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Ten legacy giants shaping the IoT landscape

Those familiar giants you think of as old school may well be shaping the Internet of Things landscape.

The following is a list of 10 well-known companies -- listed in alphabetical order -- that are shaping the present and future of the Internet of Things and making their mark on the IoT landscape.

1. Apple

Apple Inc. supplied consumer IoT with its de-facto control console with the iPhone and has further strapped in its position in the Internet of Things market with the Apple Watch. In fact, Apple was ranked as "the most recognizable IoT brand" in an August 2015 ThroughTek study, capturing 48% of respondents' attention.

The consumer king has done its part with frameworks, most notably with its HomeKit and HealthKit, which were released in late 2014. HomeKit is a hardware certification platform and database system that helps developers create iOS apps that seamlessly connect smart homes. HealthKit is a software platform that collects and shares data from various health and fitness apps with Apple's Health app. The company's open source ResearchKit framework was also released to help developers and researchers build medical-related apps.

Apple introduced iBeacon -- a protocol that uses Bluetooth Low Energy to provide location-based data and services to nearby iOS devices -- in 2013, the same year the company reportedly (and secretively) bought U.K.-based big data analytics company Acunu Ltd. Apple followed suit in 2015 with NoSQL database software company FoundationDB, fueling speculation that the iBehemoth is upping its game in the IoT landscape. Apple reportedly has hundreds of employees -- including former Tesla staff -- working on its codenamed "Project Titan" automotive venture, and will reportedly release its own car by 2019.

2. AT&T

With market share in the hardware, software and connectivity sectors, AT&T boasted a 26.8% increase in connected devices year over year in Q2 2015, with a total 23.4 million devices connected to the network.

The company has solidified its position in the IoT landscape by creating IoT agreements with more than 136 companies in the first quarter of 2015 across industries including agriculture, automotive, transportation and security. Big-name partners include Cisco, General Electric, IBM and Intel. The company's AT&T Foundry innovation centers have completed more than 200 projects and created "dozens" of new products. Initiatives include technologies to help track, monitor and enable fleets; modernize utility infrastructure for improved operational efficiency and reliability; and kits to developers build, test, and troubleshoot IoT projects.

In 2015 alone, AT&T partnered with Jaguar Land Rover North America to add Wi-Fi to connected Range Rovers and Jaguar models, formed a dedicated Smart Cities Organization to expand implementations of problem-solving IoT technologies, and won a bid to mobilize the U.S. Census Bureau. The company already collects and manages data from 16.5 million smart meters in the U.S.

AT&T M2X -- a data service and IoT development platform -- offers a single interface for "time-series data storage, device management, message brokering, event triggering, alarming and data visualization" of IoT products and services. It currently supports more than 40 platforms and languages, and hundreds of devices.

And they haven't forgotten the auto industry: The company reported having 4.8 million connected car subscribers.

3. Cisco

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins estimates 500 billion -- or more -- connected devices will be in play by 2030, and his company is ready to help with the onslaught. The networking giant, which coined the term "Internet of Everything," has been working on its portfolio of routers, switches and more.

Cisco announced in June 2015 its new Cisco IoT System, which aims to manage the "complexity of digitization" and simplify IoT adoption and deployment. Cisco's "Six-Pillar Approach" infrastructure includes network connectivity, fog computing, security, data analytics, management and automation, and application enablement. Also in June, Cisco announced 15 new IoT products, among them the IE5000 switch, IW3702 wireless access point, industrial routers, physical and cyber security cameras, and data analytics services.

The company also aims to solve one of the greatest challenges of the Internet of Things: security. To help with this challenge, Cisco acquired cybersecurity service provider Portcullis Computers Security in September, following its August acquisition of OpenDNS.

After introducing its Connected Transportation Solution -- which offers a "safer and more productive commuter experience" using the Internet of Things -- last year, Cisco announced in October 2015 four new digital solutions for manufacturing, transportation, utilities, and oil and gas industries: Connected Machines for Digital Manufacturing, Smart Connected Pipeline for Digital and Gas, Substation Security for Digital Utilities, and Connected Mass Transit for Digital Transportation. Cisco also expanded its security portfolio with IoT System Security, which includes the new ISA-3000 dedicated security appliance for app visibility, policy enforcement and threat defense.

