IoT can work wonders for data-driven digital transformation. But picture having to manage thousands, if not millions, of IoT devices around the world. Given that the number of global IoT installations is expected to grow to a whopping 27 billion by 2025, according to IoT Analytics, the challenge is real.
The sheer amount of IoT deployments — and the resulting data glut — is fueling the emergence of SaaS platforms that can manage an enterprise’s IoT installations.
Here, we explore the benefits of SaaS for IoT, what features to look for in an IoT SaaS platform, and a few of the many options available.
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Many of the benefits of a SaaS platform for IoT derive from the flexibility of the delivery model. They include:
SaaS platforms reside in the cloud, which makes it easier for all authorized employees to access. Such a central data platform also provides transparency and makes it less difficult to troubleshoot problems. Since everyone is working with the same information at the same time, pinpointing and resolving challenges becomes straightforward. It is also easier to dissolve data information silos when all of it flows into one platform.
A central platform enables the use of more advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence to deliver efficiencies. For example, companies can use AI-based monitoring to detect anomalies in data traffic and detect potential cybersecurity breaches faster and more easily. An IoT platform also enables developers to build and test IoT-specific applications.
Enterprises can choose to test drive an IoT deployment in new geographical locations or dial their devices up and down without worrying about the related servers and other data processing infrastructure needed to manage them all. While the network communication infrastructure still needs to be in place, SaaS IoT platforms enable companies to bite off just as much deployment as they can chew.
Faster time to market
The SaaS model for IoT management allows businesses to evaluate proof of concepts more quickly, which encourages innovation and a faster time to market. Like most SaaS models, expenditure falls under ongoing operational costs (OPEX), which lowers the barrier for companies of all sizes to work with IoT technology. Businesses do not need to invest in data processing infrastructure before they know whether an IoT strategy is going to work or not. A SaaS model helps companies with financial liquidity.
The software version will always be the latest, which means administrators need not waste time on screening and updating thousands of IoT devices for security patches and more.
Recommended reading: What is IoT Analytics?
Given the large number of IoT platforms out there — a 2021 report from IoT Analytics found 613 in operation — it might be difficult to choose the right one for your enterprise. Here are a few factors to consider when evaluating an IoT SaaS platform:
Security and privacy
Cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges of IoT deployment. A vulnerable and exploitable IoT device can give hackers a foothold into IT systems. Privacy also factors when transmitting, storing, and processing sensitive data like protected health information (PHI).
The IoT SaaS platform has to prioritize security and privacy and have these features baked in through rigorous DevSecOps cycles in the development of the platform. It is important that the SaaS platform has room for standard security protocols for machine-to-machine communications and that all devices can be authenticated, registered, and relevant data encrypted while en route.
The best IoT SaaS platforms will offer more advanced tools like ease of traffic monitoring and the ability to detect “shadow” units — IoT devices that IT administrators might have missed incorporating into enterprise systems. Understanding the data management lifecycle will be key in evaluating platforms for these capabilities.
Accessible data management
IoT data comes with special challenges. It is frequently noisy and in varied formats that do not readily integrate with existing asset management or enterprise systems. Cleaning and sorting the data becomes a major task. In addition, communication protocols for how the IoT data is relayed vary widely. Data can be both structured and unstructured. Evaluate an IoT SaaS platform to understand the kinds of data it can work with and what it can do with them.
Analytics in real-time
IoT delivers the ability to use technologies such as machine learning on volumes of data as long as the data can stream in real-time. An ideal IoT SaaS platform should be able to handle the capture and sorting of data and conduct all relevant operations with it, live and 24/7.
More often than not, enterprises realize they need an IoT SaaS platform after they have deployed a modest level of IoT devices on the ground. In addition, enterprises might already be using a piecemeal approach to operations that their workforce is familiar with. The right platform will easily integrate with existing legacy equipment and third-party applications. Since removal of data silos is one of the primary goals of a central IoT SaaS platform, it needs to integrate with all relevant devices and third-party apps to ingest relevant data and insights.
Concise and easy-to-understand reporting
Data visualization is key to gaining insights from streaming IoT devices. The IoT SaaS platform needs to deliver straightforward reports that are easy to understand. Equally important, enterprises need data dashboards that steer clear of unnecessary bells and whistles but instead deliver custom information in context, and that is directly relevant to business operations.
Recommended reading: What is an IoT platform and how do you choose the right one for your business?
Understanding that the platform that you choose will vary depending on the specific functionality your company needs, here are a few to consider:
This platform is a mobility-first approach to IoT management and is a cloud-based software suite. The Cisco IoT system has evolved into an ecosystem with six different pillars, from fog computing for IoT applications at the edge to cybersecurity, data analytics, and management and automation.
- Enables industrial internet of things (IIoT) for asset management and an ability to accommodate a variety of industrial sensors
- Edge computing for real-time use of IoT data.
- Cybersecurity protocols that are woven in to monitor network traffic at the edge.
