REVIEW: 6 enterprise-scale IoT platforms

Here are the building blocks of successful enterprise Internet of Things deployment, plus details about AWS IoT and IoT 1-Click, Cisco Jasper, Azure IoT, IBM Watson IoT and Google Cloud IoT Core.

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Fog applications offer … the ability to transform IoT sensor data and perform control functions within the distributed network infrastructure. With the support of IOx included in routers, switches, and compute cards, the distributed IoT network can function as the compute environment for fog applications. Examples of deployed fog applications include site asset management, energy monitoring, and smart parking.

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Cisco's Fog Manager is designed to manage large-scale production deployments of IOx-enabled fog applications from initial roll out through change management to application retirement. Fog Manager is delivered via a web GUI or it can be integrated with network management systems through APIs. The Fog Portal, designed for developing fog applications "… provides all the developer resources for the developer to develop, test their application and make them available for deployment via Fog Director," Cisco says.

Last year, Cisco launched its Cisco Kinetic IoT platform, which includes connection management, fog computing and data delivery for a wider range of connected endpoint devices. The system's cellular and LPWAN functionality comes from the Jasper platform so it can handle both wired and wireless devices. It's likely that eventually Kinetic will become the main platform in Cisco's IoT solutions.

Microsoft Azure IoT

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Microsoft Azure IoT architecture

Microsoft describes Azure IoT as "a fully managed SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution that makes it easy to connect, monitor and manage your IoT assets at scale." Azure IoT provides two types of software libraries (available in .NET, C, Java, Node.js, and Python versions): device libraries for building apps on endpoint devices and service libraries for managing an Azure IoT hub, sending messages, scheduling jobs and sending updates to your IoT devices.

Microsoft has open-sourced a lot of their IoT technology and their GitHub repo is an excellent way to get into the hows and whys of Azure IoT. From Choose the right IoT Hub tier for your solution:

...Azure IoT Hub offers two tiers, basic and standard, that differ in the number of features they support. If your IoT solution is based around collecting data from devices and analyzing it centrally then the basic tier is probably right for you. If you want to use more advanced configurations to control IoT devices remotely or distribute some of your workloads onto the devices themselves then you should consider the standard tier.

 …  Each IoT Hub tier is available in three sizes, based around how much data throughput they can handle in any given day. These sizes are numerically identified as 1, 2 and 3. For example, each unit of a level 1 IoT hub can handle 400 thousand messages a day, while a level 3 unit can handle 300 million.

Important concepts in the Azure IoT Hub are Device Twins and IoT Edge Module Twins, which are documents describing the actual endpoint devices and Edge modules. These twins live on the IoT Hub and report current state information such as available capabilities and conditions and synchronize the state of long-running workflows between device apps and back-end apps (see Microsoft's Azure Docs articles on device and module twins).   

The IoT Protocol Gateway includes an identity registry that stores all the information about devices that are part of the IoT configuration. Customers monitor their asset status to see whether devices are connected or disconnected to the network along with the last known activity of devices. 

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A Microsoft Azure IoT Central customized dashboard


IBM Watson IoT

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IBM Watson IoT architecture

The IBM Watson IoT Platform for IBM Cloud includes directly connected applications, endpoint devices that support industry-standard protocols, gateways, device management and external service integrations giving you the ability to gather and store real-time IoT data and perform on-demand analytics.

Applications can connect directly to the Watson IoT Platform via the HTTP REST API using API keys and tokens or by binding the application directly. Alternatively, as with directly connected IoT endpoint devices, MQTT can be used as the connection method.

Watson IoT gateways connect to the Watson IoT Platform using MQTT or HTTP messaging protocols, and IBM provides supporting client libraries for C++, C#, Embedded C, Java, Mbed C++, Node.js, Node-RED and Python. Edge Analytics move the analytics rule-triggering process from the cloud to an edge-analytics-enabled gateway.

The Watson IoT platform handles data management that includes a device-twin feature and an asset-twin feature. The device-twin feature enables you to take advantage of the collection, transformation and normalization of different formats of device data into a single logical model. The asset-twin feature enables you to group different devices together to create a Thing, which is a higher value asset-based data structure. You can group Things together to create new Things. An application can interact with the logical model, regardless of the data format that is used by the individual devices or Things.

The Watson IoT Platform lets you add selected IoT data to a private, secure blockchain so you can share data with specific business partners involved with a transaction. The Watson IoT filters device events and sends only the required data to the blockchain contract and can translate existing device data from one or more device types into the format needed by the blockchain contract APIs.

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An IBM Watson IoT customized device dashboard

Google Cloud IoT Core

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Google Cloud IoT Core architecture

Given Google's global reach it's not surprising that they offer an enterprise scale IoT solution. Moreover, given the company's enormous range of cloud services, there's pretty much everything you need for any IoT implementation including storage, big data, analytics and machine learning.

Central to Google's Cloud IoT Core is the Cloud Pub/Sub message broker that supports MQTT and HTTP connections. The data gathered via the broker is aggregated and forwarded to Google Cloud data-analytics services. Supported endpoint devices can be pretty much anything you can think of, and Google has partnered with a who's who of device manufacturers, including Intel, Arm, Marvell and Allwinner, and application developers such as Bright Wolf, Losant, and Afero.

Cloud IoT Core includes the Device Manager that handles endpoint device configuration and device authentication. You can access the Device Manger via its Web-based console or programmatically through an API. The Protocol Bridge provides the device communications interface as well as handling load balancing. Client libraries are available for Go, Java (Android), .NET, JavaScript, Objective-C (iOS), PHP, Python and Ruby.

Downstream services include analytics, Google Cloud Pub/Sub, Dataflow, Bigtable, BigQuery and machine learning. Google is wor

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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