4. GE

As the company behind the "Power of 1%" logic, General Electric believes increasing efficiency through the Internet of Things can save industries billions over the next decade and a half. For example, GE said a 1% increase in efficiency can save the oil and gas industry $90 billion over the next 15 years. In the same time period, the aviation sector could save $300 billion, power $66 billion, healthcare $63 billion and rail $27 billion.

These savings can be achieved by incorporating smart sensors -- such as those offered by the leading manufacturer of industrial machinery -- into industrial equipment to gather and analyze data.

The coiner of the phrase "Industrial Internet" will bring in a predicted $5 billion in revenue and $6 billion in orders in 2015, largely thanks to its Predix platform, which integrates machine-generated data with traditional cloud databases. In October 2015, GE announced it was expanding its relationship with Cisco and Intel, making Intel devices Predix-ready, and integrating Predix into Cisco's next-gen ruggedized networking products.

In September, GE announced the release of Predix.io -- the platform as a service (PaaS) version of Predix -- which will "lay the foundation for the world's first and largest marketplace for industrial applications" and bring customers a potential 20% increase in performance and efficiency.

GE has also dipped its hand into the IoT landscape's security market. In 2015, it acquired Wurldtech, a startup that specialized in industrial online security. Wurldtech's Achilles service tests equipment durability against attacks; Wurldtech also creates a device that monitors data traffic from industrial controllers for anomalies.

In September 2015, GE released details of GE Digital, a business model that integrates GE's Software Center, the work of its global IT and commercial software teams, and the security of Wurldtech into one organization.

In October, GE announced Current, its $1 billion energy business that will combine GE's LED, solar, energy storage and electric vehicles with the Predix platform to improve energy efficiency. Current customers -- such as Hilton Worldwide, Simon Management Group, Walgreens and Trane -- are reportedly already saving 10 to 20% on their electricity bills.

5. Google

Google Inc. arrived at the forefront of the IoT revolution largely thanks to its 2014 $3.2 billion acquisition of IoT pioneer Nest, the company behind the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect: Smoke + Carbon Monoxide alarm. The progressive tech company furthered its IoT acquisitions with the purchase of Dropcam, a webcam and tracker company, and smart home hub startup Revolv.

Though its Glass venture never quite took off, Google's latest developments may mark its place in IoT history. In May 2015, Google announced the Brillo platform, the "underlying operating system for the Internet of Things." The Android-based dedicated OS for IoT devices supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity and "brings the simplicity and speed of software development to hardware for IoT with an embedded OS, core services, developer kit and developer console."

Google in May also announced the upcoming release of Weave, an IoT communication layer based on JSON. The cross-platform protocol enables phone-to-device-to-cloud communication in an effort to unify the IoT landscape.

Google released its own beacon, Eddystone, in July 2015.

Google, Samsung, ARM and other tech companies formed the not-for-profit Thread Group in July 2015, the organization behind the Thread networking protocol, which aims to accelerate IoT adoption in an easy-to-use, secure, power-efficient manner. Also in July, Google announced it would be funding a multiuniversity "living laboratory" testing center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Google also has its hand in the smart car cookie jar with its Self-Driving Car Project. The company has been testing autonomous driving configurations for at least seven years and has clocked nearly two million road miles. Google claims its sensors can detect objects -- including pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, fluttering plastic shopping bags and rogue birds -- from as far away as two football fields in all directions.

6. IBM

The company famous for its Watson computer system has made its mark on the IoT landscape largely through its Bluemix cloud PaaS. In October 2014, IBM announced that as part of the Bluemix portfolio it would release its Internet of Things Foundation platform, a service to help developers quickly and easily extend Internet-connected devices to the cloud to not only leverage data from, but also to "build an IoT application in just a few minutes."

The platform has been updated regularly to add specialized services, such as IoT Cloud Open Platform for Industries, IoT for Electronics and IoT for Automotive. IBM said it would expand its IoT Ecosystem of partners to "ensure the secure and seamless integration of data services and solutions on IBM's open platform."

In addition to releasing appliances such as MessageSight for IoT messaging and creating a community for developers called developerWorks Recipes, IBM announced in March 2015 it would invest $3 billion to establish an IoT unit over the next four years.

