Quick Guide to Choose Industrial IoT Platform for your Business
The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution is spreading its wings rapidly in the Industrial world. In a recent survey by Forrester, More than 20 percent of global enterprises surveyed have adopted IoT solutions, and the use of connected devices is skyrocketing in sectors such as manufacturing, transportation, energy, and retail. With this dramatic growth, your organization may also be exploring options for the right solution. Choosing an IoT platform is a critical decision for your organization and a complicated one for the decision makers.
You may be ready to try an IoT solution, but unsure how to choose the right one from the plethora of available platforms. How do you know which IoT platform is right for you? When weighing your options, keep a few things in mind.
Now, Before we dive into criteria for choosing the right platform, lets first understand
What is an IoT Platform?
IoT Platform is a modular software system that helps connect a diverse set of equipment (‘things’), manages the data flow, provides data analytics abilities, and supports application development to make sense and use of the processed data.
IoT Solution Architecture
A typical solution architecture consists of 4 key components –
- Things – These are the actual machines or systems which are monitored by collecting their data. This is the source of your data.
- Intelligent Edge Gateway – This is a software component close to things, which is capable of collecting, aggregating, sanitizing stream of light data and push an aggregate/relevant result to the IoT cloud. This acts as a mediator between the things and the cloud IoT platform.
- IoT Cloud – This is a core IoT platform capable of handling massive amounts of data with data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence capabilities. Its core capabilities include but not limited to device management, stream analytics including complex events processing, rules engine, alerts & notifications, big data and machine learning capabilities, and other vital platform services such as authentication, multitenancy, end to end security, scheduling engine, SDKs & platform APIs.
- Business Applications/Integrations – Lastly, a library of backend IT system integrators to ensure machine data is fed into key IT systems to complete the circle of operations. Integrations to key systems such as ERP, BI, QMS, Planning & Scheduling, etc are super important. Plus, the platform should provide a range of business (sector specific) applications or the ability to build such applications to cater to specific vertices.
Now, let’s try to understand, what you should look at while selecting the right IIoT platform.
7 Key Factors to consider while choosing your IIoT Platform
- Understand your needs – Without getting driven by the hype or management pressure, a first important aspect is to understand why you need IoT and what do you intend to achieve with IoT. A lot of people have a question when I have automation in place, why do I need IoT or misconception that IoT will replace all my SCADA, DCS, and ERP systems. Key benefits of IoT are when you tap into the power of data analytics and be able to connect your IT and OT systems across the plant or multiple plants. You need to look at IoT as a big picture rather than a point solution to fix a small problem.
- Security and scalability – Your data is your key asset. Hence, data security is prime important. IoT is still at a relatively early stage and yet to mature in its security framework. Post Mirai botnet’s DDoS attack, it’s imperative that your cloud IoT platform offers comprehensive security majors at things level, while data in flight, and data at rest. Next, your IoT platform must have an enterprise-grade enterprise-grade performance guarantee. Your IoT projects may begin with a small pilot but IoT initiatives are mostly part of digital transformation projects across the enterprise. Hence, while choosing the IoT platform, you have to see into the future to define scalability requirements.
- Support for Connectivity protocols – Every IoT project has several components as mentioned in IoT solution architecture. Things, hardware, sensors, OT systems, and edge gateway are elements that come into the picture before even the data reaches to IoT cloud. In the majority of IoT projects, the biggest challenge is to connect the machines to collect the data. There is a wide range of communication protocols that your platform edge need to support. Ethernet, Prophinet, OPC – UA/DA, CSV/XML, just to name a few are widely used protocols that any IoT platform must support.
- Interoperability – Your organization data resides in multiple systems and in a variety of formats. The IoT platform should be capable to integrate with your backend IT systems such as ERP, CRM, QMS, planning, and scheduling, etc. This makes your IoT project successful as such integrations help feed real-time relevant machine data into critical IT systems to help make data-driven decisions.
- Deployment flexibility – Different organizations have different needs, technology maturity, and internal capabilities to support 3rd party software. An organization may demand fully on-premise deployment to keep entire control with them or may choose to go with private or public cloud-based option to achieve higher efficiency and cost savings. Sometimes, you may begin with on-premise deployment and graduate into a cloud-based model. Whatever may be the case, your platform must be flexible in providing different deployment options.
- Ease of use – IF the systems are complicated, the adoption suffers. Your IoT platform must be easy to learn, adapt and operate. Lesser the roadblocks, better the adoption. Your IoT platform will be used by your shop floor people, management team, your IT maintenance engineers, your suppliers/vendors, in some cases even your customers or your partners too. Hence, it’s super important to have the easy learning curve and easy to maintain IoT platform.
- Proof of validations – Lastly, you don’t want to be a guinea pig for a risky project. Ensure that the IoT platform has sufficient community of customers and developers. You should request for customer references and check how they are benefited with the platform in use. A good partner and developer ecosystem is a sign of good global support. Both partners and developer ecosystem can help deploy and configure faster and achieve time to market. Certificates of third-party validations such as security or platform stability or customer testimonials may be a good filtration criterion to choose a platform.
There are hundreds of IoT platforms. Choosing from a long list of platforms could be a daunting task. Leading technology analyst firms such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, MachNation, have published their study of various IoT platforms with detailed evaluation criteria. You may refer to some of these reports to narrow your focus and get closure to a confident decision.