The Internet of Things is growing at breakneck speed. One report suggests that the global market for IoT will surpass $1.38 trillion by 2026 — a substantial increase from its 2020 valuation of $761.4 billion.
The IoT is nothing without IoT platforms — middleware that connects sensors, assets, data, software, and business processes. It brings all the different components of your IoT infrastructure together so your business can get every possible benefit.
There are many IoT platforms on the market, and it’s important to find the right one for your business. This can be a challenging task, with lots of complex and competing information to sift through.
In this article, we’ve put together a list of the main factors that should drive your decision when settling on an IoT platform, helping you make an informed decision that leads to the best solution for your needs.
Why you need an IoT platform?
There are many reasons to consider investing in an IoT platform. Essentially, the job of an IoT platform is to act as a ready-made framework for all your IoT infrastructure, pulling everything together and helping you start getting the benefits as quickly as possible. Here are some of the biggest advantages of a good IoT platform:
- It saves money, by making it more likely that your project will succeed and reducing the amount of time you’ll need to spend developing your own systems and fixing problems. Without relying on an IoT platform, it’s more likely that your project will fail and cost money. IoT platforms also centralize the management of your IoT network which is much more cost-efficient than trying to manage a scattered collection of devices.
- It helps provide security, ensuring your devices are safe, keeping your valuable data safe from the hands of hackers and cybercriminals, and giving you peace of mind.
- It helps you go to market quicker. IoT platforms take care of many aspects of your IoT project, saving you significant time and allowing you to roll out a prototype quickly.
- Good IoT platforms come packed with ready-made features, from help with billing to data analytics support, all geared towards helping you get the most out of your IoT infrastructure and providing valuable support to every member of your team.
- Device and data integration. IoT platforms bring all your devices together and integrate them into one central system. This way, you can integrate the data with your enterprise systems and enhance your organization’s existing processes. The result is a more cohesive network with each part supporting the whole, as opposed to a disparate collection of individual devices.
- It helps improve and streamline operations across your entire business by bringing IoT data together with data from external sources, allowing for a more holistic view of your entire organization which can drive better working processes and help you hit your goals in various areas.
What to look for in an IoT platform?
The best IoT platforms can provide a whole host of major advantages to your project and business as a whole. By providing connectivity as a service, they simplify the process of managing IoT devices with various connectivity technologies and remove the need to establish a contract with multiple network providers.
But it’s important to pick the right platform for your specific needs. Here are some things to consider to ensure you make the right choice.
Connectivity is a huge factor when it comes to IoT. Each project and organization has its own specific connectivity requirements, and this will have a direct impact on which IoT platform is the best fit.
Some IoT platforms are more specialized in certain technologies than others. Ideally, you should choose a platform that’s able to orchestrate a range of different connectivity technologies like LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE Cat. M1, 4G, 5G, and WIFI.
Geographical location is also something to consider. Your IoT platform should be able to support IoT applications and devices in all the different geographical regions you need it to.
Your IoT project will almost certainly grow over time. As this technology expands and becomes more widely used, almost every business is likely to find itself using more and more IoT devices and functions across multiple use cases.
Your IoT platform should be prepared for this. Select a platform that can comfortably scale as the project grows and is fit for all IoT project states from just a handful of devices in one area to thousands spread across many regions.
The best IoT platforms should be able to scale across a range of different deployment models, such as:
- In a public cloud
- In a private cloud
- On your business premises
Another major concern for IoT networks is security. Attacks on IoT devices are on the rise, with 33% of infected devices now part of the IoT. It’s essential to make sure you choose an IoT platform that prioritizes security.
If you don’t take security seriously, you’re putting your IoT infrastructure at risk of cyberattacks, which could result in downtime, the loss of sensitive data, and serious reputational damage. On top of this, many companies have to comply with strict requirements when it comes to data ownership and security, which means you could face legal penalties if your data is breached.
It’s no longer enough to simply secure your business premises — in our increasingly remotely connected world, you have to keep your devices safe wherever they are. Your IoT platform should also be able to integrate with common cloud infrastructures like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon AWS.
The whole point of IoT is to make your life and business processes easier. It shouldn’t add an extra layer of difficulty and complexity to your systems. The best IoT platforms are straightforward and easy to integrate with existing processes.
The main user groups to consider here are:
- The people who will actually be using the system — your end-users
- The people whose job it is to maintain the system like your company’s internal engineers
For both of these groups, the IoT platform should be as user-friendly as possible with minimal friction and challenges. This not only helps you get the most out of your technology but also keeps your team happy and stress-free.
It is crucial to make sure that your IoT platform can be integrated with your final application. Typically, you want the platform to have a standardized interface (REST API) that allows you to connect your end-user smart application and make use of the data for your particular business case.
Your chosen platform should also support the visualization of data during a pilot, as this helps you understand your IoT systems as closely as possible and communicate this to other members of your organization.
Resilience to technological change
If there’s one thing we can be sure of when it comes to technology, it’s that constant change is unavoidable. This is a good thing for businesses and ensures constant progress and development, but when it comes to IoT systems it’s essential to prepare for this ongoing change.
Your hardware, connectivity, and applications need to be adaptable and resistant to change. Otherwise, you’ll run into issues like technological lock-in where you’re forced to use technology that is no longer sufficient for the demands of the time.
One way to ensure resistance to change is to make it possible to exchange the components of your IoT solution at any time, without negatively impacting the overall final application. This allows you to modify and upgrade your infrastructure bit-by-bit over time without major delays and downtime.
When it comes to IoT platforms, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. You need to take the time to figure out which platforms are the best fit for your unique set of needs and challenges, and pick one that can help you get the most out of your network.