Top 6 Reasons Why to Use an IoT Platform

Internet of Things platforms reduce development time, but that is just one of the reasons why you should use an IoT platform for your project.

Adam Dunkels, Thingsquare CEOBy Adam Dunkels, Thingsquare CEO – November 08, 2019

An IoT platform is designed to reduce development time for your IoT project by providing ready-made, reusable a technology stack.

But there are more reasons to use an IoT platform besides the reduction in development time:

  • It helps you validate your business case early
  • It helps you go to market quickly
  • It may include ready-made software, tools, materials that you can use
  • It lets you avoid rabbit holes: security, certifications, compliance
  • It provides features that could be essential for your project
  • It reduces your risks and costs

In this article we look at what an IoT platform can do for you and your IoT project.

What is an IoT platform?

An IoT platform is a technology stack that solves an important set of technical problems in IoT development:

  • Communication
  • Data storage
  • Data access
  • Device coordination and control
  • Cloud and device software deployment
  • The necessary infrastructure for all of the above

Every IoT platform includes its own specific set of unique features and mechanisms. Different platforms span different parts of the stack. Some platforms include their own hardware, while others run on a wide range of different hardware variants. Others are tied only to a single cloud provider, whereas others lets the customers choose where the backend software is hosted.

Examples of IoT platforms from big tech players are Amazon AWS IoT platform, Microsoft Azure IoT hub, IBM Watson IoT, Google IoT core, and Cisco IoT cloud connect. Examples from IoT startups are Ayla Networks, Electric Imp, myDevices, and Thingsquare.

Can I build my own IoT platform?

It is not impossible build your own IoT platform, especially given the large amount of open source IoT software around. But it is a multi-year effort that involves a large development team with a broad skill set.

Because of the diverse set of developer skills needed, this strategy suits companies with large engineering budgets and/or multi-disciplinary, world-class engineering teams. Examples of companies in this category are Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, as well as hyper-focused IoT startups.

Why use an IoT platform?

An IoT platform will let you hit the ground running in terms of technology development. But the first goal in every IoT project is to determine if the business case holds. And this is where the first place where an IoT platform helps.

1. It helps you validate your business case early

The first goal for your project will be to validate your business case and demonstrate this to your stakeholders.

Validating the business case should be done as early as possible – preferably before starting deep engineering efforts.

Many IoT platforms let you build a proof-of-concept prototype quickly – in weeks instead of months. Putting the prototype in the hands of your target users lets you quickly validate the business case and leverage customer feedback early.

Validating the business case should be done as early as possible – preferably before starting deep engineering efforts.

2. It helps you go to market quickly

When the business case has been validated, you will want to go to market as quickly as possible. Your early customers are eager to start using your product and your competition may be closing in.

Rolling out your product into production opens technical and organization problems:

  • Device manufacturing
  • Software versioning and deployment
  • Cloud scalability
  • Fault handling

Because IoT platforms are used across multiple projects and products, most IoT platforms provide mechanisms and support during this process.

3. It may include ready-made software, tools, materials that you can use

IoT projects share many aspect with each other and IoT platform vendors often have ready-made, white-labeled material that you can use for your own project.

Examples include:

  • Web administration dashboard software
  • Customer-facing smartphone apps
  • Smartphone apps for installation personnel
  • Training material for installers
  • Ready-made marketing material and videos
  • Customer FAQs with prepared answers

These materials with both cut down on your development time and help you sell your project to your customers. Customizing ready-made materials to fit your own needs is faster than developing them from scratch.

Customizing ready-made materials to fit your own needs is faster than developing them from scratch.

4. It lets you avoid rabbit holes: security, certifications, compliance

There are aspects of IoT systems that are necessary requirements, but that don’t bring much perceived business value. Security, certifications, and regulatory compliance are among those. Most IoT platforms provide relief on one or more of these levels.

Security is a must for every connected system. Security is not something that be done once, but is an ongoing process that requires keeping software versions up-to-date and be aware of the newest security threats. IoT platform vendors have expertize in this area that allow them to be up-to-date on security.

Regulatory compliance and certifications is important at the wireless and hardware levels of the system. Many IoT platforms cover these aspects.

If you are in a large enterprise, there may also be internal procedures that require security documentation and checklists. Many IoT platform vendors can provide such documentation and work with you to fill out the necessary checklists for internal approval.

5. It provides features that could be essential for your project

Every IoT platform has a some unique features and a number of features that are common to most platforms.

Chances are that your project will need a number of those features. Chances are also that one or more of those will be essential to your project.

Typical IoT platform features include:

  • Low-power operation. Some IoT systems require battery-operated devices. Batteries require special mechanism to ensure an extremely low power consumption, and this is supported by some IoT platforms.
  • Long-range, unattended networking. Large-scale IoT systems often require the connectivity to work even if the devices are far away from their users. Some IoT platforms specifically support such use cases.
  • Ease of installation. For many IoT systems, installation is the activity that requires the most personnel. Having a good installation process therefore quickly pays off. Many IoT platforms have built-in installation procedures and smartphone apps that use Bluetooth, NFC, or QR codes.
  • Integration with third-party software. Most IoT platforms have a REST API or a Javascript API to access the backend data, and others have ready-made integrations with third-party services such as Salesforce or Google Cloud.
  • Device management. IoT projects involve large numbers of IoT devices. Those devices may break or need to be replaced. This is where a device management feature is useful.
  • User management. IoT systems are used by many individuals so having user management built into the system is essential to prevent unauthorized access and mistakes. Most, if not all, IoT platforms therefore include user management as an essential feature.
  • Software updates. IoT systems are software-intensive and that software will need to be kept up-to-date. IoT platforms include mechanisms for updating software, even over-the-air for installed IoT devices.
  • Push notifications or email alerts. In many cases, you want to alert users or customer support personnel when things happen in your IoT system. Many IoT platforms provide built-in support for alerts and notifications that you can tune to your specific use case.
  • Data analytics. Some IoT platforms focus heavily on data analytics, statistics, and pattern recognition mechanisms as some IoT systems depend on this for their operation. And if the platform itself does not provide built-in analytics, most provide an API to which external analytics software can be attached.
  • Billing. For some projects, billing is an important part of the solution, and there are some IoT platforms that support built-in or third-party billing solutions.

6. It reduces your risks and costs

At the end of the day, the common driver for all of the above reasons is to reduce the risks and costs of your project.

IoT projects are inherently risky: Cisco has shown that as many as 75% of all IoT projects fail. Using an IoT platform can reduce the risk significantly as much of the technical risks have already been absorbed by the IoT platform vendor.

An IoT platform costs money, but that cost must be offset by the reduced costs for talent recruitment, development, and field testing. Also, there is a significant opportunity cost involved in being late to market.

Conclusions

An IoT platform will not only reduce development time, but also help you get your product into the hands of your customers early. This helps reduce both direct costs – and opportunity costs.

Many IoT platforms have features that may be essential to your project and will let you leverage ready-made tools and materials for your users. Choosing the right platform for your project will be the first step in helping you succeed with your project.

Thingsquare uses our IoT platform to help companies succeed with their IoT projects – get in touch with us today to learn more!


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