What is an IoT Platform?
What is an IoT platform?
An IoT platform is a multi-layer technology that enables straightforward provisioning, management, and automation of connected devices within the Internet of Things universe. It basically connects your hardware, however diverse, to the cloud by using flexible connectivity options, enterprise-grade security mechanisms, and broad data processing powers. For developers, an IoT platform provides a set of ready-to-use features that greatly speed up development of applications for connected devices as well as take care of scalability and cross-device compatibility.
Thus, an IoT platform can be wearing different hats depending on how you look at it. It is commonly referred to as middleware when we talk about how it connects remote devices to user applications (or other devices) and manages all the interactions between the hardware and the application layers. It is also known as a cloud enablement platform or IoT enablement platform to pinpoint its major business value, that is empowering standard devices with cloud-based applications and services. Finally, under the name of the IoT application enablement platform, it shifts the focus to being a key tool for IoT developers.
IoT platform as the middleware
IoT platforms originated in the form of IoT middleware, which purpose was to function as a mediator between the hardware and application layers. Its primary tasks included data collection from the devices over different protocols and network topologies, remote device configuration and control, device management, and over-the-air firmware updates.
To be used in real-life heterogeneous IoT ecosystems, IoT middleware is expected to support integration with almost any connected device and blend in with third-party applications used by the device. This independence from underlying hardware and overhanging software allows a single IoT platform to manage any kind of connected device in the same straightforward way.
Modern IoT platforms go further and introduce a variety of valuable features into the hardware and application layers as well. They provide components for frontend and analytics, on-device data processing, and cloud-based deployment. Some of them can handle end-to-end IoT solution implementation from the ground up.
IoT platform technology stack
In the four typical layers of the IoT stack, which are things, connectivity, core IoT features, and applications & analytics, a top-of-the-range IoT platform should provide you with the majority of IoT functionality needed for developing your connected devices and smart things.
Your devices connect to the platform, which sits in the cloud or in your on-premises data center, either directly or by using an IoT gateway. A gateway comes useful whenever your endpoints aren’t capable of direct cloud communication or, for example, you need some computing power on edge. You can also use an IoT gateway to convert protocols, for example, when your endpoints are in LoRaWan network but you need them to communicate with the cloud over MQTT.
An IoT platform itself can be decomposed into several layers. At the bottom there is the infrastructure level, which is something that enables the functioning of the platform. You can find here components for container management, internal platform messaging, orchestration of IoT solution clusters, and others.
The communication layer enables messaging for the devices; in other words, this is where devices connect to the cloud to perform different operations.
The following layer represents core IoT features provided by the platform. Among the essential ones are data collection, device management, configuration management, messaging, and OTA software updates.
Sitting on top of core IoT features, there is another layer, which is less related to data exchange between devices but rather to processing of this data in the platform. There is reporting, which allows you to generate custom reports. There is visualization for data representation in user applications. Then, there are a rule engine, analytics, and alerting for notifying you about any anomalies detected in your IoT solution.
Importantly, the best IoT platforms allow you to add your own industry-specific components and third-party applications. Without such flexibility adapting an IoT platform for a particular business scenario could bear significant extra cost and delay the solution delivery indefinitely.
Advanced IoT platforms
There are some other important criteria that differentiate IoT platforms between each other, such as scalability, customizability, ease of use, code control, integration with 3rd party software, deployment options, and the data security level.
- Scalable (cloud native) – advanced IoT platforms ensure elastic scalability across any number of endpoints that the client may require. This capability is taken for granted for public cloud deployments but it should be specifically put to the test in case of an on-premises deployment, including the platform’s load balancing capabilities for maximized performance of the server cluster.
- Customizable – a crucial factor for the speed of delivery. It closely relates to flexibility of integration APIs, louse coupling of the platform’s components, and source code transparency. For small-scale, undemanding IoT solutions good APIs may be enough to fly, while feature-rich, rapidly evolving IoT ecosystems usually require developers to have a greater degree of control over the entire system, its source code, integration interfaces, deployment options, data schemas, connectivity and security mechanisms, etc.
- Secure – data security involves encryption, comprehensive identity management, and flexible deployment. End-to-end data flow encryption, including data at rest, device authentication, user access rights management, and private cloud infrastructure for sensitive data – this is the basics of how to avoid potentially compromising breaches in your IoT solution.
Validactor “Protects, Profiles & Tracks”.
Based on a secure serialization technology, Validactor protects products and brands, fights any form of counterfeiting and profiles customers’ spending habits.
An innovative close-to-the-customer loyalty program promotes a series of activities and incentivises focusing to build brand loyalty.
The Validactor’s offering includes advanced customer services, a sales portal and Big Data related activities. Many other features are also integrated, such as a flexible and customizable database, the unique “Lost&Found” function, a Recall Management tool, Product Statuses and Diversions.
The Validactor’s solutions are fully customizable to be used in any vertical market, regardless of the products’ type. No special hardware or costly training sessions are needed. Validactor tools can be quickly mastered so that companies can start protecting their products in a very short timeframe.
Validactor’s collected data can be used for a wide range of marketing and sales activities, including specifically targeted interactive videos based on real data.
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