This content is part of the Essential Guide: A comprehensive guide to enterprise IoT project success

IoT devices: How to develop an effective cloud strategy

How to use the cloud to connect to IoT devices with back-end application is important for companies looking toward the future.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to affect virtually every enterprise. A key to taking advantage of this trend lies in understanding how back-end applications use the cloud to integrate with other enterprise applications and partner applications.

At the Parks Connections conference in San Francisco, Maia Hinkle, research analyst at Parks Associates, observed that leading IoT vendors have adopted different strategies for the way they offer their APIs to partners and developers. Businesses must think about how they can integrate business models around APIs. This can lead to understanding how things can work together and how APIs can extend the functionality of IoT devices and services in different ways.

For example, the Phillips Hue light bulb business has been experimenting with using open APIs that allow new applications to control lighting via the cloud. Meanwhile, ecobee has been opening up its APIs with some limitations. Nest Labs is opening its home controlling applications to select developers that are working with the Nest platform to extend the functionality of Nest and its partner's products.

Understand the network effect

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Curt Schacker, vice president of connected devices at EVRYTHNG, believes it is important to think about how physical products can be connected to the cloud by giving them a digital identity. In this context enterprises need to acknowledge that the first generation of IoT devices has been spotty. There have been a few good products but mostly uninspiring use cases from a consumer-facing perspective. However, there is no doubt that everything with any intelligence will get connected.

The challenge is how to think about the IoT more expansively. Every connected thing that is added makes other connected machines more valuable. Many first-generation IoT products were built in isolation. The use cases are more compelling when enterprise architects can think about orchestrating all the products in our lives to work together via cloud infrastructure.

We have to get to the place where everything can talk to everything else and APIs are a big part of that.
Curt Schackervice president of connected devices at EVRYTHNG

This applies not only to things with intelligence and a processor, but to things that are passive using QR codes or tags, which can lead to interesting new possibilities. For example, one scenario might be creating an app where a washing machine has the intelligence to determine that a red shirt will ruin a white load of clothes. Another possibility is that food and labeling information could be orchestrated in such a way that a refrigerator could determine when food is about to go bad.

The only way enterprises can take advantage of the network effect is to have things be interoperable via cloud infrastructure. APIs are part of that interoperability story but not the whole story. "We have to get to the place where everything can talk to everything else and APIs are a big part of that," Schacker said.

Baking GRC into the cloud

It is also important to think about the way that a device will be integrated into the cloud back-end system said David Friedman, CEO of Ayla Networks. The cloud behind the IoT devices must talk to other clouds. In this context it is important to have an IoT platform such that the cloud platform can adapt to new business models. The way to future-proof this infrastructure is to have an API that opens the device and associated applications to new capabilities.

Businesses need to think about devices in a way that enables interoperability. This will allow devices to be developed in isolation that can interact with each other without planning on anyone's part. This approach requires thinking about semantics, syntax, interoperability, data models, APIs and protocols.

It is also important to ensure security and the proper functioning of IoT devices and services. As a result, enterprises need to exercise some control over their partner's cloud applications and platforms that communicate through the enterprise's own cloud infrastructure. An enterprise architect should think twice before allowing a partner that has not adopted the same security standards as the enterprise to connect, Friedman said.

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