- The platform also comes with tools to manage network connectivity and data flow.
This platform is a centralized dashboard that is easy to use and easy to add and remove devices from. Operators can keep an eye on usage patterns and control access to IoT service.
- Device management helps IT administrators add or retire devices in bulk, push out necessary patches and updates, and reboot as necessary.
- Operators can access both real-time and historical data as they have the option to store harnessed data for specified periods of time. Such a feature enables easier implementation of machine learning algorithms at the edge.
- The Watson platform uses the industry-standard MQTT messaging protocol to connect devices and applications, which accommodates practically any kind of data packet.
Part of the Azure ecosystem, this platform ensures secure communication between IoT applications and the devices it oversees. The solution provisions and authenticates devices according to desired scale. Continuously streaming telemetry data from devices to the cloud helps businesses keep an eye on IoT sensor health in addition to building custom analytics.
- Azure highlights its no-code ease of communicating with devices, accommodating a variety of messaging protocols. Messages can also route to other solutions in the Azure ecosystem and automatically resend in low connectivity.
- Ready-to-use templates help developers create custom applications on top of the IoT hub.
- Device Update for IoT Hub simplifies IoT updates as IT administrators can use it to publish, distribute, and manage updates over the air for all IoT hardware components.
Oracle’s Fusion Cloud Internet of Things Intelligent Applications is made for a variety of applications including smart manufacturing, connected assets and logistics, workplace safety and customer experience.
- Oracle facilitates IoT integration with existing assets and applications, which enables companies to build upon what they already have instead of having to tear and redesign.
- The IoT solution can stream into Oracle’s Business Intelligence Cloud Service for immediate business analytics from real-time operational data.
- Each device receives a unique machine identity, which it uses to secure communications with assets connected directly or indirectly to the cloud. The secure channels also enable bidirectional communication so information–and related insights–flows freely into enterprise systems.
Given that Salesforce primarily targets the customer relationship management vertical, its IoT solution works to deliver customer service opportunities. For example, IoT sensors on electronic goods can relay information about performance so service calls can be scheduled proactively and the customer experience boosted.
- Point–and-click user interface allows users to curate the basic or advanced data analytics they need and access insights through related business analytics software, Einstein Analytics.
- Compatible with third-party applications. Enterprises can mix-and-match the product suite that works best for their goals, and the Salesforce IoT application plays well with such external vendors.
Too often, enterprises connect every asset with a sensor without a fixed plan for how they will process the data — and for what insights. An IoT platform like IRI Voracity is especially suited to handle the big data lakes and add necessary context.
- Processes heterogenous unstructured and structured data from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats. In addition, the platform promises to handle data rapidly and without the need for additional tech support.
- Routes clean data to a central platform for a single pane of glass approach to business analytics and insights.
From PTC, the ThingWorx platform is purpose-built for industrial IoT (IIoT) applications. The platform is especially suited for applications looking to build on IIoT and incorporate additional advanced technologies like augmented reality and AI and machine learning into their capabilities.
- Addresses primary challenges of asset-oriented industries, including remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, workforce efficiency and asset optimization.
- Building block format for IIoT solutions helps enterprises plug and play with components that suit their specific business needs. Pre-built applications and developer tools help companies craft pilot projects or scale all the way up for complete IIoT deployment.
This platform has an extensive suite of tools and applications with which enterprises can build IoT or IIoT solutions to meet their needs. Smart cities, industrial asset management, and connected mobility solutions all fall under this umbrella.
- It has an extensive set of data management features that helps enterprises extract the most out of their IoT streaming data.
- Accommodates all kinds of IoT devices and sensors with specific applications. There is even one designed specifically for small, low-power microcontrollers.
The Google platform delivers managed services and offers a long list of vendors to cherry-pick the IoT solution that works best for an enterprise.
- Supports standard communication protocols like MQTT and HTTP so enterprises can use and connect existing devices without extensive changes.
- Integrates with hardware from vendors like Intel and Microchip. Companies can depend on high-frequency, low-latency communications from the platform.
- Enterprises can choose to deploy Google analytics and machine learning applications to get more insights from their live IoT data streams.
When you choose a Hologram SIM for IoT connectivity, your team also gains access to real-time device management with the Hologram dashboard or API. Hologram’s IoT connectivity platform allows you to manage your fleet from the point of testing through deployment.
- Cloud-based dashboard with real-time visibility into device usage, data limits, and billing.
- Customizable alerts and bulk actions to better manage your fleet.
- Devices have access to coverage in 200 countries worldwide with 470+ carriers to rely on but can all be managed in one beautiful interface.
Hologram, your global IoT connectivity partner
The rapidly expanding world of IoT needs solutions that can manage their unique complexities at scale. Hologram delivers a cloud-based global IoT connectivity platform that simplifies large-scale deployment and monitoring of IoT installations. Monitor, act, troubleshoot, and optimize your fleet with the Hologram Dashboard — our SaaS platform — today.