Everyone talks about IoT platforms, but they don’t always agree on exactly what they’re talking about. This analysis helps make sense of it.
IoT platforms- Lots of vendors are eager to sell enterprises an “IoT platform,” but it’s not always clear exactly what those “platforms” actually do, why you need one, and which one you should choose. As Hackernoon put it in April 2018:
“We’re a cross-functional, fully integrated, full-stack, serverless, hardware agnostic, AI, IoT platform that offers you infinite infrastructure . . .“ said every confusing IoT platform website ever.
Multiple overlapping IoT platform definitions
So, what is an Internet of Things (IoT) platform? Observers don’t always agree — in fact, they don’t always agree with themselves! For example, from that same Hackernoon post: “An IoT platform is an integrated service that offers you the things you need to bring physical objects online.”
But in 2019, a newer Hackernoon post had this to say: “The term ‘IoT Platform’ is really too broad to be useful to most people.” Worse, it cites the 2018 edition of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies: IoT platforms have crested passed the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and are ready to fall into the “Trough of Disillusionment.”
IoT for All, meanwhile, says: “IoT platforms are the support software that connects everything in an IoT system.” In this model, IoT platforms:
- Connect hardware, such as sensors and devices
- Handle different hardware and software communication protocols
- Provide security and authentication for devices and users
- Collect, visualize, and analyze data the sensors and devices gather
- Integrate all of the above with other web services
Maybe Postscapes’ definition is simpler: “IoT data platforms offer a jumping-off point by combining many of the tools needed to manage a deployment from device management to data prediction and insights into one service.”
But I actually think this 2016 description from Link Labs gets closer to the mark:
An Internet of Things (IoT) platform is the support software that connects edge hardware, access points, and data networks to other parts of the value chain (which are generally the end-user applications). IoT platforms typically handle ongoing management tasks and data visualization, which allow users to automate their environment. You can think of these platforms as the middleman between the data collected at the edge and the user-facing SaaS or mobile application.
That last line is key because to me, an IoT platform is little more than a fancy name for the middleware that connects everything together. i-Scoop focuses on that aspect: “An IoT platform is a form of middleware that sits between the layers of IoT devices and IoT gateways (and thus data) on one hand and applications, which it enables to build, on the other.”
Perhaps, though, IoT platform vendor KAA offers the most honest description. While acknowledging the middleware aspect, the vendor also allows that “an IoT platform can be wearing different hats depending on how you look at it.”