It is an IoT Platform, stupid !.


I remember a speaker repeating at the end of each sentence the word stupid. I must say that the first three times seemed effective, but then I squeaked this tagline. That’s why I will only use it one, at the title of the post.

When in late 2013, I decided to relaunch my company OIES Consulting with a focus this time on Advisory services for Internet of Things (IoT), I thought the selection of IoT platforms would be one of the most useful services that we would offer and certainly one that would bring more benefits to the clients wishing to accelerate the adoption of IoT.  At that time I had identified about 60 IoT platform vendors and despite some analyst reports specialized in this subject, the confusion was brutal. Today is worst, there are more than 260 platform vendors according to the market research of Research and Markets.

I was tempted to maintain, classify and publish my own a list of IoT platform vendors but looks like almost an impossible task these days. There are other bloggers and reputed industry analyst firms that also try to maintain an updated list. For now I include below some useful links and pictures (probably obsoletes when you read this post):

You must agree with me that the IoT platform market need a quick and urgent consolidation. It is not possible to present customers a study of more than 260 platforms nor is it easy to predict which of them will remain three years from now.

Hopefully, in the magical year of 2020, we will be talking about twenty vendors at most. But as we’ll get to this consolidation that the market needs? Certainly the events and awards received will help, as well as the number of connected devices they get, key customers, geography, vertical industry knowledge and strategic alliances that have managed to consolidate trusted value proposition.

The confusing market of IoT/M2M Platforms

But first things first. How define what it is an IoT platform?.

I am not going to write in this post about the differences between Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT). If you are interested I recommend this post: “M2M vs IoT, what is the difference?”.

ABI Research in “M2M Software Platforms report “ differentiate between Connected Device Platform (CDP) Players and Application Enablement Platform (AEP) Players and Internet of Things (IoT) Middleware.

For its part, Machina Research in June 2014 classic report “The critical role of connectivity platforms in M2M and IoT application enablement” described the Best Practice’ elements of connectivity platforms. Machina Research pointed out that “the key challenge for M2M and IoT platforms is to remove the friction that exists in today’s market. This friction is generated by a wide range of factors including high entry costs, lack of scale in specific segments, limited skills and awareness, different and varying market conditions between countries and geographies, and regulatory policies”.

MachNation believes that Communication service providers can triple their IoT/M2M revenues with an IoT application enablement platform. The company offer a research article with 5 best practices describing how carriers can most effectively leverage their relationships with IoT AEP vendors.

In the article “Not All IoT Platforms are Created Equal” the author point out that “we must understand that the current generation of IoT platform represent the first iteration in this space, but we can already see marked differences between different types of platforms. As an organization looking to embrace an IoT platform, this initial diversity can result very confusing.

It is not strange to be confused when defining what an IoT platform is. Luc Perard from ThingWorx helps us in this article “Are you confused about IoT platforms?  how to compare apples with apples not with oranges.

I agree with Sean Lorenz from Xively in this podcast  that the “IoT Platform” is such an overloaded term that its meaning has been lost. Chipset manufacturers, sensor manufacturers, software vendors, consortia and system integrators all have their own definitions”.

We find out there with a large number of companies that offer us IoT platforms in the cloud or on your premises, horizontal or vertical, for embedded software development or industrial applications development, with data capture and analytics in real time, able to manage all types of devices and protocols, with connectivity to any network, platform for developing applications for smart home, for smart cities, for connected to the car, for wearables…

In such circumstances it is preferable to avoid arguments about which is an IoT platform and how we categorize them. My recommendation here is to ask for help from specialized IoT consultants. So they can meet you to better understand your present and future business needs and can help in the IoT platform selection.

Once upon a time a small group of M2M platforms

M2M Service Providers had been using the term M2M Platform for years with enterprise customers. The main functionality of these carrier-grade platforms was to manage connectivity through a secure, fast and reliable private network through connected via dedicated hubs directly into each of the major network partners, control of multiple network SIM estates, manage SIMs and devices and finally manage their billing administration in line with their own systems and procedures.

Most of the M2M Service Providers developed in house a M2M platform but also in parallel they acquire a M2M platforms from vendors like Jasper Control Center, Ericsson Device Connection , Cumulocity, or Telenor Connexion , among others.

With the Hype of the IoT, M2M Service Providers become more interested in offer their enterprise customers an IoT application development environment that can reduce the time, cost, and complexity of deploy solutions that can optimize their business processes and help them deliver better and faster services.  An example Etisalat to Launch New Internet of Things Services Leveraging ThingWorx® IoT Development Platform.

Could MNOs avoid the temptation to develop their own IoT management and application platforms?. The complexity of IoT VAS development and deployment demands a continuing operational and commercial effort. My recommendation: MNOs should instead consider partnering with well established technology vendors in order to accelerate time to market and create customer value through innovation.

Buy vs. build and IoT Platform: How to make the right decision?

