Feb/Mar 2015

A new generation of platforms designed to support the forecasted massive growth of the IoT (Internet of Things) emerged this year, and these platforms shake up the traditional view of how M2M/IoT platforms operate. Just last month, in my December 2014 column, “M2M and Internet FAQs,” I described our industry’s time-worn strategy of abstracting device connectivity into device management and application enablement platforms.  In the intervening few weeks, I’ve learned about a lot of new players that are entering the M2M/IoT platform space, often riding on their success in adjacent markets.

The new set of M2M/IoT platforms blurs the bright line between device management and application enablement platforms through their reliance on new-school development tools imported from the Web and smartphones. For example, Machineshop.io is a new-school IoT platform developed by M2M industry veterans Michael Campbell and Greg Jones. Machineshop.io’s platform, which Jones calls a “small ‘p’ platform”, consists entirely of RESTful APIs (automated program interfaces) that make complex functions like managing systems and devices, connecting to a mobile network or incorporating geolocation data all look the same to an application.

Per Jones, Machineshop.io’s CTO, the platform is designed so that “every application developer knows how to use it.” Granted, even Machineshop.io includes APIs to traditional device management applications, because secure, authenticated connectivity to carrier networks will always be required.  Older-school connectivity protocols such as MQTT and SOAP also feed its “ingestion engine” because, as Jones points out, many IoT endpoints are so small and light on battery life and resources that not one protocol will fit every device.

Speaking of every device, IoT platform Xively follows in its forebears LogMeIn and join.me’s footsteps and begins the IoT platform experience all the way at the edge with a lightweight client installed in device firmware.  Xively’s VP of Product Management Paddy Srinivasan described Xively’s approach as “more prescriptive about first-mile connectivity,” in order to provide TLS (Transport Layer Security)-compliant communications that use device credentials and strict rules to control how devices connect and information and apps are used.

Over these secure connections, devices connect to the “Xively Cloud” that provide access to carrier networks, metadata such as weather, geolocation, and data stored within the platform. Xively Cloud connects “only allowed listeners to devices they trust,” Srinivasan continued, through a “trust engine” that limits processing of device data to applications authorized to listen to specific devices.

Kii, entering the IoT from the adjacent feature and smartphone device management sector, listens to the needs of their customers – device manufacturers—and tailors their IoT platform to help these manufacturers provide a superior end-user experience. Leveraging lessons learned from their massive 30 million+ mobile phone user base, Kii’s new IoT platform not only provides device connectivity and management, but also a device app store with over 7,000 apps and soon a device distribution capability to help manufacturers speed their products to market.

Kii’s management team, led by CEO Masanari Arai, capitalizes on years of experience with Nokia plus intellectual property purchased from the company. Arai sees smart homes, TVs and medical devices as “the same thing as smartphones.” He continued: “We know how to do device clients and how to have close relationships with device manufacturers.” Kii strives to be the one-stop shop for connected device management, analytics and apps, and is working with chipset manufacturers to integrate the Kii client into chips targeted toward the IoT.

ThingWorx also places their emphasis at the device level, abstracting IoT endpoints within their Composer “Modeling Engine” where each connected device or sensor is described by its properties, services it interacts with and events. ThingWorx digs deep into the device, seeing a connected car not as one object but a collection of devices (engine oil temperature sensor, tire pressure sensor, etc.), each object with the ability to carry on an “interactive conversation” with the ThingWorx platform through their “always on protocol.” Chief Strategist, Connected Products John Canosa described the platform as an “event-driven architecture, where a ‘yin and yang’ of events and subscriptions” triggers actions based on events and information from within the platform or other integrated data sources.

Information collected through the ThingWorx modeling engine feeds their “Mashup Engine,” within which users create applications based on data collected from the “model” using a drag-and-drop graphical interface. Per Canosa, “Merely connecting a device doesn’t create value by itself. Millions of applications will need to be built,” as the Internet of Things grows toward full implementation.

New-school platforms cast aside dependence on mobile-forward tools such as C++ and J2ME for tools more commonly used to build websites and analyze “big datasets” such as HTML5, REST and Python.  The Savi Insights platform from Savi Technologies integrates one of the widest set of new-school technologies including Cassandra, Storm, mahout, Hive, and several other technologies not familiar in M2M circles.  All new-school platforms also place an emphasis on APIs.

Their philosophical starting points also separate new-school platforms from the pack. Try to match the philosophical basis for the four platforms discussed in this article with the company (answers at end):

CW_n29_Unplugged_quiz

These new-school platforms are great examples of how the technology beneath the hood of the Internet of Things is rapidly evolving. Expect to see even more innovation and new platforms coming to the market, as companies rush to grab their share of this burgeoning market. In my view, this is a good thing: with 50 billion devices to connect by 2020, when it comes to M2M/IoT platforms, more is more.

[simple_tooltip content=’Matching answers: 1D, 2C, 3B, 4A’]View answers[/simple_tooltip]

 


Laurie Lamberth led M2M business development for Nextel and Sprint Nextel for many years, in addition to other strategic partnering and marketing positions. She currently leads the M2M/IoT consulting practice for 151 Advisors. Learn more about Laurie and 151 Advisors at www.151advisors.com

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