before discussing the right way to choose the IoT app platform that is right for you.
An IoT platform can be defined as an integrated service that provides you with the things you require for bringing physical objects to the internet (online). It should be capable enough to support millions of device connections at the same time and configure the devices for machine-to-machine communication.
IoT platforms can be of different types, including:
End-to-end IoT platforms offer the software, connectivity, hardware, device management and security tools to manage millions of simultaneous device connections. Also, it gives you all the managed integrations you require, e.g., device management, OTA firmware, cellular modem and cloud connection that enables you to connect and track a fleet of devices online.
Using IoT cloud platforms, you remove the challenges of developing your own network stack. It provides you with the backend services to monitor the millions of concurrent device connections.
Each IoT platform deals with some data. IoT data platforms combine the tools that you may need to manage data analytics and route device data.
Connectivity management platforms provide low cost and low power connectivity solutions via cellular and WiFi technologies. Connectivity solutions can range from cellular networks, data routing features, and connectivity hardware.
What type of connectivity do you need? Do you need a cellular or WiFi solution? You should assess these needs and discover how the vendor can address them.
Connecting to devices via cloud platforms is often restricted by the termination capacity of the cloud platform providers or M2M (Machine-to-Machine) providers. IoT platforms usually execute on public cloud platforms like Google Cloud or AWS. That is the reason why underlying bandwidth is the limitation of an infrastructure.
Since bandwidths are often asymmetric, speed of upload and download might differ. Ensure you know about the significant data pipe that can be handled by the PaaS provider.
Does the IoT platform provide embedded sim that runs globally? Also, an IoT platform should cover the regions that your business requires. Therefore, geographic coverage is one of the significant aspects while looking out for the right IoT platform.
Examine how the IoT app development platform has dealt with privacy and security issues in the past by reviewing their security content. Traditional IT security cannot be implemented in IoT devices.
For example, the server can verify the authenticity of the users via username and password with HTTPS or web browsing. On the other side, users can check the authenticity of the server via signed CA certificates.
However, IoT devices are not humans; therefore, it is crucial to understand how can the IoT platform verify the authenticity of thousands of connected IoT devices, when the device is not associated with any username and password.
Therefore, it is essential that you always assess how the platform handles the security challenges and how it keeps the system secure.
Infrastructure outage may happen any time, either by human intention or naturally. Amazon said that a mistake made by an engineer at AWS brought the internet down. Ask yourself if your cloud platform provider has a dedicated infrastructure to manage your data.
How often do you take a backup of the data? Does the platform run on a private cloud instance or share the infrastructure with other customers? Make sure to check if the cloud platform provider utilizes a proper strategy for disaster recovery.
An IoT platform maintains rule-based triggers which automatically get invoked when some event occurs. The average time taken to manage and analyze every event increases with more and more devices getting connected to the cloud platform.
A criterion to check the performance of an IoT device is to activate an alarm and evaluate the time taken for the platform to take action. In this case, the cloud platform provider provides email integration or notification using a third-party system, also examine the latency and reliability of that integration.
While choosing an IoT platform, pick the one that describes and sells themselves. Identify if it is purely a connectivity platform or an end-to-end platform that provides the hardware, connectivity and software compatibility. You need to select an IoT platform according to your business needs, considering that requirements might change over time.
Does the IoT platform offer a good data plan? You may need to pause or suspend the data services at any time and control how much data should be used.
WiFi connected devices do not come with recurring costs while the cellular devices need a sim card and include the cost of a data plan from a cellular provider. Since you don’t have to pay for accessing the network infrastructure, the WiFi connection is quite cheaper.
Note that the IoT platforms usually charge a small amount of recurring fee for connectivity usage including WiFi connection. But the recurring fee is comparatively lower than the cellular connectivity data plan.
Know how the IoT platform provider integrates the tools you might need for IoT applications. For example, carrier/sim cards, firmware updates, cellular modems, cloud connections, application layers, RTOS, security, or device diagnostics.
