Ideal functionality of M2M / IoT Application Platforms
In this blog post I explore the ideal functionality of M2M / IoT Application Platforms. The key purpose of such a platform is to support applications which encompass both M2M and IoT aspects, but what does that really mean? What is it that an M2M / IoT Application Platform offers that M2M platforms do not?
We think that the key areas in which an M2M / IoT Application Platform differs from the more ‘traditional’ M2M platform environment really revolve around IoT enabling capabilities, and we think that these will become the basis of competition in the M2M / IoT Application Platform space. The below graphic displays what we consider as IoT enabling and IoT supporting capabilities.
IoT enabling vs. IoT supporting capabilities
So what, exactly, are IoT enabling capabilities? Well, first up we include Application Development. M2M / IoT Application Platforms should offer sophisticated tools to create business rules and integrate to business processes. Crucially, M2M / IoT Application Platforms must offer support for Big Data analytics and complex event processing, necessitating a tightly and robustly defined data model. Hard on the heels of Application Development is Application Management. Clearly an M2M / IoT Application Platform should offer both software and firmware updates, whether on the M2M connected device or on a gateway (if any). M2M Applications must be updateable to appropriately integrate with any updated operating environment.
A third aspect, scalability is a given: M2M / IoT Application Platforms must be highly scalable, and able to handle huge volumes of any (and all) of: users, event volumes and backend processing events. Many event management tasks will be real-time (or so near real-time as to be more efficiently processed as if they were), and so code produced by M2M / IoT Application Platforms must be highly efficient. So what of the traditional strengths of M2M Platforms? Well, the new breed of M2M / IoT Application Platform essentially renders traditional strengths of M2M Platforms to be little more than hygiene factors. These aspects become ‘competitive qualifiers’ rather than ‘competitive differentiators’.
What kind of factors exactly are we talking about here? Well, the list starts with one factor on which an entire industry has been built: Carrier and communications integration. A successful M2M / IoT Application Platform must develop ‘meta-APIs’ that allow IoT application developers to integrate to multiple carriers (and multiple connectivity support platforms) using a single API. And, yes, that does hint at the commoditisation of mobile connectivity. Next, in the world of the M2M / IoT Application Platform, the ability to drive and manage a wide range of devices (Device Management) is a given. Libraries of drivers must cross multiple industries, rather than restricting the M2M / IoT Application Platform to participate within a narrow industry niche.
One last aspect of the ‘hygiene’ capabilities of an M2M / IoT Application Platform is Operations Environment, specifically the management of user authorisation. The presence of multiple information sources from multiple applications forces the adoption of a robust user and identity management system. Additional considerations of the sensitivity (privacy) of user data for various analytical processes must also be taken into account, with the M2M / IoT Application Platform essentially taking on the role of a trusted third party with regard to data privacy.
We think that M2M / IoT Application Platforms give a significant boost to the adoption of M2M solutions, and will help the M2M market to reach its true potential. But this is just our view – what do you think? Where do you see differentiating features that open M2M Application Platforms to the Internet of Things?
For a more comprehensive analysis of the emerging M2M / IoT Application Platform space please download my white paper.