The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hard field to enter into—especially on the commercial end. Managing IoT is a difficult task, but IoT Cloud Platforms are here to help. In this posts, I weigh the pros and cons of the different IoT Clouds below, including some of the cloud platforms that are listed in Postscapes’ article IoT Cloud Platform Landscape, which has resources on platform-specific documentation, API references, architecture overview and more, if you need more specific information.
The top cloud providers deliver a stable, highly scalable and cost-effective environment for running your IoT applications. They also provide various services that aren’t restricted to IoT applications but which are nonetheless good for an IoT platform. These services range from centralized logging to VMs to run software. However, you’re stuck with the platform’s offerings once you’re integrated into it. It’s often difficult to switch between platforms. And if the cloud provider goes down, so does your IoT solution. Microsoft Azure Cloud (Azure), Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) all have their own variety of solutions for IoT applications.
Azure IoT is Microsoft’s answer to managing IoT devices. Azure’s IoT Hub is used to manage devices. Azure also does edge computing with IoT Edge. Microsoft also has an out-of-the-box solution for IoT called Azure IoT Central, which is SaaS for IoT that streamlines the process of setting up your IoT solution, adding devices, setting up device alerts, and monitoring devices, and so on.
AWS IoT Core is Amazon’s IoT product suite. AWS IoT Device Management and AWS IoT Defender help you manage devices securely. AWS really shines with its edge software—AWS FreeRTOS and AWS Greengrass. FreeRTOS is an OS for microcontrollers that provides easy-to-use tools for edge computing and connecting to AWS IoT Core. AWS Greengrass allows you to do edge machine learning on local devices as well—devces that store and utilize ML models constructed on the cloud.
IBM Watson IoT is the IBM’s corner of the IoT market. Unlike Azure IoT and AWS IoT platforms, IBM Watson IoT seems to geared towards more custom solutions. There are numerous use cases listed, but there aren’t any particular subproducts to plug-and-play; rather, “the solution” is the platform as a whole. On IBM’s back-end, there’s a device management system similar to Azure and AWS’s offerings.
Google Cloud IoT is the GCP IoT solution suite. Google’s main product in the suite is Google IoT Core, which focuses on device security with every device getting a public and private key to encrypt and decrypt messages. Google also has edge-level computing with Cloud IoT Edge. Furthermore, Google has Android Things, which is designed for making apps on connected devices. Android Things has years of Android development tools behind it, including the “new APIs that provide low level I/O and libraries for common components like temperature sensors, display controllers, and more” (Google). Google also acquired Xively, another IoT platform company, and is actively integrating Xively’s technology into their solution suite.
The main advantage of open source platforms is two-fold: you aren’t bound to a single provider, and you control all your own data. Consider open-source platforms such as Kaa, SiteWhere, and ThingSpeak. The Kaa Platform looks quite mature. It runs Docker containers, being scalable and self-healing. It can plug and play into various cloud providers such as GCP or AWS. Open source platforms do not have as much support as the ones provided by large cloud providers, however, you can run your own servers on-site and if the provider goes down, your IoT system will not go down—plus one for open source solutions.
Choices are plentiful when it comes to choosing a cloud platform for IoT. If you want an IoT platform that’s well-supported and scalable, look at the top, big-box cloud providers IoT services. You won’t have to manage services, and there are numerous products to manage and control your IoT devices. Open source allows you a lot more control over your IoT solution, but you will have to provide resources and make architecture decisions to run them. Best of luck choosing the IoT platform that’s right for your use-case!
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