IBM has also been a working force behind the lightweight messaging and connectivity Messaging Queuing Telemetry Transport protocol, as well as node-RED, an interface for programming IoT that focuses on how devices work together rather than how they talk to each other.

IBM has made a number of strategic moves to advance its IoT bid. IBM and AT&T collaborated to deliver new innovations for connected cities in February 2014. In July 2014, IBM paired its big data analytics with Apple's consumerism and platform to create MobileFirst for iOS applications, the first wave of which -- including Plan Flight and passenger+ for travel and Case Advice and Incident Aware for government and transportation -- was released in December 2014. The companies furthered their collaboration in April 2015 when they announced IBM's Health Cloud and Watson would support data from Apple's ResearchKit and HealthKit frameworks.

In October 2014, IBM made a deal to run Twitter's data through its cloud-based analytics, customer engagement and consulting services to help "transform how businesses and institutions understand their customers, markets and trends -- and inform every business decision."

Following a collaboration to remove IoT protocol development barriers in February 2015, IBM teamed with ARM once again in September to enable out-of-the-box connectivity between IBM's IoT Foundation and ARM mbed-enabled devices; any device leveraging mbed OS could connect to the IoT Foundation service and access Bluemix's cloud for storage and data analysis.

In October 2015, IBM announced an alliance with IoT platform company Jasper to integrate the IoT Foundation with Jasper's Control Center IoT service platform. IBM also acquired The Weather Company's business-to-business, mobile and cloud-based Web properties in October, allowing IBM to add a plethora of data to its analytics platform.

7. Intel

Intel, a company whose name is synonymous with chips and processors, boasted an IoT revenue of $2.1 billion in 2014, up 19% from its 2013 earnings. With its hands in the automotive, communication, energy and healthcare sectors among others, Intel is poised to remain in the IoT landscape for some time. It has been on the forefront of low-power chip development, and its Pentium and Celeron Processor N3000 product families and Aton x5-Z8300 Processor aim to provide enhanced graphics, greater integration and improved security for IoT.

While the company has largely missed the boat when it comes to creating wearables, it hopes its low-power hardware Curie module for wearable technology will help developers and companies keep Intel's viability intact.

The company behind the Edison hardware and software platform and microcontroller board Galileo -- popular with developers and for educational needs -- recently expanded its Intel IoT Developer program and announced it would be working with Ericsson and Nokia to increase the number of devices using Narrow-Band Long-Term Evolution, an alternative to the oft used 4G LTE.

In December 2014, the company released its Intel IoT Platform, which it claims "unifies gateway, connectivity and security components to simply deploy IoT." The second iteration of the platform was released in November 2015.

To improve its IoT offerings, Intel announced its largest acquisition ever in June 2015: the all-cash $16.7 billion purchase of Altera and its leading file-programmable gate array technology.

In November 2015, Intel announced additions to its IoT portfolio -- including the Quark D1000 and D2000 as well as Quark SE SoC -- and expanded its Xeon processor D-1500 family with eight new high-performance, low-power processors that boast twice the memory of previous iterations.

8. Microsoft

The Internet of Things hasn't escaped Microsoft's radar. The company is busy investing in both its Windows OS and Azure cloud platform to make the most its offerings.

The company announced Azure IoT Suite at Microsoft Convergence 2015 in March, nearly one year after introducing Azure Intelligent Systems Service, which connects, manages and captures machine-generated data from sensors and devices.

Microsoft's Azure IoT Services -- including Azure Stream Analytics which helps users process massive amounts of real-time data from IoT devices -- aim to help transform businesses from sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing and transportation using IoT.

Microsoft also announced the release of Azure IoT Hub service, a PaaS that offers IoT device registry, data storage and security.

The company hopes to make a splash with its Windows operating system -- in August 2015, the company announced the public release of Windows 10 IoT Core for Raspberry Pi2, MinnowBoard Max and Hackster.io. Microsoft thinks Windows IoT Core, which was created to run on embedded devices with or without screens and has native machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-cloud connectivity, will become "the best platform for IoT developers and makers." The company has since added support for Node.js and DragonBoard 410c, as well as created a partnership with Arduino in which Windows 10 became the world's first Arduino-certified OS. They have since released six Arduino/Windows 10 investments, including Universal Windows platform support for Arduino and Windows Remote Arduino.

