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How to identify the right IoT platform? Ask the users!

Hands tyoing on a notebook Source: Unsplash/ Glenn Carstens-Peters

The IoT User Survey

In order to assemble a broad foundation for guidance for companies looking for the right IoT Platform, the teknowlogy Group asked over 2,000 users to share their perception of 38 Internet of Things platforms. The author of this post shares some of the highlight results with us.

There is hardly a market more dynamic and complex as that relating to IoT platforms, where a huge number of providers are offering highly diverse options. It is almost impossible for buyers to find their way through the maze of information about what each provider offers, each of them also serving different customer requirements. Besides, the IoT platforms we see on the market today do not yet support each and every client need.

Bosch IoT Suite ranks top

The IoT survey participants scored the Bosch IoT Suite top in seven categories, among them Security, Recommendation rate, Performance satisfaction, and Timeline.

Download the survey

The complex and dynamic landscape of IoT platforms

In the past, we have screened the market for IoT platforms and compared their capabilities. We have identified certain types of IoT platforms, with a focus on specific horizontal use cases which are supported across many industries and devices. We have divided those horizontal IoT platforms into the following four groups:

  • IoT platforms for rapid application deployment allow simple and fast device connectivity, data visualization via drag & drop dashboards, and event processing. This use case often serves as an easy starting point for clients in their journey towards IoT and is therefore frequently applied in the context of rapid prototyping.
  • IoT platforms for device management support the critical management of various device fleets on a large scale. From a functional perspective, besides device provisioning, these platforms mainly focus on centrally managed software updates at the device level (for security or functional reasons), but also remote configuration and control of devices.
  • IoT platforms for analytics applications enable the development of more complex IoT applications such as predictive maintenance. For this purpose, an IoT platform has to provide dedicated capabilities around data analytics, artificial intelligence, application integration and application development.
  • IoT platforms for device development are a newly emerging topic; IoT platforms and IoT operating systems on embedded devices will increasingly communicate directly with each other. This market will particularly be driven by the advent of a new range of lightweight IoT devices (based on microcontrollers with embedded SW) that communicate directly with an IoT platform via LPWAN technology (LoRA, Sigfox, NB-IoT), enabling security updates over the air on a large scale for many small devices out in the field.

Analyst-based benchmarks are good; user-based benchmarks are even better

What most user companies have in common is that they lack one holistic source that covers and compares the many different kinds of IoT platforms. But the market of IoT platforms is now getting more and more mature, comprising an increasing number of live users who can share their first-hand experience of using one or even several different IoT platforms.

This prompted us to initiate the first major user survey on IoT platforms during the second half of 2018; we asked more than 2,000 users (developers, administrators and project managers from all over the world) about their views on 50 different IoT platforms. Apart from user companies, we also included system integrators, as they too have a lot of experience in using different IoT platforms for specific customer scenarios. The results provide a resource to companies looking to identify a suitable IoT platform for their specific needs.

IoT platform user survey: key insights

The IoT Survey 2019 draws on the different types of IoT platforms mentioned above to identify competing products and to allow a fair and useful comparison of products in direct competition with each other. I am happy to share some of the key insights with you here.

Business value – how do users maximize it?

In the context of IoT platforms, user companies tend to pursue two different strategies to generate strong business value. They either stick to highly standardized solutions or venture out to customized alternatives. Users following the latter approach try to realize more complex IoT use cases. Either in the context of analytics, or around more complex devices. When looking at the top-rated vendors, efficiency in realizing business value comes mainly from strong system integration capabilities (proprietary or provided through the ecosystem). Another approach to achieve a quick ROI would be low-code.

Implementation – what is the road to success?

Successful implementation projects are often based on two selection criteria: the first involves low-code platforms, which require no or only very little system integration. The second calls on IoT platform vendors that can support users with strong proprietary capabilities around system integration, or can rely on a strong partner ecosystem in this regard.

Competitiveness – does size matter in terms of brand awareness?

Big brands do have an advantage in this context, as is illustrated by who the top scorers are. Quite generally, what is of utmost importance in the complex market for IoT platforms is a clear, simple and consistent message.

Innovation – what are the focus areas of the innovators?

Analytics in the context of IoT, including machine learning, is of course one of the key focus areas of many IoT platform vendors. However, it is not the only focus for the 10 leading vendors in this category. Modularization and simplification play an important role, too, especially drag-and-drop tools for IoT data visualization, but increasingly also for analytics. Besides the rising relevance of the digital twin and blockchain, the subject of IoT edge, in particular, is currently a very hot topic for users and vendors.

Customer satisfaction – what makes the user happy?

The recommendation rate is a key indicator of user satisfaction, with product satisfaction and vendor support as the main drivers. However, good product satisfaction and vendor support scores only lead to a strong recommendation rate if the pricing model does not fall below a certain threshold. In addition, it seems that users are also willing, in some cases, to tolerate lower product satisfaction if the product offers strong security capabilities. This is especially true for sensitive use cases, such as connected car or critical infrastructures. The partner ecosystem does not seem to play a significant role when it comes to influencing the recommendation rate.

Customer experience – is it possible to combine superior performance with flexibility and usability?

Our analysis of the top 10 providers in this context shows that a “do-it-all solution” is hard to find. A high score in the flexibility and/or ease of use categories is typically combined with a more negative rating in terms of performance satisfaction. In addition, the same is true the other way around, i.e. a good score in performance is usually accompanied by a more negative evaluation in terms of flexibility and/or ease of use. Users should be aware of this and carefully consider what is more important to them and their specific use cases. If not all the use cases can be covered by the one, ideal IoT platform, a compromise may be needed. Or users may consider using different IoT platforms for different IoT use cases.

Vertical IoT platforms are now emerging

Horizontal IoT platforms provide support for specific use cases across many industries and devices. In addition, we see a new category of IoT platforms emerging in the market: vertical IoT platforms. Vertical IoT platforms cannot yet be found in all market segments, but they are starting to appear in some areas, for example in the context of digital factory, connected vehicles, smart cities, and smart homes. The differences between a vertical and a horizontal IoT platform are mainly related to the application itself, and to some degree also to the question of connectable devices. Horizontal IoT platforms focus mainly on pure application enablement, while vertical IoT platforms go much deeper and also provide pre-developed vertical applications for use cases in specific contexts.

More information

"Bosch IoT changes the way we collect data. With more devices online the possibilities are endless": Read the highlights for Bosch.IO (formerly Bosch Software Innovations) in this survey.

More by the author: Device management - A core capability of an IoT platform.