Making sense of the confusing world of IoT platforms

Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to making sense of the confusing world of IoT platforms

28Feb

The rapid rise of the IoT has taken the global marketplace by storm, slowly converting skeptics and critics into firm believers in its digital potential. With the IoT being more popular and powerful than ever before, however, the market has been inundated with a swirling maelstrom of think pieces surrounding the best IoT platforms available. Most of the time, this accomplishes little other than confusing intelligent professionals about what the IoT is, and what its platforms truly do.

Is it possible to comb through the disinformation vortex and find out the truth? Here's everything you need to know when it comes to making sense of the confusing world of IoT platforms.

Defining an IoT platform

What is an IoT platform, anyway? There's no easy answer to that question, as multiple definitions pervade the world of IT, with tech-savvy professionals furiously debating with one another over relatively trivial tech details that most laypeople can't possibly understand. The most simple and trusted definition of an IoT platform stems from Link Labs, which accurately described an IoT platform as "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)". In other words, it's the constellation of interconnected gadgets and software you use to market your products or services to your customers.

Effectively, your IoT platform is the duct tape that holds your entire digital operation together. It's the thing in the middle that connects the unsexy, not-ready-for-public business idea at the end with the sexy, sleek, ready-for-customers product at the front. There are literally hundreds of IoT platform vendors, each of which will hawk their merchandise to any business owner that's passing by. This can create plenty of confusion, especially since some business owners are also being told that they can create their own IoT platforms rather than buying one – so which is it?

The truth of the matter is that you can buy an IoT platform furnished by a third party or construct one yourself if you have the appropriate resources and the needed commitment. Business owners and hardworking professionals should understand that purchasing or developing an IoT platform is no easy feat, however, largely because of how complex and expertise-driven the process can be. That's why it's imperative to understand that experience matters when it comes to IoT platforms, and that any business interested in relying on them should have capable IT experts in-house and ready to advise on the topic.

IoT platforms are diverse

The next thing you need to understand is that IoT platforms are diverse, which is the main reason that the definition of a platform can be flexible depending on who's doing the talking. Some IoT platforms are truly massive and are immensely well-funded, whereas others are scraggly startups desperately trying to make ends meet. Perhaps the only consistent thing about IoT platforms is that when they're effective, they ultimately lower the costs of doing business and dramatically reduce the amount of maintenance needed to keep your business applications up and running.

It's imperative for business owners to understand that most IoT platforms are a great deal, and that while you must always exercise skepticism when picking a platform, it's better to have some type of IoT platform than no platform at all. Don't forget that there's no generic IoT platform that's perfect for everyone; your business will need to identify a platform that best serves the niche you're trying to market to. So, how does a business owner go about finding the best IoT platform for the job?

Picking the right platform

Insights from McKinsey tell us that the most commonly asked question when it comes to an IoT platform is "does this platform have a facility for developing, testing, and maintaining multiple applications?" If you're developing a number of custom business applications yourself, such as those that drive wheelchairs, it's imperative that you have a robust IoT platform which can host and maintain such a large number of applications at once. For most business owners, however, the real question they should be asking themselves when it comes to picking the right platform is "how does this particular offering fit for my business and its pre-existing IT infrastructure?"

If you have data in your existing business system that's crucial to your future success, like troves of customer data, it's crucial that the IoT platform you select is compatible with your existing IT operations. This is where having a good IT team will be useful, as your tech specialists will be able to review potential platforms with your business leaders to determine which meld with your existing IT infrastructure and which aren't suitable for you to purchase. Choosing an IoT platform should never be rushed, and it's worthwhile for the owners of any company to study up on the top things to consider before making an investment in a new platform.

Keeping up to date on IoT platforms

Above all else, don't let your hefty investment into an IoT platform be ruined by a lack of digital security. Data privacy and the integrity of your digital defenses are increasingly important facets of success in a competitive marketplace, especially since consumers are abandoning companies which don't take IT security very seriously. The security of an IoT platform can be one of the most difficult things for a business owner to understand, especially if they're not particularly tech-savvy, which is why it's imperative you rely on authoritative experts when it comes to securing customer information.

The confusing world of IoT platforms will keep evolving at a breakneck pace, and business owners should understand that the definition and applications of an IoT platform will keep changing with time. Keep your head on a swivel and stick to authoritative sources, however, and you'll soon arrive at a coherent understanding of IoT platforms that helps you further digitize your operations as you take your business to the next level. Keeping up to date on IoT platforms isn't easy, but it's an essential part of making it in the digitally-defined marketplace of the 21st century. 

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