IoT platform versus IoT solution: Flipping the focus
Ask any company that has had a successful IoT implementation and they’ll give a laundry list of the benefits, among them:
- Significantly increased operational efficiency and performance;
- Reduced costs related to lost inventory or business assets;
- Improved employee safety through better situational awareness;
- Enhanced customer experience through innovative products and improved services;
- Accelerated go-to-market strategies for revenue-boosting products and services; and
- Increased business agility to better compete in a dynamic market.
But the real value to companies is, of course, the data that is collected, analyzed and used to make decisions that help drive business outcomes such as those described above. Therefore, the initial focus for many companies when they start their own IoT journey is on the IoT platform used to analyze the data, conduct device management or integration, or manage device security. And that’s often the wrong focus.
Why? Because an IoT platform is not an IoT solution. And focusing on the former instead of the latter can send companies on a wild goose chase as they seek to reap the rewards of IoT. Most platforms deliver a single layer, typically consisting of the data collection and analysis layer. Others focus on device integration or security. But platforms all have one key thing in common: They only deliver one piece of the IoT implementation puzzle.
Let’s be clear: Data analytics is critical to the success of an IoT project. So too are device management and security. But once a platform is selected — and there are hundreds of IoT platforms to sift through — organizations then still have to figure out sensors, gateways, the user interface, the required cloud services and network connectivity.
In other words, there’s still a lot of hard work ahead. This includes:
- Sourcing components from multiple vendors, which can raise compatibility and configuration issues;
- Researching sensors to determine which best meet their needs — if they capture the required data, how they connect to the gateways, the platform and analytics application needed, whether they transmit data in the right format to interwork with your other applications and more.
- Writing software to ensure components from different vendors talk to each other;
- Designing and programming an application to enable users to see devices, analyze data and make sense of everything; and
- Ensuring the IoT implementation, once live, is secure at every layer.
Each of these tasks not only takes time, but also requires a deep understanding of how all of these pieces come together that most companies do not have or do not have timely or cost-effective access to. According to research from Cisco, only 40% of IoT implementations ever make it through the proof-of-concept stage, and it’s easy to see why: IoT is too complicated for companies to get simple projects completed if they take a platform approach. Operations managers have other pressing tasks to oversee, with little extra time to research, put together and trial a complete IoT project with any measure of success.
Platform or end-to-end solution?
Companies, therefore, have four choices:
- Ignore IoT altogether and risk being left behind by competitors that are able to streamline their businesses;
- Cobble their IoT implementation from individual platforms and components in-house;
- Outsource their project completely to a third-party managed services provider at considerable cost; or
- Deploy a comprehensive, out-of-the-box IoT solution that meets all of their requirements.
Notice that an IoT solution is not just a platform; rather, it includes sensors, gateways, analytics software and full industry-specific user interface. It’s purpose-built and delivered by a single vendor so enterprises don’t need to source each component from different vendors, mash them together and hope they work as desired. An IoT solution is purpose-built from a single vendor, so end-to-end security is also not an afterthought, but baked into each layer of the solution, from sensor to cloud. With end-to-end IoT solutions, companies can accelerate their IoT deployments and scale quickly when their proof of concepts are successful.
Companies looking to move quickly with an IoT deployment soon discover that searching for a platform may be the wrong place to first focus their attention. Indeed, making the platform the initial focus often causes more problems than it solves. When a company doesn’t have to build upon a single-layer platform, mixing and matching sensors, software, hardware and security, it can better home its focus on strategy and real business outcomes. And when they don’t have to worry about on-site configuration and integration — and determining who to call when things go wrong — they can accelerate deployment, save time and money, and use the benefits of IoT faster.
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