There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all of them are necessarily required for any particular solution, most are and there may be many alternatives for each depending on what is needed
Edge hardware – IoT Platform 2021
Sensors, actuators, devices
Sensors, actuators, devices Hardware, at the edge of the network, are the things of IoT. These are equipped with sensors that gather data which will be transferred over a network, or as intelligent devices they have an embedded processor from which useful data can be gathered. This category may also include actuators for control applications, for example, opening and shutting a door or opening and closing a valve in an industrial application.
These provide an aggregation point for the data from the things and connectivity to the wide area network. They are connected to the things using a variety of connectivity alternatives, such as LoRa, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mesh and fixed line. Aggregated data is sent for analysis and the gateway may preprocess data first. Field gateways are located near the remotely located objects. A cloud gateway facilitates data compression and secure data transmission between the field gateways and the cloud IoT servers. It also ensures compatibility with various protocols and communicates with field gateways using different protocols.
Wide area network IoT Platform 2021
Licensed cellular wireless
2G and 3G are both legacy cellular options and subject to being discontinued depending on local mobile network operator (MNO) plans. 4G includes high bandwidth and low bandwidth low power wide area (LPWA) narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M options. 5G has similar options and will gradually supersede 4G, but not for a while
Unlicensed LPWA wireless
LoRa, SigFox and others. Operating in unlicensed bands and offering low power, low data rate connectivity options
The connected device
may be one sensor measuring temperature, location or some other parameter or an asset such as a vehicle that has many sensors each measuring something different. Device management aspects may include device identity in the network, provisioning for use of the network and secure over-the-air update of device firmware. These and other related areas are part of device management.
n from the device to a server to which the data is transmitted for processing. That may be a short-range or long-range connection, wired or wireless, or a combination of both. The server may be at the network edge or in the cloud, or a combination of these for different needs. Some of the parameters that need managing are: connectivity uptime, routing options, coverage, network protocol support and billing/usage. These and other related areas are part of connectivity management
Beecham Research’s IoT Platforms 2021 Watch
The hundreds of IoT platform providers, which comprise all of the largest ICT companies, cloud providers, telcos, system integrators and hardware OEMs make up a varied market with wide choice. If a large company in this space doesn’t have its own IoT platform, it will inevitably acquire one, demonstrated by deals such as Twilio’s acquisition of Electric Imp, or partner with one that does or offer a whitelabel version of another company’s platform.
IoT platforms are also offered by cellular module manufacturers, vertical specialists, and as always, new start-ups. Some of the companies that offered M2M platforms long ago still exist, staying current with ever new features and using the IoT acronym; others were acquired – surprisingly, relatively few platform providers have gone out of business. A major factor is the continuing increase of IoT connections as IoT expands, with new applications arising in every vertical sector and vast numbers of smaller companies adopting IoT. IoT cloud platforms continue to gain market share, especially those offered by the major cloud providers