IoT devices are everywhere -- from manufacturing to healthcare to wearables. Organizations use equipment or vehicles with IoT sensors to collect data and automate back-end processes to improve customer experiences and create new business models. But deploying these connected devices to get value from the data can be challenging. Providers are helping companies address this challenge with IoT SaaS platforms.
For several years, IoT has been a competitive edge for the enterprise. When done well, organizations can gather invaluable data to improve efficiency and forecast the future. However, they must make it past difficulties in the adoption phase, also called pilot purgatory. IoT deployments require infrastructure that's different from the enterprise norm, even the cloud. Hardware and security standards in IoT devices haven't yet settled out, and the problem of processing data close to the IoT devices, rather than in the company cloud, all add to the complexity and expense of deploying IoT.
A growing number of IoT SaaS providers offer platforms that service IoT architecture and processing needs directly, eliminating the need for deep investments in gateways, edge servers, fog nodes and other IoT-specific components.
One challenge in choosing among the IoT SaaS providers is that, while many have similar features -- including scalability, real-time data capture and machine learning -- they have wildly different pricing models, making it an important purchasing consideration. Before investing in an IoT SaaS platform, it's important to determine the number of devices the organization will be using, as well as the data volume and whether the organization will be using the provider's analytics.
To help simplify the process of selecting an IoT SaaS platform, here, we examine eight prominent providers.
Google Cloud IoT Core
Building on its parent cloud's multilayered architecture, Google's IoT SaaS platform supports a broad range of OSes, offers machine learning functionality and accepts real-time data, making it a contender for smart building and smart city applications, as well as real-time monitoring of equipment and assets.
Real-time data capture and AI enable rapid system response in supply chain and transportation scenarios. Machine learning functionality provides insight into the behaviors and performance of systems that are disbursed over wide areas.
Security includes JSON web tokens enabling public and private key authentication device by device -- and keys can rotate -- as well as signature verification algorithms and role-based permissions for API access.
Pricing is per minute and scales by volume. A free version offers up to 250 MB per month.
IBM Watson IoT Platform
Watson IoT Platform includes a range of IoT business operations services, bundled to focus on enterprise asset management, facilities management or engineering applications. Each of these offerings provides security and enhanced data capture features, including in real time. This approach emphasizes operations optimization, making it highly suitable for industrial IoT (IIoT). Bidirectional communication increases the potential intelligence of the application.
Its AI and analytics can be configured as a service, a convenience that both simplifies and expands the deployment options for that functionality.
Pricing starts at $500 per instance, per month and is based on three metrics: data traffic, data analysis and edge data analysis. The first 100 MB per month are free.
Innovative Routines International (IRI) Voracity is a data manipulation engine that can rapidly aggregate data in edge environments, with strong analytics capabilities that can run on a broad range of platforms: Windows, Linux, Unix and even Raspberry Pi.
Its key features include fast, big data-friendly extract, transform and load; centralized administration; and a data governance portal that can search across silos. It also has strong encryption and anonymization utility and can integrate log data across many sources. Its embedded analytics functionality is big data-centric.
Pricing varies considerably, depending on components used, starting below $1,000 annually.
Microsoft Azure IoT Hub
The Azure cloud environment is one of the most mature and intricate in the market. Its IoT SaaS platform provides built-in analytics, machine learning and a facility for handling structured and unstructured data in the same context. Administrators can enable app and workflow deployment via preexisting Azure resources, providing highly customized applications. The platform can integrate easily with other platforms, including many CRM and ERP systems, as it inherits all the connectivity of the Azure cloud environment itself. There's also a REST API for custom integrations.
This combination of features makes possible a broad spectrum of potential applications, from smart buildings and cities to advanced industrial robotic process automation to wide-scale predictive maintenance. The platform is designed for beginners, as well as experts.
Microsoft offers a four-tier pricing program that's based on inbound data volume. Under 8,000 messages per unit, per day are free.
Oracle IoT provides a set of pre-configured, application-specific IoT SaaS offerings, building on its modular cloud architecture. Each of Oracle's IoT cloud services focuses on a particular IoT application domain:
- Production Monitoring Cloud Service tracks equipment performance and predicts machine failures, enabling preventive maintenance.
- Asset Monitoring Cloud Service facilitates real-time visibility and predictive intervention automatically.
- Fleet Monitoring Cloud Service offers vehicle location in real time, geographic tracking and cost audit. It can also monitor drive actions and behaviors.
- Connected Worker Cloud Service tracks worker movement and environmental monitoring to improve safety conditions.
- Service Monitoring for Connected Assets Cloud Service offers service channel monitoring with root cause diagnosis; this is good for tracking and locating assets, as well as theft prevention.
Pricing is calculated per device using a pay-as-you-go model that's based on resource consumption. There are no upfront commitments or service subscriptions, and there's no minimum service period.
Particle's IoT platform includes three products -- Wi-Fi, Cellular and Tracker -- for connectivity. Its software includes an OS, cloud-based management and a rules engine for IoT message management, as well as an SDK. The primary strength of the platform is that it requires no expertise to implement and is supported by an extensive IoT expert support team, as well as a strong user community.
Its API integration is via REST, and it can work with data from either the Google or Microsoft clouds. IoT devices can be monitored in real time -- useful for vehicle tracking and environmental monitoring -- and its analytics for predictive maintenance are strong.
Cost is by blocks of service and varies from $99 to $599 per month, per block. One block includes 720,000 data operations per month and support for 100 additional devices. Data operations are user-initiated activities, such as sending, receiving or storing data.
Salesforce IoT features high scalability, in keeping with its overall cloud architecture. Its interfaces offer rapid connectivity to a wide range of ERP, CRM and database platforms. The application development tools available in the general Salesforce cloud platform can be used for IoT development, and many users can implement new IoT applications without having to code.
Salesforce IoT's REST API enables data to be imported from any source. It accepts streaming data, and users can create profiles of IoT devices in applications to contextualize the data, using Salesforce's CRM resources. The platform works with a broad range of data formats.
Contact Salesforce for pricing information.
Focused on IIoT, Thingworx is ideal for hybrid on-premises/off-premises environments. It's flexible and can be deployed rapidly with minimal customization. It is ideal for remote device monitoring in complex, hybrid deployments and has strong utility for maintaining remote devices. In this hybrid mix, data can also be easily accessed from on-premises servers and cloud applications, making it ideal not only for industrial applications, but also complex service environments.
Its smooth integration of devices across environments and geography enable high system visibility and control, strong compliance and asset optimization. Uptime is preserved, and costs are more easily managed.
Contact Thingworx for pricing.