If you’re just beginning to traverse the landscape of the Internet of Things (IoT), you've likely come across a surplus of IoT platforms. To get the most out of IoT data, you'll need to employ the tools a platform provides for connectivity, analytics, triggers, alerts and more. The quest for the perfect IoT platform often begins with the following questions: 1) What is an IoT platform? 2) Which platform do I choose to get started?
What is an IoT platform?
There are a number of ways to define IoT platforms, depending on the use-case and business vertical. In identifying them, look for the following five factors:
- Device connectivity layer – This consists of a connection path between the device and the platform message broker, united with software that normalizes signal types and data to conform to platform requirements as necessary. Some platforms will only read data from devices, while others will allow you to control them as well.
- Message broker – This is the centerpiece middleware of the platform, which communicates with the devices, databases and third-party services, analytics tools and customer UI for access. Robust message brokers accomplish this feat through an open but secure API, through a protocol such as REST or MQTT. The message broker may lie on a gateway, server or in the cloud.
- Database – Whether you prefer a NoSQL database, a time-series database or have no idea what a database is, there needs to be a logical and organized way to store data collected from IoT devices – especially since IoT produces vast amounts of data. These databases can rest on-premise or in the cloud.
"What good is collecting boundless amounts of data if it’s not put to use?"
- Analytics – What good is collecting large amounts of data if it’s not put to use? Whether the data analysis performed is for predictive maintenance, energy savings or marketing information, you'll need the appropriate analytics tools at your disposal. Some platforms bundle their analytics tools, while others allow you to connect to specialized third-party tools via API.
"The best data analytics are useless if not presented well to the user."
- User Interface (UI) – Finding a platform with the right balance of complexity and customization will reward you with a user experience that’s powerful, yet easy to master. While a custom configuration may provide a more personalized experience, it can clutter the UI and complicate setup. The best data analytics are useless if not presented well to the user.
How do I choose an IoT platform to get started?
If you want to get the most out of your IoT practice, you'll need to use the right IoT platform for your business needs. Here are some important points to consider:
- Do you need a secure, on-premises solution that works offline, or a cloud solution that’s accessible from anywhere?
- Do you have the resources to develop your own platform? With a team of developers utilizing the right tools, you could build your own IoT platform and control your resources and data.
- Do you want to configure a broad, horizontal IoT platform for each use-case? Or would you prefer a specialized IoT platform that works out-of-the-box?
- Do you want to manage devices and infrastructure, analyze the data they generate, or both?
- Are you an IoT expert, or are you just beginning to develop your IoT practice?
"Are you an IoT expert, or are you just beginning to develop your IoT practice?"
If you're just getting started, you're going to need masters in the field to guide you through what could be a daunting world of IoT.
Tech Data IoT Solutions is a vendor-agnostic team of expert consultants, architects and engineers, with specialists in every business vertical. We have a comprehensive network of partners—including vendors, system integrators, resellers and service providers—readily available to provide the best quality IoT solutions in the channel.