As more operational components and devices become “smart” or connected, IoT platforms have emerged as a fundamental tool across a variety of industries, and adoption shows no signs of slowing down, with research indicating (registration required) IoT platform usage will grow by 25% over the next year. Manufacturers can all benefit from IoT platform technology by using its analytic capabilities to streamline machine maintenance schedules, improve product quality levels, reduce wait times for quality assurance checks, launch connected products or services, and establish usage-based pricing models.
Reality check: One-size-fits-all IoT platforms don’t exist
To fully reap the infinite benefits of connected technologies, manufacturers must recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all IoT platform. Relying on just one system and expecting it to single-handedly meet the needs of every specialized application or use case that spans a variety of different business functions will only result in frustration and failure. Additionally, developers and operational users also have preferences that typically are taken into account. Too often, though, organizations assume they don’t have enough staff to support multiple IoT platforms, or they neglect to consider all of their use cases and needs during the initial platform selection process. Others may simply be loyal to one legacy vendor relationship and assume expanding their IoT implementation will introduce overwhelming complexities.
Embracing a multi-platform approach to IoT implementations doesn’t necessarily require additional resources or lead to insurmountable complications, however. By incorporating multiple systems, organizations can maximize value across all of their identified use cases without incurring any restrictions imposed by some IoT platforms. For example, if one platform doesn’t support edge analytics but an abundance of remote equipment requires such a feature, organizations can simply add that capability via a complementing platform. Alternatively, if one IoT platform is too slow from a monitoring perspective or if it takes too long to send relevant data to the cloud, organizations can incorporate a separate, central data hub.
Best practices for evaluating multiple IoT platforms
Equally important to implementing a multi-platform approach to IoT is taking the time to carefully evaluate a variety of platform options before deployment. In particular, organizations should adhere to the following four evaluation best practices:
- Pinpoint all potential IoT platform use cases by compiling a thorough listing of third-party research. Be sure to then review that list internally to fully understand the value potential of the determined use cases, build a prioritization matrix of business units and regions, and identify the specific needs of the highest value business use cases.
- Send out a request for information while at the same time taking advantage of free trial options that many vendors provide. In particular, focus on platforms’ device management and security capabilities. Because while analysis and dashboard features are clear value creators, if devices are restricted or cumbersome to onboard and manage, even the best analytics packages will be severely limited. However, this approach should be used cautiously as the trials that are being entered into should be done in a purposeful manner and tracked. This will limit users bringing in duplicative platforms with similar strengths and weaknesses.
- Prioritize technologies that can create a minimum viable product quickly. Not all IoT platform use cases will end up delivering their perceived value, and that’s okay as long as endless amounts of time and energy haven’t been wasted. Winning fast and failing even faster is critical to any successful IoT platform implementation, so look for platforms that allow for fast creation and iterative deployments. Additionally, according to a study by Vanson Borne, only 46% of manufacturers that have deployed an IoT platform are satisfied with it. If a platform is not bringing the expected value in the expected time frame then…
- Build a vendor matrix. To compare alongside the aforementioned use case matrix, outline a second matrix of vendor strengths and weaknesses to determine the best IoT platforms for specific use cases. Be sure to identify any interoperability possibilities among multiple platforms, as data will undoubtedly need to be shared across systems in the future. Also, consider ranking all platforms in the matrix to establish how many are required in order to satisfy all use cases across all business units.
Long-term success requires a multi-platform approach
The future of IoT platforms is undeniably bright. The technology is poised to become even more compatible with stronger offerings for edge analytics in the coming years, and additional industries, such as finance and insurance, stand to benefit due to their preference for product usage-based revenue models. As more competing vendors enter the landscape, however, IoT platforms may become closed and proprietary to support vendor lock-in. To stave off this likely pattern, embrace a multi-platform approach to IoT without delay. In doing so, organizations can help incite positive vendor competition and, most importantly, more effectively take advantage of the benefits IoT can continuously provide over the long term.
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