IoT devices are everywhere -- from manufacturing to healthcare to wearables. Organizations use equipment or vehicles with IoT sensors to collect data and automate back-end processes to improve customer experiences and create new business models. But deploying these connected devices to get value from the data can be challenging. Providers are helping companies address this challenge with IoT SaaS platforms.
For several years, IoT has been a competitive edge for the enterprise. When done well, organizations can gather invaluable data to improve efficiency and forecast the future. However, they must make it past difficulties in the adoption phase, also called pilot purgatory. IoT deployments require infrastructure that's different from the enterprise norm, even the cloud. Hardware and security standards in IoT devices haven't yet settled out, and the problem of processing data close to the IoT devices, rather than in the company cloud, all add to the complexity and expense of deploying IoT.
A growing number of IoT SaaS providers offer platforms that service IoT architecture and processing needs directly, eliminating the need for deep investments in gateways, edge servers, fog nodes and other IoT-specific components.
One challenge in choosing among the IoT SaaS providers is that while many have similar features -- including scalability, real-time data capture and machine learning -- they have wildly different pricing models, making it an important purchasing consideration. Before investing in an IoT SaaS platform, it's important to determine the number of devices the organization will be using, as well as the data volume and whether the organization will be using the provider's analytics.
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To help simplify the process of selecting an IoT SaaS platform, here we examine offerings from seven prominent providers.
The SmartWorks end-to-end product development platform offers broad third-party hardware compatibility and works with a wide range of communication protocols. Machine learning enables AI-based recognition and fault prediction of applications on the edge. Altair SmartWorks is highly scalable, offers REST API and has an open architecture that helps extend its integration potential.
The platform features an application engine that accepts custom coding and an integrated administration and security console for project and device management. Use cases include building and facility energy optimization, vehicle fleet management and smart city management.
An on-premises version is also available. Contact Altair for pricing information.
EMnify offers a platform of services that includes enterprise-level systems integration, bringing IoT data into cloud-based applications and processes in real time, with built-in functional redundancy in the network itself.
Its global IoT SIM card provides cellular and low-powered WAN connectivity to devices of all kinds, simplifying networking by enabling access to more than 500 networks worldwide. The supporting mobile network infrastructure is globally distributed in public clouds, enabling easy cloud-to-cloud integrations for application development via web services.
EMnify's SIM cards are available in industrial grade, making them useful in many verticals. The cards can be controlled from a single platform, with full network visibility, device status and diagnostics.
Pricing is subscription-based and scales according to active SIMs. There's no minimum contract duration and an organization can suspend its subscription. EMnify offers a free 30-day trial.
Google Cloud IoT Core
Building on its parent cloud's multilayered architecture, Google's IoT SaaS platform supports a broad range of OSes, offers machine learning functionality and accepts real-time data, making it a contender for smart building and smart city applications, as well as real-time monitoring of equipment and assets.
Real-time data capture and AI enable rapid system response in supply chain and transportation scenarios. Machine learning functionality provides insight into the behaviors and performance of systems that are disbursed over wide areas.
Security includes JSON web tokens enabling public and private key authentication, device-by-device (and keys can rotate), as well as signature verification algorithms and role-based permissions for API access.
Pricing is per minute and scales by volume. A free version offers up to 250 MB per month.
IBM Watson IoT Platform
The Watson IoT Platform includes a range of IoT business operations services, bundled to focus on enterprise asset management, facilities management or engineering applications. Each of these offerings provides security and enhanced data capture features, including in real time. This approach emphasizes operations optimization, making it highly suitable for industrial IoT. Bidirectional communication increases the potential intelligence of the application.
Its AI and analytics can be configured as a service, a convenience that both simplifies and expands the deployment options for that functionality.
Pricing starts at $500 per instance, per month and is based on three metrics: data traffic, data analysis and edge data analysis. The first 100 MB per month is free.
Microsoft Azure IoT Hub
The Azure Cloud environment is one of the most mature and intricate in the market. Its IoT SaaS platform provides built-in analytics, machine learning and a facility for handling structured and unstructured data in the same context. Administrators can enable app and workflow deployment via preexisting Azure resources, providing highly customized applications. The platform can integrate easily with other platforms, including many CRM and ERP systems, as it inherits all the connectivity of the Azure cloud environment itself. There's also a REST API for custom integrations.
This combination of features makes possible a broad spectrum of potential applications, from smart buildings and cities to advanced industrial robotic process automation to wide-scale predictive maintenance. The platform is designed for beginners as well as experts.
Microsoft offers a four-tier pricing program that's based on inbound data volume. Under 8,000 messages per unit, per day is free.
Oracle IoT provides a set of preconfigured, application-specific IoT SaaS offerings, building on its modular cloud architecture. Each of Oracle's five IoT cloud services focuses on a particular IoT application domain:
- Production Monitoring Cloud Service tracks equipment performance and predicts machine failures, enabling preventive maintenance.
- Asset Monitoring Cloud Service facilitates real-time visibility and predictive intervention automatically.
- Fleet Monitoring Cloud Service offers vehicle location in real time, geographic tracking and cost audit. It can also monitor drive actions and behaviors.
- Connected Worker Cloud Service tracks worker movement and environmental monitoring to improve safety conditions.
- Service Monitoring for Connected Assets Cloud Service offers service channel monitoring with root cause diagnosis; this is good for tracking and locating assets, as well as theft prevention.
Pricing is calculated per device using a pay-as-you-go model that's based on resource consumption. There are no upfront commitments or service subscriptions and there's no minimum service period.
Salesforce IoT Cloud
Salesforce IoT Cloud features high scalability, in keeping with its overall cloud architecture. Its interfaces offer rapid connectivity to a wide range of ERP, CRM and database platforms. The application development tools available in the general Salesforce cloud platform may be used for IoT development, and many users can implement new IoT applications without having to code.
Salesforce IoT Cloud's REST API enables data to be imported from any source. It accepts streaming data, and users can create profiles of IoT devices in applications to contextualize the data, using Salesforce's CRM resources. The platform works with a broad range of data formats.
Contact Salesforce for pricing information.