An Idiot’s Guide to The IoT Platform

IoT Platform

An Idiot’s Guide to The IoT Platform

Most people probably already have an idea of what the Internet of Things actually is. And basically how it can be used in our daily lives and businesses. However, some of the new technology’s more important components might still be mystery. Most especially to those that have not yet grasped how the entire process works. The concept of the Internet of Things initially started when machinery and devices started to get access to the internet infrastructure. Which they used as a medium to send and receive data. Of course, these devices also started to communicate using other mediums such as Bluetooth, NFC, and Radio, and RFID. All of these data and hardware are all controlled by a specific IoT platform.

Which is then utilized by its operators to further improve their specific processes. Different types of data, such as temperature, location, motion, speed, voltage, and other parameters, are then used by different software. To make calculated decisions that are dependent on the context and the present environmental conditions. By allowing devices and machinery to “sense” their own environments and conditions. Great efficiency and productivity can be achieved through automated actions and minute changes.

With minimal human intervention, autonomous systems have proven themselves to be much better. Especially in performing certain tasks during specific situations for different applications. One of the most important components that is currently not yet completely understood by most people is the existence of IoT platforms. The emerging market of these different types of software and hardware platforms is of course still a recent phenomenon. And it has not yet been fully adopted worldwide.

However, the technology is actually growing at a surprisingly exponential rate. In 2017, there were around 300 IoT platforms that were readily available for people and businesses who want to integrate IoT devices into their existing projects. These platforms were also available to new users who wanted to develop their own systems based around the technology. As of the moment, there may be more than 700 platforms overall. In fact, the IoT platform market has been found to have a constant compound growth of about 33 percent. It is even expected to exceed $1.6 billion in market value by 2021.

The rapid expansion of the new form of technology can be attributed to the ever advancing rate of improvement in specific hardware. Such as microprocessors, sensors, actuators, and other electronic devices. As these products continue to be more portable and affordable, more companies can now integrate them into their systems.

IoT Platform Components

Hardware

To fully understand the concept of what an IoT platform is, people would need to understand the most basic components of an IoT system. On top of the list of components for any form of IoT system, the first requirement will be the hardware. The hardware basically encompasses any type of component that can make a machine or device “smart”. Essentially allowing it to sense different parameters in its surroundings.

These components will include devices such as temperature sensors, photovoltaic sensors, actuators, monitors, motion detectors, and other similar electronics. Other hardware components are also needed to collect and make sense of these data. Which may include microprocessors, PCBs, transistors, and other similar electronic components. After the data is collected, there is now a need for hardware to transmit these data into the cloud or other memory devices.

Connectivity

Is the second component that is needed for any IoT system to work. Aside from being able to send data, there is also a need for hardware to receive this data. Components will also be needed to make sense of these data. In order to come up with particular actions or commands.

Software

The third component is software. Software that is used in most IoT systems is embedded onto the different devices on site as well as on a cloud-based server where most of the data is processed. Software hosted in the cloud is basically responsible for analyzing all of the data collected by the different sensors, which is then used to make decisions.

User-friendly Interface

The fourth component that is found in any type of IoT system is an easy-to-use user interface. Operators will of course need a way to make sense of all of the data. This will be in a form that is easy to understand. Having a user interface such as a web app with a dashboard that show all of the relevant data will allow operators to make operational changes. That will eventually improve the entire process.

An excellent example of this entire process is how IoT systems are now being used in agriculture. On a modern smart farm, devices such as moisture sensors are now being embedded into the soil. This is to keep track of its water content. Automatic water delivery systems are also installed, which can be controlled in a variety of ways.

Data from the moisture sensors are then transmitted to either a cloud computing server or an in-house computing system. If the software detects that there is already ample moisture in the soil, such as when it is raining, or it had just rained, the system will then “tell” the automated water delivery system to postpone any of its actions for the day. Conversely, if the system detects that there is a need for more water, it can command the irrigation system to turn on.

Operators who are looking at the entire process through their user interface can utilize the data. To look at essential parameters such as monthly moisture trends. By using this type of systems, farmers can now be insure that their crops will be getting the optimal amount of water for the whole year round. Farmers also get the benefit of saving on their water bill as everyone now operates automatically.

What is an IoT platform and what is it for?

An IoT platform exists to make all of the IoT as mentioned above system components work together seamlessly. It takes all of the hardware, software, and the different connectivity options and then places them into a neat little package. That will be much easier to integrate into any project. An IoT platform connects all of the hardware that is being used in a system. So that every device can understand one another. This explanation means that a platform offers operators with a set communication protocol. That is coherent for every component within the system.

A platform for the Internet of Things systems is also used to provide a secure way of accessing and operating the different hardware and software via a customizable authentication system that for one or multiple users. Through the use of the various user interface provided by the different platforms, operators can also now visualize and analyze relevant data from their installed IoT devices.

Some platforms also integrate these data sets with other web services. Through the use of these platforms, companies and businesses will be able to combine different IoT systems into their different processes without much hassle and at a lesser cost. There are a lot of technical challenges with implementing these types of systems full in-house and opting to get a fully features IoT platform will be much more cost-effective.

Choosing the IoT Platform

As for choosing which of the platforms to go for, it is actually really dependent on the types of goals that need to be achieved. For the most part, majority of the platforms that are available are fully customizable and are just basically good foundations for any type of IoT project.  For most consumers, one of the biggest cloud-based IoT platforms is being offered by Amazon Web Services. The company has been offering these kinds of systems since 2004. They have of course completely overhauled their initial offerings through various innovations and additional features.

Amazon

Also offers its customers with the most comprehensive set of tools that is currently available in the market. More importantly, most of the company’s offerings are fully scalable, which means that it can be used for both small and large enterprise applications. The company’s AWS IoT service, which it describes as a system of ubiquitous devices connecting the physical world to the cloud, charges users per million messages sent or received to and from their servers. The company also offers companies its own software development kits (SDK) so that customers can fully develop their own applications to run on the AWS system. Another big player in the relatively new IoT platform market is Microsoft.

The company currently offers IoT services such as cloud storage and machine learning systems. Microsoft markets itself as a complete IoT solution provider will varied products that should cater to most IoT uses. Through the use of their different products, customers can come up with their own custom applications and processes relatively easily. Data collection and analytics are also at the forefront of the company’s portfolio thanks to its expertise when it comes to advanced machine learning systems. Aside from Microsoft and Amazon, other companies that are offering their own unique sets of IoT services includes IBM, with their Watson platform, Google, with their Google Cloud Platform, Bosch, and Oracle.

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