When a company makes business decision not to start from scratch, but to integrate with the existing IoT platform, then the question remains how to choose the right one among many that are on the market. What components should we be looking for in an IoT platform as we look through all of the options out there? Guided by the IoT Analytics insights (2016), we have concluded that every modern IoT platform architecture, besides built-in security at every level, should include below-mentioned components, or modules, in order to build anything, from smart home to large scale industrial IoT.
1. Connectivity and Normalisation
It starts with how a device or sensor connects to the IoT platform. Choosing your communication protocol will largely depend on your use case, including how much data you send, how often it needs to be sent, and which protocols the platform accepts. This communication module includes agents and libraries that bring different protocols and data formats into a uniform interface, which is necessary in order to ensure all devices can be interacted with, to ensure their constant connectivity and harmonised data formats. Having all device data in one place and in one format is the basic necessity to monitor, manage, and analyse IoT devices. IoT platforms should be designed to support buffered device communication in an effort to increase reliability.
2. Device Management
To be sure that connected devices are updated and working properly, a strong device management solution must be an important component of an IoT platform. Device managements covers device provisioning, remote configuration, the ability for manufacturers to send software or firmware updates over-the-air, as well as an out-of-box experience and troubleshooting. Once your device is in the field, you will need a way to ensure that you are able to manage device status, deploy firmware updates, and control versioning, so you won’t have to create custom tools for each product. It is most useful when updates can be rolled out simultaneously to all devices or dynamically to different groups based on information like region, hardware type, device firmware version, etc. Bulk actions and automation are essential to control costs and reduce manual labour.
3. Data Storage
This module is a central part of an IoT platform. Data storage includes cloud-based repository scalable in terms of data volume, variety, velocity, and veracity. Selecting the appropriate database technology is critically important to the success of most projects. To do this well, you should be able to store both structured (SQL) and unstructured data (NoSQL), so you must understand the differences between relational and NoSQL databases, how those databases should be configured, and how they should be optimised and managed over time.
4. Processing and Action Management
The data that is captured in the connectivity and normalisation module and then stored in the data storage gets brought to life in this part of the IoT platform. This module consists of an integrated logic unit called Rule engine - a rule-based event-action-trigger which allows “smart”, real-time actions based on specific sensor and device data. It provides event and time-based automation. Customer specific processes and features can be easily implemented here. Technical realisation of Rule engine often comes in a form of an If-this-then-that rule (IFTTT).
Database and backend services, which are an integral part of the IoT platform, are not merely collecting and storing data. The value of the data is realised only after it has been processed and evaluated, i.e. turned into information that can help solve a problem. Analytics can take the form of a simple dashboard, basic data clustering, or even deep analytics (algorithms for advanced calculations and machine learning).
IoT platform must offer a graphical display of real-time and historical sensor data. This module enables humans to see patterns and trends in visualisation dashboards (line-, stacked-, or pie charts, 2D- or even 3D-models).
7. Additional Tools
This module usually includes development and solution management tools (e.g., app prototyping, access management, reporting).
8. External Interfaces
IoT platform should be designed to help in developing all custom web and mobile applications for cloud data management. Developers could use familiar form of server side SDK - calling API methods from the web or mobile apps. It is important to identify, design, implement and test all of the APIs that are needed by entities external to your solution. External interfaces component also includes gateways that act as interfaces for 3rd party systems (e.g., ERP, CRM). Keep it simple when you’re evaluating IoT data platform options. No mature platform can be found on the market that does not contain all of the modules described above. For example, WolkAbout IoT Platform was built from the ground up to incorporate all the necessary components. It is designed to be the future-proof core of your IoT solution, both in terms of connecting things to the Internet – reliably, securely, cost effectively and at scale – and in terms of delivering the backing application logic for value-added services. By using the WolkAbout IoT Platform, companies are able to build flexible and interoperable solutions that can scale to meet exponential device growth, with an ability to manage cost, while building on top of extremely secure computing infrastructure.
References: IoT Analytics (2016, January 26). 5 Things To Know About The IoT Platform Ecosystem. Retrieved from www.iot-analytics.com