Need for an IoT services platform
The IoT(Internet of Things) juggernaut is going to invade our lives in a big way and affect the way businesses will run. As more and more smart things(or devices) are developed or IoT enabled, the challenge is to be able to move to deployment quickly without spending a lot of time in software development and integration. While there are general purpose platforms which provide PAAS or there are software service companies offering to build a bespoke IoT service around their IP(intellectual Property), each of these have their own limitations to helping startups/companies and other stakeholders getting to the market.
Also in this new model, data can be the new currency for businesses. End to End solutions for projects such as Smart Cities require the ability to federate/exchange data securely among different entities in order to achieve the final goal of complete automation. Some of this data can be used in real time to create notifications, actionables and reports while there could be other kinds of data used for machine learning/AI kind of applications which may be used for predictions/corrections. The following are some of the key drivers for success in the market.
- Ability to manage/configure the devices and generate useful reports/alarms/actionables for customers and managed service providers with a simple mobile App.
- Ability to exchange/federate data among different stakeholders based on contracts.
- Ability to manage multiple customers/entities and their devices with one App at the same time allowing the customers themselves to perform these tasks or take action.
- Allow rolling out services and solutions quickly. Be able to train and enable channel partners and system integrators to take this to the solution to the end market.
The challenges for different stakeholders in this market are different.
- IoT device manufacturers especially startups are experts in their domain. However, when they have to demonstrate their capabilities and enable their customers/partners to actually deploy these, they may not have in house competence or may find it difficult and expensive to build these competencies in house.
- IoT will enable new businesses to come up. Businesses which can actually roll out solutions such as System Integrators are key to the growth of this domain. Again, this set of people may be business experts, understand customer need well but not necessarily technology experts to roll out and manage a technology solution.
Some basic tenets of the platform which enable these are
- Cloud Based — Allows to roll out services without having to build your own data center
- Multi-tenancy — The platform has to be inherently multi-tenant with multiple levels of hierarchy. The position of an entity in the hierarchy determines the actions which can be performed (sort of RBAC).
- A single app for all entities irrespective of which level they are in. The app itself is available on day one(post some basic integration) for usage with the ability to customize or white-label the App.
- A scalable/performant backend Cloud Service which allows integration with 3rd party and other entities using REST APIs or messaging interfaces. This allows the stakeholders to build their own web apps, mobile apps as they choose.
- Plugin based Architecture which allows quick integration in the areas of config management and data collection for every new kind of device. The platform should already contain plugins for SMS and HTTP based transport/communication with the devices.
- Very critical that such a platform should be available as Open Source. This will allow the platform to be enriched by community and vendors as they add support for their own devices and build solutions.
We will look at some of these aspects in upcoming articles and why they are important and how a well built service platform will allow IoT vendors and system integrators to roll out a solution quickly.