With over 400 self-proclaimed IoT platforms in the market, it doesn’t surprise me that industrial enterprises are hindered trying to identify, test and select a high quality IoT platform. Platform vendors’ marketing materials contain the same messages, their RFX responses always affirm “full compliance” with all requested capabilities and they have partnerships with the same cloud vendors. With over 400 self-proclaimed IoT platforms in the market, the only way to truly know each platform is to use it.
What makes a great IoT AEP?
An Application Enablement Platform (AEP) is a technology-centric offering optimized to deliver a best-of-breed, industry-agnostic, extensible middleware core for building a set of interconnected or independent IoT solutions for customers. An AEP links IoT devices and applications, delivering data to allow industrial enterprises to implement predictive maintenance, machine learning, factory automation, asset logistics, surveillance and many other applications. With IoT platform revenue slated to grow to USD 63.4 billion by 2026, IoT application enablement is one of the most highly demanded enterprise IoT platforms.
Industrial enterprises like heavy equipment manufacturers, petrochemical firm, robotics manufacturers and others spend a tremendous amount of time using their IoT platforms. According to hands-on tests of IoT platforms in MachNation’s IoT Test Environment (MIT-E), an enterprise user will spend an average of 61 minutes executing 7 of the most common IoT data management tasks on an IoT platform. However, an enterprise user can complete these seven tasks in only 10 minutes on the best designed IoT platform while spending 181 minutes on the most cumbersome platforms.
These tasks include:
- Configuring persistent on-platform data storage
- Forwarding live sensor data to external endpoints
- Viewing historical sensor data from a single device
- Viewing historical sensor data from a group of devices
- Computing aggregate statistics for a single data point
- Computing aggregate statistics for multiple data points
- Deleting a single historical sensor data point
Since picking a best-in-class IoT AEP is critical for industrial enterprises deploying IoT solutions, the top four requirements of an IoT AEP based on enterprise users’ experiences with these platforms.
1. Pick a platform that focuses on developer usability
Enterprises should choose an IoT AEP that has been built with the IoT developer in mind. While the requirement for customer-side development effort should be minimized, almost all AEP deployments will require use case-specific developer investment to deploy. Thus, the better a platform caters to developers and typical developer workflows, the better it enables fast and efficient platform implementation.
When evaluating the extent of a developer-focused approach, there are four things an enterprise should evaluate: a cogent platform architecture; well documented and fully-featured platform APIs and device SDKs; an effective and modular application development framework; and a scalable and extensible data management framework.
2. Choose a platform that has a flexible and scalable deployment model
Enterprises should implement a platform that has flexible, scalable and efficient pathway for bringing IoT solutions to market. Leading platforms provide three deployment options: a multi-tenant cloud-based SaaS, a dedicated cloud-based SaaS and an on-premises/private cloud customer managed solution. AEPs should provide a clear, well documented and technologically proficient pathway to solution deployment for all of these deployment options.
In addition, enterprise must select AEPs that can deploy both in the cloud and at the edge, thereby being better suited to address real-world requirements with minimal complication and cost. And finally, an IoT platform must scale from proof-of-concept or pilot deployment to full production scale with the flexible addition of new instances to match required capacity as demand grows.
3. Select a platform that has operational sophistication
Enterprises need operational sophistication to ensure that their development efforts are supported by sufficient platform flexibility but are not encumbered by platform complexities. Operational sophistication is created when AEP vendors focus on providing excellence in 5 key areas: platform management; device management; monitoring; a unified and refined product; and consistent and clean user interface (UI). The platform should have a set of features that empower an operations technology (OT) user to effectively manage an IoT deployment.
4. Ensure an IoT platform vendor has a well-executed partnership strategy and relevant platform ecosystem
The best IoT AEP vendors will have a well-developed network of technology- and business-enabling partners. Due to lack of expertise with IoT solutions, industrial enterprises rely on these partnership networks to efficiently implement IoT solutions using industry best practices. In addition, AEP vendors should provide a rich platform ecosystem, enabling access to an IoT platform marketplace of either platform compatible or pre-integrated devices, applications and services.
Industrial enterprises worldwide are using IoT to increase security, automate factory floors, implement zero downtime practices, remotely track assets and reduce maintenance costs. Relying on hands-on usability and functionality tests to understand IoT AEPs is the best way to differentiate the true capabilities of platforms on the market.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?