Identifying the top 6 IoT platform microservice categories for small and medium enterprise deployments

Enterprises deploying an IoT solution often won’t know the platform microservices needed for their solution. Identifying those top microservices is key to successful and timely implementation.

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Last week, I received an email from Checkfluid, an Ontario, Canada-based enterprise that builds oil quality sensors and oil sampling valves for equipment condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. Like all executives who contact us with good Internet of Things (IoT) questions, Checkfluid’s President Mike Hall was asking my opinion of best-in-class IoT platforms to power his company's journey into IoT. “As we start the product development process, it is important to make the best IoT platform choice possible as this decision could be with us for a long time,” stated Hall. As we know, identifying a high quality, scalable, easy-to-use IoT platform makes a huge difference in an enterprise’s IoT deployment.

Cambridge Sound Management recently had a similar question for us. This Waltham, Massachusetts-based business designs and manufactures next generation sound masking solutions. With an established line of products for enterprise customers, Cambridge Sound recently launched an IoT product for consumer markets. Its CEO Christopher Calisi knew the value of an IoT platform to its overall IoT solution when he said, “The IoT platform you select can dictate many other decisions in the product development process.” A best-in-class platform allows Cambridge Sound to offer new services to its customers. But it was important to Calisi to have a platform that provided “reliability, security and the ability to scale”.

The answer to Hall’s and Calisi’s questions about a best-in-class IoT platform almost invariably leads to a second, more challenging question, namely, “What individual microservices of an IoT platform are necessary to make Checkfluid’s and Cambridge Sound’s connected products successful?”

One size does not fit all in the world of IoT platforms. Engineering and development teams need more detailed IoT platform information to quickly and economically build a platform-based solution to connect products to the IoT. Understanding the microservices that underpin IoT platforms help decrease time-to-market and ease IoT adoption for small and large enterprises.

So how do we answer this question about the microservices underpinning IoT platforms? Which platform is best for all the small and large enterprises considering IoT?

With 100s of self-proclaimed IoT platforms in the market, the only way to truly know each platform is to use it yourself.

At MachNation, the industry analyst firm of which I’m the president, we have decided to test IoT platforms in our MachNation IoT test environment (MIT-E). It’s in this hands-on test environment where we compare the features and usability of IoT platforms to fully understand each platform’s microservices. By completing hands-on tests, we are able to provide more detailed advice to enterprises looking to adopt IoT platforms.

In this short blog, I can’t possibly identify the best IoT platform for all enterprise deployments worldwide. However, to help companies better understand IoT platforms, here are the top 6 categories of IoT platform microservices that matter for IoT platform selection and why they are important.

Access control

Access control is the system of identity verification and permission management for all platform-connected elements including APIs, administrator or operator interfaces, devices, stored and in-transit data, and any other platform service. Access control helps to ensure security of a platform and IoT solution. And, according to MachNation research, security concerns are the top reason why enterprises do not adopt IoT solutions.

Data management

Data management is defined as the capabilities within an IoT platform to ingest, store, manage, and forward data received from platform-connected IoT devices. Data management helps users effectively move data from IoT devices to northbound applications. This core components of an IoT platform provides the pipes to make sure the solution is functioning well.

Device management

Device management refers to the ability of a platform to provide lifecycle management functionality including device onboarding, deployment of software and firmware updates, and configuration of managed devices for connected devices. Device management helps users deal with the challenges of managing heterogeneous device deployments at scale.

Event processing

Event processing refers to the ability of an IoT platform to execute actions or provide notifications based on administrator or operator configured rules or triggers. Event processing allows users to automate actions that will take place under certain device or application scenarios. Without this capability, enterprises would have to resort to manual inspection of data to execute actions across a set of devices or applications.

External integration

External integration is the capability of an IoT platform to interface and share data with off-platform or third-party applications, services, or systems. IoT platforms are often connected to many off-platform applications, so having a predefined way to execute the most common integrations saves enterprises development time and money.

Monitoring

Monitoring is the capability of an IoT platform to trigger events, evaluate device status, and follow ingested data streams. Platform capabilities for monitoring should include both aggregated and drill-down views, and typically include operator- or administrator-facing dashboards and other graphical interfaces. Monitoring capabilities allow enterprises to evaluate and take actions on IoT platform activities.

In order to make good, long-term decisions about IoT platform adoption, large and small enterprises need to understand the categories of microservices that matter most to their selection, deployment, and ongoing operational decisions. And enterprises need to complete hands-on tests of platforms like we do in MachNation’s MIT-E, to make sure the platform selected has the strong microservices required for proper enterprise deployment. As Hall from Checkfluid recognized, “The IoT and Industry 4.0 landscape is becoming more and more complex and confusing every day. Understanding what is commercially available will help with product development to know what is possible and what is not.”

[Disclosure: Checkfluid and Cambridge Sound Management are customers of MachNation MIT-E.]

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