What is an IoT Platform?
An IoT Platform is a software that helps us to inter-connect IoT devices (microprocessors & other development boards), giving us a lot of options & easy features, so that the information can easily be sent to, and received from these IoT devices.
Secondly, one has to understand the data, which is being received, and be able to build rules & logic around the data. Additionally, one has to take decisions based on the incoming data, and push these decisions back to the IoT devices, for instance it could be switching something on/off, sending a text message, or even sending an e-mail. (For e.g., knowing from moisture data that it just rained, and then telling the system not to turn on the water sprinklers today, as that would be simply wasting the water)
With all this being done, one will be able to save the entire data on the platform (which acts as a central repository), which can be accessed & used for further analysis.
Thirdly, one should also be able to integrate IoT devices with other third part solutions, services, databases & other third-party applications like Google Cloud etc.
Finally, one also needs to build experiences on different platforms, whether mobile or desktop, for the user consumption. For e.g., a web-based app with a dashboard that shows moisture trends & allows users to manually turn on/off the irrigation system)
All these disparate components get tied together effectively, and in a manageable way within an IoT Platform.
Advantages of an IoT Platform?
Using an IoT platform simplifies development, as it solves a lot of problems & complexities, which one normally deals with while building an IoT application.
1. Saves a lot of Time: Using an IoT platform lets us focus solely on building the solution, as it bypasses all the time-consuming steps required in setting up the infrastructure, required to support the IoT application. Many IoT platforms have ready-made tools already incorporated within them, which can be directly used for a project by simply customizing them according to one’s needs. This way a lot of precious time is saved, as no new application needs to be built from scratch, yet we get the same result.
2. Provides a Greater Level of Security: Hardware, software & connectivity, all need to be secure for any IoT system, to be able to work effectively. Without security, any connected object, from an Air Conditioner to an industry bot, can easily be hacked, and confidential information can be taken away. People have a misconception, that securing an IoT system is a one-time job, rather keeping a system secure throughout, is an ongoing process, with no end as there are always newer security threats coming, which requires the system security
patches, to be up to date. IoT platforms specialize in these sectors, enabling them to be up to date on security, providing a more secure IoT system.
3. Easy Integration with Third-Party Software or Databases: IoT platform allows to connect to third party applications like google cloud, which makes the IoT system more robust.
4. Regular Software Updates: IoT platforms have algorithms that help to keep the applications updated regularly, helping the system stay up to date and run efficiently. These also hugely contribute to keeping the systems Safe and Hack proof from any kind of Cyber attacks.
5. Reduces Risks and Uncertainties: According to a survey conducted by Cisco in 2017, 60% of IoT initiatives stall at the Proof-of-Concept stage, and only 26% of companies have had an IoT initiative that they considered a complete success (https://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content?articleId=1847422), indicating that only one third of the projects were considered a success. Thus, by using an IoT platform, the chances of not succeeding will drastically decrease, as one is buying a tried & tested application, which can later be
customized according to the needs.
6. Reduces the Direct Employee Costs: As ready-made tools from the IoT platform are used
to build the application, instead of building the application from scratch, the cost and workforce working on the application also decreases, as customizing ready-made tools require comparatively less skilled employees, thus decreasing the cost associated with them.
Disadvantages of an IoT Platform?
1. Limited Development Flexibility: IoT Platforms are general platforms created by the vendors, in an attempt to cater the needs of all its users, and it is very much possible that while using an IoT platform there is a gap between the solution offered by the IoT platform and the one that you aim to have in your application. The essential thing here would be to analyze how big the gap is between the two solutions, and is the gap actually hindering or actually making a big difference in the functionality of the IoT application, lastly, one may also consider looking at other platforms and check if they are able to bridge the gap between the two solutions.
2. Incurs Cost: As they say “Everything comes with a price”, an IoT platform also comes with a cost, but in the longer run, these costs turn out to be lesser as compared to the cost to build your own IoT application. IoT applications can be broadly classifies into two types, SaaS (Software as a service) and PaaS (Product as a service). SaaS essentially refers to a software that is available on the internet via a third-party For.eg Salesforce, whereas, PaaS refers to as both Hardware and Software available on the internet, For e.g., Windows Azure. On comparing both the types, SaaS turns out to be cheaper between the two, with very little expertise required to run a SaaS solution, while PaaS turns out to be better for developers who don’t want to spend extra money for platforms, that one needs for complete IoT projects.
In conclusion, an IoT platform does not only help us in saving time during the development of the application but it also takes away all the complexities.