Technology companies have spent years adapting the sales pitch to convince their customers or potential customers of the advantages of buying commercial products or ultimately IaaS, PaaS or SaaS platforms.
Moreover, many companies from all sectors have seen a risk that their business will depend on suppliers and the fear of being captives of these technology providers. Their management team and tech leaders have found enough arguments to further develop solutions from scratch.

Omer Pesach in this “Application Enablement Platforms – Why is Their Adoption Slow? post explain why  most M2M/IoT application developed in the “traditional” way in the vast majority of cases even though there are some clear benefits to building a new IoT application/service using an AEP.

The eternal dilemma, whether to build from scratch or buy an off-the-shelf  IoT Platforms to needs of the enterprise will continue for a while. Here’s what you need to know about both approaches before making this critical project decision.

  • Step 1: Validate the need for an IoT platform – Focus on validating that a business need exists prior to deciding and estimate the return on investment (ROI) or added value.
  • Step 2: Identify core business requirements – Involve the right business people will determine the success of the process
  • Step 3: Identify architectural requirements – It is extremely important to identify any architectural requirements and follow the status of the confusing IoT standards world before determining if a COTS or custom solution is the best choice.
  • Step 4: Examine existing IoT Platforms – At this point, a business need has been pinpointed, ROI has been estimated, and both core business and architectural restrictions have been identified, you should now take a good look at existing IoT vendors (a short list of IoT platforms, to be more concrete).
  • Step 5: Do you have in-house skills to support a custom IoT platform? – It takes many skills to design and deploy a successful IoT platform that is both scalable and extensible.
  • Step 6: Does a COTS IoT platform fit your needs? If your organization does not include a development group comprised of personnel experienced in designing IoT solutions to support your enterprise wide business solutions, a COTS IoT platform will probably provide the best long-term ROI.

Open Source IoT Platform vs. Proprietary IoT Platform: Heart or Head?

It’s near impossible to find someone who will deny IoT Platform is hot. IoT continues in the peak in Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. But this summer we can see behind the IoT platform in the Innovation Trigger. It is not surprising that there are dozens of companies developing or updating their proprietary IoT platforms, in spite many of them use open source code in their products. I mention this to make it clear that probably some open source code will be also present in some IoT platforms vendors.

There are many people that believe that IoT needs open source to be successful.  Everyone loves the promise of Open Source IoT Platforms. It’s free (or almost free); it’s built by passionate communities of developers; and there’s no vendor lock-in. Add to that, that the rate of innovation is supposed to be faster with Open Source IoT Platforms — why would anyone choose to work with anything else?

I had been following up to 30 open source IoT platforms, starting with Eclipse Open Source IoT platforms project, and following with other I found in this link Eight Key Open-Source Internet of Things Projects. Now I just read news and talk with members of a few of them like Kaa,  SiteWhare by CyberVision and Vitheia,  but like I said there are many other enthusiast IoT platform developers in the world, some closer than you think.

I will not talk in this post about IoT proprietary platforms. I need a long article to analyse this highly competitive and fragmented market and this post is still very long.

Vertical vs. Horizontal IoT Platforms –

It was not my intention to write in this post on building vertical or horizontal IoT platforms. Again I think makes sense to write a dedicated post for this subject. Nevertheless I give you a some useful links that provide different and interesting point of views.

Special attention to companies that want to participate in the home automation market. In Who Will Build The ‘God Platform’ For The Internet Of Things? the author suggest that these companies will need to create products that work compellingly in isolation and alongside competitors’ products — and somewhere in all of this, the god platform might emerge.

In “Choosing an IoT Platform Provider” post, the author identify 8 must-consider criteria for selecting a partner in the IoT ecosystem. As he said “As with any technology decision make sure you have full understanding of business and technical constraints and requirements and feed those into your evaluation of IoT providers”.

Key Takeaway

I repeated many times that the Internet of Things is going to transform the way we live, work, and interact with each other. It’s more than a trend; it’s a revolution that will fundamentally transform the way the global economy functions, and IoT Platforms will play a key role.

If you have read this post, maybe I did not completely solved your doubts about what should be your decision regarding the most suitable IoT platform for your business. I hope at least you are not more confused. We should trust the market will consolidate very fast either by M&A or unfortunately by dead of start-ups, so we will find a much clearer picture in a couple of years.

Nevertheless, should this fragmented market affect your decision to initiate or advance your IoT strategy? . Clearly not. Your business can not wait 2 or 3 years without IoT. Make sure that the IoT will affect you do business and the IoT platform you choose will be key.

Thanks in advance for your Likes and Shares

Thoughts ? Comments ?


3 Comentarios

  1. The eternal dilemma, whether to build from scratch or buy an off-the-shelf? Maybe you’re right… Finding a good M2M platform is a real struggle. Currently I’m using the Comarch M2M Platform because its system helps launch M2M offers for vertical industries which I was personally looking for. I’m not sure If i’ll stay with Comarch but for now it’s ok. You can find it there if you want to check if it suits your company:

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