By Eric Dirst
Considering a new IoT Software Platform?
We have gathered the imperative top 10 features and functionalities that all users should be mindful of.
Companies globally are quickly racing to enable their devices to leverage an IoT ecosystem. This is because IoT is providing: 1) Tremendous value to the bottom line by providing additional monthly revenue streams through new value-added services, 2) Reducing maintenance and service costs and 3) Improving transparency of data both internally and for their end customers.
Regardless the key drivers, companies are discovering that IoT is not as simple as they thought. Hence, many companies are reevaluating IoT platforms to make sure they can deliver scalable solutions to the marketplace. In order for both IoT solutions and the platforms themselves to be successful for companies, we have gathered the top 10 key requirements every customer should insist on with their platform provider.
As you conduct IoT proof-of-concept projects, make sure you will be able to scale up your production to handle the thousands or millions of connected devices you want to deploy. Many companies seem to forget that eventually they want to connect every single product they make, including every new version launched each year, and over time this generates a large number of endpoints, and an even larger amount of data being collected. Ensuring that your IoT platform provider is architected on top of proven scalable solutions such as AWS and serverless technologies is key to ensure your solutions scale without worrying about having the solutions crumble, become unresponsive, or even stop working due to the increasing number of devices and volume of data being collected.
2. Configuration, not Coding
Why would you want to recreate the basics from the ground up? Think of your platform selection like you would a CRM, take salesforce.com for instance where the basics are already set and all you need to do is customize to your requirements. This way you are concentrating on higher level IoT value not lower level basics. Your platform should allow you to configure features using your product support personnel, not costly IT resources. If your chosen platform requires your IT staff to add code every time you launch a new device, start gathering new attributes due to a device firmware upgrade, launch a new version or upgrade to a device, setup device hierarchies, setup user hierarchies and security, establish workflow and formulas for data transformation, or establish or change alarms/alerting…then you will fall further and further behind as you try and connect larger amounts of devices and service more endpoints or end users.
3. Modern Technology
There is nothing worse than buying a product and finding out that the product has legacy architecture and code that limits both what you can do with the platform, as well as requires the vendor to spend time on costly re-architecture work instead of delivering new features. Sadly, this happens all too often. There are still many IoT platforms out there built using old on-premise coding techniques, requiring complicated server and database architectures that either need constant Coding and DBA support, written in archaic and inflexible languages such as Visual Basic or C++, or have limited or synchronous-based API options. Instead your platform should be based on the latest technologies that leverage modern cloud systems using Serverless architectures while providing broad REST based APIs to support extensibility and integration. Your platform should also allow you to choose your preferred modern coding language such as Python, Node.js or other solutions.
4. Low cost of Entry
Modern software platforms allow you to try them for free, and costs are tied to how much, or how little, you use the systems, giving you the ability to flex-up or flex-down as your business needs dictate. This model supports building quick proof-of-concept solutions at very low cost to validate your business cases. The model then scales up starting with reasonable costs to launch to production since initially your volume of business will be small as you launch. Costs then grow in-line with your growth, such that you can easily build the costs of your solution into your revenue/growth model or into your maintenance/service cost saving model.
5. Proven Quality
The primary reason you choose a platform versus custom coding is so that you can improve velocity and deliver solutions to market more quickly. Therefore, your platform should be architected on infrastructure that is proven to deliver high quality and uptime, such as AWS. Your platform should also have solid customer references that will vouch for the quality of the solution and how quickly it enabled them to launch new products to market while meeting performance and functionality requirements.
6. Ease of Integration
No platform ever solves 100% of your business needs, and there is always a need to integrate with other platforms such as your CRM, ERP or other front/back-end systems. To ensure this capability exists, verify that your platform has proven solutions to integrate your IoT data with other cloud and on-premise platforms that you utilize. Integrations can be provided by the platform as either out-of-the-box modules, or utilize commonly available REST based API’s that are available from modern software vendors such as salesforce.com (CRM) or NetSuite (ERP).
7. Future Proof
Your chosen platform should have a track record of enabling new features that benefit IoT solutions, such as adding facial recognition for picture/video devices, adding machine learning modeling for predictive solutions, or adding virtual reality to help deliver new ways of visualizing or interacting with your IoT data. IoT platforms built on top of modern cloud architectures benefit from the rapid advancement of the cloud platform itself, such as AWS, and these IoT platforms can rapidly assimilate and make available new underlying AWS features for the benefit of your IoT platform.
Security is one of the top 5 business concerns of companies today, and rightfully so. Your chosen IoT platform therefore needs to use modern security techniques today such as tokenization, 2-factor authentication, digital certificates, private/public key infrastructure, encryption for data in transit and at rest, and flexible but robust account and user hierarchies that segment what data can be viewed, edited, or deleted within the platform. In addition, your IoT platform should be able to take advantage of underlying cloud platform security features such as API monitoring, malicious activity monitoring, DDOS attack mitigation, and even sensitive/private data discovery and alerting.
9. Hardware Agnostic
Unfortunately many IoT platforms are built to support only certain vendor hardware or families of hardware provided by a multi-conglomerate company. What happens when your customers want to connect other devices, or their own devices, to your IoT solution? Wouldn’t you want to be able to say ‘Yes’ to increase customer lock-in and reduce the chance of them moving to a more open IoT platform? Make sure your IoT platform is agnostic and can connect, easily, to any device using standard protocols such as MQTT, HTTPS, CoAP, and others.
10. Standards based
Many IoT platforms are built using proprietary architectures, code, business logic and APIs. This causes vendor lock-in because these platforms ultimately cannot be integrated with modern standards-based platforms, thereby limiting your flexibility to deliver solutions and meet your ever-changing customer needs. IoT platforms built on modern cloud systems such as AWS utilize commodity capabilities of the cloud platform and conform to commonly used standards such as REST, MQTT, HTTPS, NoSQL, multiple storage standards, video standards, social media standards, and many more.
In conclusion, if you verify that your IoT platform meets all these 10 requirements, you have purchased the best of both worlds – a quality, fast, low cost IoT platform running on a standards based cloud architecture allowing you the flexibility to adapt as your business grows.
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