Make sure all these integrations are provided in a single package so that you don’t need to use different platforms or tools to access them.
Since deploying an IoT application is quite complicated as compared to the traditional applications, you might need a partner who can assist you throughout the product development process. Ensure to choose the platform that has a team of domain experts and provides instant support.
Before selecting any IoT platform for your product, you should also understand how can data acquired through IoT platform can be integrated with backend and cloud service. Ensure if the data generated through the IoT platform meets your business requirements and what can you do with that data.
Find out if the platform allows you to fix bugs/issues and send updates on your devices remotely or not. Over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates defines the practice of updating the code on an embedded device remotely. The embedded device should have OTA functionality to make the mechanism work.
Before OTA updates, people had to retrieve the device, unplug it, connect it to the computer, program it again, put back the device and take the device back. This process is cumbersome and not efficient for companies who have many devices out on the field.
The platform with OTA firmware updates functionality enables scalability by introducing new features and infrastructure to products after their release. Also, developers can deploy IoT applications quickly as the products will always stay functional when updates are released.
Put market longevity into consideration while choosing the IoT platform for your IoT solutions. Ask how long the platform has been on the market. Though IoT is still new, ensure to pick a platform that has been providing services from the time when the technology was introduced.
HTTP and MQTT are some of the common protocols supported by IoT platforms. Due to its binary nature, MQTT is a lightweight protocol that has lower overhead. As your system grows with time, it should be able to move to an alternate protocol to reduce latency and accommodate more devices.
Ensure that the IoT platform should be able to support new protocols. Make sure to ask about the possibility to utilize a custom protocol and handle it efficiently at the backend.
Now that you know about the things you should be looking at while choosing the IoT platform for your application, it’s time to start finding the best platform. We have shortlisted some of the widely used IoT platforms that will help you find the one that meets your business needs.
Developed by Microsoft, Azure is designed to provide efficient data collection and analysis. It can help organizations to make right and quick decisions based on the available data.
The platform allows you to use any OS, device, software, service or data source on-premises in the cloud or at the edge. Also, Azure IoT enables you to embrace security from the endpoint, connection to apps and data and through the cloud.
This platform is easy to use and comes with plenty of user-friendly features. Being one of the popular IoT platforms, Google Cloud offers services like cloud computing, document-oriented database and expandable NoSQL database systems. By empowering Google Analytics and machine intellect, it aims to provide data security and intelligence.
The IBM Watson IoT platform provides users with services such as secure data transmission and storage in the cloud system, efficient control of remote devices and data exchange. The platform includes device management, application access and gateway devices. With Watson IoT platform, you can gather connected device data and do analytics on real-time data.
Oracle Internet of Things Cloud Enterprise is a scalable platform that helps businesses to quickly develop and deploy IoT applications and analyze the captured IoT data. The platform is ideal for use cases such as asset tracking in the logistics and remote equipment monitoring and maintenance for the manufacturing industry.
ThingWorx is an IoT platform that allows rapid development and deployment of smart connected devices. The set of integrated IoT development tools provided by ThingWorx supports analysis, production, connectivity and various other aspects of IoT development.
SAP Cloud Platform for IoT offers everything you need to develop and maintain an IoT app. It provides you with the ability to manage and observe devices connected with IoT system remotely. The platform allows devices at a distant location to get connected via both cloud service or directly.
Once you consider all of the factors mentioned above while choosing the right IoT app development platform, make sure to confirm if the IoT app development company can also customize your IoT apps and strategy to meet the specific business goals.
Akash Takyar is the author of Blockchain Technology and Business book. He is the co-founder of LeewayHertz and is a consultant to fortune 500 companies including Siemens, 3M, Hershey’s and others. He has a Masters Degree in Computer Science. Akash’s experience of building over 100+ apps allows him to rapidly architect and design solutions. His ability to explain complex technologies in simple and practical ways has resulted in him becoming a popular speaker at colleges, universities, and conferences