Microsoft is also on top of the data analytics game; in July it announced the release of the Cortana Analytics Suite, a package of data storage, data management, machine learning and business intelligence software to help enterprises handle the data deluge associated with the Internet of Things.

Additionally, Microsoft has its hand in the wearables drawer, with its own fitness trackers, watches and cameras. It is also working on HomeOS -- an experimental home automation system -- and may even eventually use its acquisition of home automation company id8 Group R2 Studios to make Xbox its home automation system.

9. Oracle

Oracle hopes its Java platform will help developers and customers automate the industrial economy in a secure, efficient manner. It calls Java Embedded "an open, standards-based platform with an unequalled developer ecosystem."

In July 2013, Oracle touted its Java Platform Micro Edition Embedded as the platform for IoT development. Citing an ecosystem of more than nine million developers, Oracle said Java ME Embedded and its latest software developer's kit were the "complete client Java runtime and toolkit, optimized for microcontrollers and other resource-constrained devices." And as Java already exists on many devices and sensors, it may well be the platform for IoT. In September 2014, Oracle released an update, Java ME Embedded 8.1, which included support for marketing-leading embedded chip architectures and new binaries for ARM architecture-based developer boards.

Oracle furthered its IoT push with the announcement of its managed PaaS Oracle IoT Cloud Service, part of the Oracle Cloud Platform which will be released in spring 2016. IoT Cloud Service features stream analytics and predictive analytics.

To date, Oracle has helped safety and security solution supplier Securitas Direct manage the 100 million-plus daily alarm signals it receives with its IoT portfolio. Oracle's IoT analytics has also enabled printing and document management company Ricoh Company Ltd. to analyze data from its real-time support service for customers in more than 100 regions.

10. SAP

German software giant SAP claims its HANA database is "the secret sauce to make IoT run simple." The company, which dabbled in M2M platforms, has already seen success with its IoT apps, including SAP Connected Assets System, SAP Connected Logistics Software and SAP Smart Meter Analytics.

SAP's IoT venture really took off in February 2013 when, along with Ericsson, it announced cloud-based M2M solutions to enhance enterprise efficiency.

In March 2015, it partnered with Deutsche Telekom's enterprise-focused T-Systems to develop a cloud-based IoT platform aimed at the logistics sector. In the same month, SAP joined the Industrial Internet Consortium, partnered with Jasper, teamed up with Huawei for advanced IoT research, and together with Accenture announced it was developing an asset analytics solution for CenterPoint Energy to improve the management and maintenance of its transmission and distribution assets.

In May, SAP released a HANA cloud platform tailored for IoT; S/4 HANA aims to provide the foundation for IoT application services, including analytics, telematics, connected car services and manufacturing offerings. SAP also announced Siemens was using the HANA Cloud Platform to build Siemens Cloud for Industry -- an open platform for analyzing large datasets. SAP also announced collaboration with Intel to integrate the IoT Gateway with SAP cloud to simplify enterprise IoT use.

In October, SAP formed the Internet of Things and Customer Innovation unit, which aims to broaden SAP's IoT applications, including its Vehicle Insights app, Predictive Maintenance and Service solution, and Connected Logistics package.

Next Steps

Explore why a single-vendor strategy won't cut it in the IoT landscape

IoT success requires tighter ties between vendors

The Industrial Internet is helping boost non-IT vendor status

This was last published in December 2015

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Essential Guide

Understanding the IoT business environment

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Why do you think either well-known giants or new startups will dominate the IoT landscape?
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There are always legacy giants lumbering into every open space. Far too many have forgotten how to be as nimble or adaptable as needed. For that, for new visions, we need those scrappy startups nipping at their heels.
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Just as with anything, I think that it'll be a mix of both. As for one or the other coming out more dominant, I'm not sure. But the competition is a good thing.
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Thanks for being early readers of IoTA!

I think it might just turn out to be a startup, but if so it'll be one that grows very rapidly. Amazon and eBay pretty well defined what online commerce would look like, Google sort of figured out the rest of the Web economy. It's not quite posted as I write this, but I've got a piece upcoming on "Behemoths" that talks about these "monster" type startups.
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