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Internet of Things Platforms and IoT Strategies

My friend and colleague, the always opinionated Peter Rogers, shares his latest research on The Internet of Things and the technology and platforms that are used to support it.

There seems to be two main groups of thought as to when wearable technology will become mainstream. The first group are those that believe that wearable technology is here today and are engaging both hobbyists and future entrepreneurs in building all parts of the ecosystem now. These people are creating their own hardware and working with systems to communicate with third party hardware right as we speak. The second group of people are more commercially minded and are looking at creating a full platform for the future. They are looking at big data style real-time analytics, next generation IP, and constrained REST architectures with cast iron security.

Personally I am impatient.  I want to start playing with this IoT stuff today and allow the dedicated platforms to mature over time so they are ready when the market really picks ups.  With that said I believe there are currently two tiers of vendors:
  1. Those that have something that works today and that we could build products and services on top of now.
  2. Those that have an actual platform that is slowly maturing and we can use in the future 
My advice is to look at combining a selection of low-end propositions to start testing custom products for their effectiveness today.  In my view the best people to start talking with for effective low risk deployments, would be those offering end-to-end solutions based around plugging in any device to a simple Cloud PaaS and with their technology readily available to hobbyists.

I will list a few vendors that I think offer technology ready to go today and then in my next article I will look at those that I consider offer platforms for the future.  The main problem is one of being locked into a proprietary Cloud system that cannot be privately hosted and that only works with embedded client software that is explicitly supported by that vendor. If there is anything the ‘MBaaS v MEAP debate in enterprise mobility taught us is that open standards with flexible Cloud hosting solutions will win out. I don't see a perfect solution at the moment, but I do see a whole lot of very exciting propositions that will get acquired and combined effectively over time.

SkyNet

This open source project aims to let disparate devices communicate via a variety of protocols including MQTT, WS/S, CoAP, HTTPS/REST and WebSockets. It supports UUID authentication and TLS certificates. Eventually non-programmers could use Skynet to create a platform that lets us program the real and online worlds in a way that’s far more powerful than If This Then That (IFTTT) or Zapier. The end result is a flexible piece of open source software that can connect to everything from servers to sensors. SkyNet can be run on a public or private Node.js instance (such as Heroku) and they are even working on an open source home gateway.

IOBridge

ioBridge makes it easy for professionals and enthusiasts to monitor and control nearly anything via their smartphone or web app using a general purpose web gateway. This is a simple gateway that lets you monitor or send commands to anything compatible with the ioBridge through a web interface. It does sound like you can only access ioBridge-manufactured or third-party sensors, that are compatible with the ioBridge web gateway.  It also doesn't sounds like you can set up your own version on a private network just yet. When you purchase one of the ioBridge gateways then you get a free limited subscriptions. For example, if you want to log data faster than every few minutes then you need another subscription.

BergCloud

Berg is a Cloud platform but they also provide hardware with built-in connectivity for faster prototyping. Devshields bring the Device API to Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and ARM MBED. The Device API is provided as a client library that runs on your microcontroller, speaking via your wireless connection to the web. If you are prototyping and don't yet have connectivity, then the Devshield developer boards have that bundled too. You can manage and message all your devices using the RESTful Cloud API, built around secure HTTPS. You control the user experience with your own website, and treat your devices like just another web service.

Sense Observation Systems

CommonSense is a platform that helps you to keep track of all your sensor data, store it in a central location, and play with it. CommonSense also processes your raw sensor data into meaningful things like sleep, exercise, or your top locations. With the free CommonSense Dashboard  you gain insights into your behavior. With the free CommonSense Tracker you turn your phone into an advanced tracking device. You can combine them, add in your Fitbit or Twitter data, and you get a powerful self-tracking system. Connections are available now for iOS, Android, Fitbit, and Twitter. They are working on connecting more devices and services.

The data is stored in their Cloud, which happens to be in The Netherlands and has been certified with according to medical device regulations (NEN-7510). It does seem to have a good focus on Health Care and the Environment. CommonSense is currently in Private Beta and it sounds more like a real-time analytics platform at the moment.

Electric Imp

Electric Imp offers a complete end-to-end solution that makes it simple to connect almost any product to the Internet through an innovative and powerful cloud service tied closely to leading-edge hardware. The Electric Imp connectivity platform, featuring fully integrated hardware, software, OS, APIs, cloud servers, makes it possible to effectively empower your devices with intelligence, scalability and flexibility. If you’re a developer, hobbyist, or maker, then you can get started with one of their development kits and bring connectivity to your project, idea or concept.

Electric Imp offers a comprehensive solution designed to connect your product or project to the Internet quickly, easily and effectively. The platform includes:
  • Imp Hardware: The Electric Imp platform starts with the imp, a powerful module containing WiFi and a processor that acts as the gateway to connect your device or service to the Internet
  • Imp OS: The software foundation for the imp’s features and services that allows your code to concentrate on bringing your product’s functions to life.
  • Imp Cloud: Their cloud allows you to run agents - server side code that runs in a secure environment - that are used to provide HTTP I/O and cloud-side processing, and easily connect your products to anything with Internet access. Agents can act as a central hub to your products, apps, third-party services, and even your own servers.
  • Imp Open API: Enrich your customer experience and build your business by developing enhancements like messaging, monitoring, and much more.
  • Imp BlinkUpTM: The proprietary Electric Imp setup solution (BlinkUp) integrates seamlessly into your apps, letting you and your customers connect products in seconds using just a smartphone or tablet.
  • Imp Services - IDE and Ops Console: Maintain your software, push new code and features easily to devices anytime, ensuring that your users always have the latest features. The Ops Console enables you to gain more insight into your factory production lines and scale to millions of devices.

1248.io

1248.io offers Geras, which is a scalable time-series database for your sensor data with quick storage for your Analytics. They also offer HyperCat, which is an open, lightweight JSON-based hypermedia catalogue format for exposing collections of URIs. HyperCat is simple to work with and allows developers to publish linked-data descriptions of resources. HyperCat is designed for exposing information about IoT assets over the web. It allows a server to provide a set of resources to a client, each with a set of semantic annotations.

Geras offers the following:
  • HTTPS support for strong security and per-user API keys
  • Standard HTTP/HTTPS support allowing sensors to traverse firewalls and proxies
  • Sensors can supply data over HTTP POST or very lightweight MQTT publish
  • Supports modern standards for posting, getting and discovering data: HTTPS; JSON; RESTful; SenML; MQTT; and HyperCat
  • Built on a fault-tolerant, distributed database
  • Data can be stored in the country of your choice with an option to buy Geras as software and host the data yourself
If you have an IoT platform or technologies that you want Peter Rogers to be aware of please email him at [email protected].

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.