What is an IoT Platform?

Frank Greer
Feb 1, 2021 6:45:00 AM

IoT technology opens up tremendous possibilities for businesses. However, without a centralized IoT platform, you must identify and string together a collection of different components — which is time-consuming, difficult to manage, and not cost efficient. By using an IoT platform, you reduce your risk and cost, and you can also accelerate your time-to-market for new products. Additionally, you can gain valuable business insights to inform your sales and monetization strategies. Read on to learn more about IoT platforms, the options available, and how to choose the right IoT platform for your business.

What is an IoT Platform?

An IoT platform is a group of technologies providing the infrastructure needed to connect your IoT product(s) to the cloud. But it is much more than this. An IoT platform also helps to support your business with built-in tools and capabilities that make it easier and simpler to sell and service IoT products. An IoT platform is a central command center for your business — it’s often called middleware due to its role managing all IoT devices in an ecosystem. To leverage everything that IoT can offer your business, you’ll want an IoT platform that supports your specific needs. 

Types of IoT Platforms

There are five types of IoT platforms available, each designed to serve a different function. As you’re considering your specific business needs, you’ll want to identify which functionality would best support you.

  • Device management platforms — Device management platforms focus on support for routine tasks to ensure devices are connected and secure. They provide status updates and change notifications, update firmware, make security updates, and offer reporting. 
  • Connectivity platforms — These platforms provide users with the tools to activate and manage device connectivity and keep track of KPIs like average data consumption. They are centered around supporting the networking of IoT systems. 
  • Application enablement platforms — Application enablement platforms give users everything needed to establish an IoT system, including the hardware, software, coding, and deployment. 
  • Cloud platforms — Cloud platforms provide the infrastructure required to create an IoT system in an easily scalable way.
  • Advanced analytics platforms — These platforms are sophisticated systems for data-driven IoT and are able to interpret and act upon gathered data. These can be used with artificial intelligence, statistical modeling, machine learning, billing platforms, and the like.

Learn more: 6 Components of IoT Device Management

What Should You Look for in an IoT Platform

Making the right choice up-front for your IoT platform is essential. As IoT systems (and businesses) grow, they get more costly and complex, so it can be very difficult to migrate to a new system if you find your original system no longer meets your needs and is not flexible. It’s smart to make a platform choice that will suit not only your immediate needs, but your future needs as well. Ideally, your platform will easily grow with you. To be effective, your IoT platform must be:

  • Secure — Any IoT platform must make security a priority to avoid a data breach and privacy violations. Achieving data security requires comprehensive identity management, device authentication, user access rights management, data at rest, and end-to-end data flow encryption. 
  • Useable — IoT platforms should streamline IoT systems so they are understandable and easy-to-manage.
  • Scalable — IoT platforms should have elastic scalability to meet the needs of a growing IoT ecosystem. This should also include the platform’s load balancing capabilities to maximize performance.
  • Customizable — The larger and more complex an IoT system gets, the more important customization becomes. Developers need control over the entire system, particularly for rapidly evolving IoT ecosystems.
  • Reliable — IoT platforms should offer stable services to address hardware and software failures through protocols, alerts, energy efficiencies, security, and other methods. 

All of these elements are important when selecting an IoT platform and they become increasingly important as your system grows and becomes more complex.

How to Choose an IoT Platform

When you’re considering an IoT platform, it’s essential to think about the technical capabilities of the solution as well as the business and operational abilities. Consider how each platform’s capabilities align with your business strategy and your current and future needs. View your IoT platform and platform provider as a partnership — it’s likely to be a long-term relationship, so make sure it’s a great fit from the start.

Do your homework and investigate the providers you’re considering working with to evaluate their reputation, stability, and track record. Make sure they have the experience required to support the complexities of onboarding as well as crafting a long-term partnership. Also, see if your prospective provider has a large partner ecosystem to draw from since IoT is so large that a single company will need to align with other strong companies to extend their services. 

Some specific features and capabilities to look for include IoT device management, device data visualization, connectivity and integration, IoT analytics, and over-the-air software updates. Areas you may want to evaluate to ensure an IoT platform is a great fit include dashboards, deployment, user management, and multi-tenancy, and the total cost of ownership. You may also want to evaluate some end-to-end use cases to see how the platforms you are considering will hold up to some real-life scenarios.

Learn the key features to look for in a connectivity management platform.

Benefits of an IoT Platform

Beyond the features, you’ll want to evaluate the platform from a benefits perspective. A good IoT platform should offer the following benefits:

  • Rapid deployment — You need to be able to activate devices quickly and allow customers to deploy their own devices.
  • Inventory management — Know exactly what you have and what you need.
  • Access management — Robust controls ensure that only those who should have access are able to gain access.
  • Simplified integration — Look for powerful yet streamlined APIs 
  • Issue determination and support — Does the platform make customer service simple and easy?
  • Analytics — Being able to see insights and KPIs such as how many active subscriptions you have, how many devices are active, churn rate, etc. is invaluable.

Given these benefits, IoT platforms can accelerate your time to achieve product-market fit while reducing your risks and cost. Additionally, the analytics can inform your monetization strategy as you grow your business.

A Well-Chosen IoT Platform Will Benefit Your Business

An IoT platform is essential to be able to manage and harness the potential of your IoT device business while ensuring security, scalability, and reliability. A good IoT platform also helps you establish and attain your business goals. 

Want to know more about Zipit’s robust yet intuitive IoT platform? Contact us to discuss your company's unique needs. We’re happy to provide you with insights that will help you make the decision.

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