Cloud IoT platforms

by Mike Sweetman
16 January 2020

The concept and term for the Internet of things were first formulated by the founder of the Auto-ID research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Kevin Ashton in 1999 at a presentation for the leadership of Procter & Gamble. The presentation talked about how the comprehensive implementation of RFID tags could modify the corporation's logistics chain management system.

In 2004, Scientific American (Neil Gershenfeld, Raffi Krikorian, Danny Cohen. The Internet of Things Scientific American, Oct 2004) published an extensive article on the Internet of Things, illustrating the possibilities of the concept in everyday use: the article illustrates how household appliances (alarm clock, air conditioning), home systems (garden irrigation system, security system, lighting system), sensors (thermal, light and movement sensors) and “things” interact with each other through communication networks (infrared, wireless, low-power voltage network) and provide fully automatic execution of processes (include coffee machine, changing illumination, temperature control, watering the garden, and saving energy and managing its consumption).

The presented options for home automation were not new in themselves, but the emphasis in publishing on combining devices and “things” into a single computer network serviced by Internet protocols and considering the “Internet of things” as a special phenomenon contributed to the concept gaining wide popularity.

Why IoT matter?

The Internet of things (English internet of things, IoT) is a concept of a computer network of physical objects (“things”) equipped with built-in technologies for interacting with each other or with the external environment, considering the organization of such networks as a phenomenon that can rebuild economic and social processes, eliminating the need for human participation from part of actions and operations.

The concept was formulated in 1999 as an understanding of the prospects for the widespread use of radio frequency identification means for the interaction of physical objects with each other and with the external environment. Advancing the concept with diverse technological content and introducing practical solutions for its implementation since the 2010s has been considered a steady trend in information technology, primarily due to the widespread adoption of wireless networks, the advent of cloud computing, the development of machine-to-machine interaction technologies, the beginning of an active transition to IPv6 and the development software-defined networks.

The development of the information technology market has led to the emergence of the concept of the Internet of things. The IoT principle implies the interaction of things that are familiar to us in everyday life using high-speed computer networks. In a broad sense, the Internet of things is not just a lot of different devices and sensors connected by wired and wireless communication channels and connected to the Internet, but it is a closer integration of the real and virtual worlds, in which communication between people and all kinds of devices plays the main role.

According to Rob van Kranenburg IoT can be divided into 4 levels:

  • The 1st level is associated with the identification of each object.
  • The 2nd level provides a service to serve the needs of the consumer (can be considered as a network of your own “things”, a particular example is “smart home”).
  • The 3rd level is associated with the urbanization of urban life. This is the concept of a “smart city”, where all the information that concerns the residents of the city is pulled together in a specific residential quarter, in your house and neighboring houses.
  • The 4th level is a sensory planet.

In fact, this concept is based on two main technologies with which smart devices can communicate with each other. The first is radio frequency identification (RFID), the second is a wireless sensor network (WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, GPRS, 3/4 / 5G, etc).

The desire of many users to feel that they are f creators of IoT systems prompted some companies to develop special programmable platforms. As a result, it turned out that such developments made it possible to cope with various tasks, starting with the solution of infrastructure concepts and ending with the creation of interactive objects.

Role of IoT cloud platform

The IoT platform is a set of interacting cloud services (management cloud) that provides direct, without human intervention and intermediate automation control systems and management of connected objects. This management cloud has all the necessary functionality (software algorithms for data processing and management) of both grass-roots management systems and enterprise-level management systems. That is, the IoT platform simultaneously performs the functions of a universal integration tool and implements arbitrarily complex and diverse control algorithms.

The mechanism of open application programming interfaces (APIs) allows you to connect any devices and any ACS to the control cloud without making any changes to them, as well as process the data delivered to the control cloud using ready-made templates, and in their absence, using the built-in software development tools. The accumulation of historical data in IoT platforms from a wide range of devices and automatic control systems and the use of machine learning technologies make it possible to automate the improvement of algorithms executed by the control cloud, which is impossible in principle in informationally isolated automatic control systems.

Top IoT cloud platforms

Amazon Web Services IoT Platform

With AWS IoT, you can easily connect, manage devices, and collect data. AWS will be able to support any cloud projects with almost 100% probability. Amazon's cloud services include an IoT package that supports all aspects of Internet applications:

  • AWS IoT Core - The foundation upon which any IoT application can be built. Through AWS IoT Core devices can connect to the Internet and to each other and exchange data. Billions of messages can be sent between devices and cloud storage over a secure connection. The platform supports various communication protocols, including user ones, which allows communication between devices of different manufacturers.
  • AWS IoT Device Management makes it easy to add and organize devices. The service provides secure and scalable performance with the ability to monitor, troubleshoot, and update device functionality.
  • AWS IoT Analytics, a service for the automatic analysis of large volumes of various IoT data, including unstructured data from various types of devices. The data collected and processed by the service is ready for use in machine learning.
  • AWS IoT Device Defender, which supports the configuration of security mechanisms for IoT systems. AWS IoT Device Defender allows you to configure and manage security policies by controlling device authentication and authorization, as well as providing encryption mechanisms.

These are just a few examples of the IoT services offered by AWS. If you choose the Amazon environment for your IoT application, you get a scalable, secure, and working system.

Microsoft Azure IoT Hub

Microsoft Azure is a league of cloud services in the same league as AWS and the Google Cloud Platform. Microsoft Azure IoT Suite offers both pre-configured solutions and the ability to customize and create new ones in accordance with the requirements of the project.

With Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, you get the most powerful security mechanisms, superior scalability and easy integration with any existing or future systems. The platform allows you to connect hundreds of devices from various manufacturers, collect analytical data and use IoT data for machine learning purposes. This cloud system allows you to:

  • Provide an enhanced security data exchange channel for sending data to and receiving data from IoT devices
  • Use built-in management and training tools to help connect and administer IoT devices at any scale
  • Ensure full integration with Event Grid and serverless computing that simplifies the development of IoT applications
  • Provides compatibility with Azure IoT Edge for creating hybrid IoT applications.

IBM Watson IoT Platform

IBM is experimenting with the integration of IoT with artificial intelligence, creating unique experiences and solutions.

The IBM platform supports effective remote device management, secure data transfer and storage in the cloud, real-time data exchange, and machine learning capabilities through integration with AI technology.

The development platform offered by IBM includes a number of convenient tools and services that make creating IoT software easier and more efficient:

  • Visual event collection. Visual collection of events from the Internet of things to logical flows using IBM Cloud. The Node-Red tool in the IBM Cloud makes it easy to collect flows by drag and drop.
  • Data collection. Data collection in the form of time series and their management, as well as viewing what is happening on devices using means of visualizing data from the Internet of things, in almost real time.
  • Device management. Pay only upon use with IBM Cloud purchase options. This scalable service provides the option to pay through the IBM Marketplace or on a subscription term.
  • Connection and registration. Convenient registration and connection of sensors and mobile devices. Remote control of the connection of devices of the Internet of things.

Google cloud platform

The Google Cloud Platform is another global cloud provider that supports IoT solutions. This Google Cloud IoT package allows you to create and manage IoT systems of any size and complexity. The Google Cloud IoT solution includes a number of services with which you can create IoT networks:

  • Cloud IoT Core - a fully managed service for an easy and secure connection, as well as management and reception of data from various devices.
  • Cloud Pub / Sub - a service that processes event data and provides real-time stream analytics.
  • Cloud Machine Learning Engine, which allows you to create ML models and use data received from IoT devices.

Google’s IoT solution includes a number of other services that can be useful in building complex connected networks.

Blynk

Blynk is a cloud platform for IoT, which has applications for iOS and Android and supports microcontroller control: ESP8266, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, SparkFun, etc. through the Internet. The Blynk project began raising funds for the implementation of which was launched on Kickstarter on January 16, 2015. During the month, the project raised $49,235 instead of $10,000, which, apparently, reflects the huge interest in such projects from the global community of developers. 

The platform features are rich in their thoughtfulness and ease of use. Therefore, if for your project you need to choose a development environment for ESP8266 and write a program, you can use the Arduino IDE and the Blynk library and their cloud system. The main goal of Blynk is to create an affordable platform for wireless control of home-made electronic devices from a smartphone. As conceived by the authors, Internet access is not a prerequisite, Blynk Server can be downloaded and deployed to your home network, having full autonomy within your home. Here is a complete list of supported platforms (among which, of course, there are Arduino, Raspberry PI and Intel Edison), on which it is planned to port Blynk.

Bosch

Bosch is another technology giant based in Germany. Its product line ranges from instrumentation to software solutions for various purposes and types of applications. Bosch IoT Suite is one of the best IoT platforms for its innovative approach based on renowned German reliability.

Bosch uses open standards and open source to develop its IoT platform. It also takes into account the basic requirements of projects containing connected devices and related technologies. Bosch IoT Suite supports a complete application development cycle from prototype development to application deployment and maintenance.

Bosch IoT solutions can be implemented both in the form of cloud services and in the form of autonomous systems operating locally. The platform supports cross-domain applications, expanding integration capabilities and minimizing compatibility issues.

Thingworx

PTC's ThingWorx is designed to create IoT industry solutions. It is considered one of the most comprehensive toolkits for creating IoT applications of varying complexity and scale.

The platform has excellent opportunities for sharing and collaboration, which makes it an excellent solution for large groups of developers. Its own capabilities are enough to create various IoT applications without the need for third-party components or libraries.

Based on the ThingWorx platform, IoT applications have all the features of an advanced enterprise solution-wide scalability and integration with advanced technologies such as augmented reality and extensive analytics. This powerful functionality is implemented using a simple and intuitive user interface that combines high performance and usability.

Thingspeak

ThingSpeak is a platform for projects based on the Internet of Things concept. This platform allows you to build applications based on data collected from sensors. The main features of ThingSpeak include real-time data collection, data processing, and visualization. ThingSpeak API not only allows you to send, store and access data but also provides various statistical methods for processing them. ThingSpeak is an open-source project. This is a platform and API for storing and retrieving data from devices via HTTP protocol over the Internet or local area network. 

With ThingSpeak, you can create data monitoring applications from various sensors, location tracking applications, you can even build a “social network of things” with status updates. The basis of the platform is the channels into which data is sent for storage and visualization. Each channel includes 8 fields for any type of data, 3 fields for location (latitude, longitude, height), and 1 status field. As soon as you register your channel in ThingSpeak, you can immediately send data there, process it and access them with your applications. Channels support JSON, XML and CSV data formats. Data is sent to ThingSpeak HTTP POST request.

Conclusion

IoT Analytics has published an end-user satisfaction report on IoT platforms for 2019, which evaluates the best platforms based on more than 800 indicators received from real platform users.

The best results are from cloud companies. Users are most satisfied with the platform capabilities of large cloud companies. AWS IoT and Microsoft Azure IoT are the best platforms. AWS IoT is the best in the world in terms of end-user satisfaction.

In the modern world of the IT industry, effective solutions are possible using as many ready-made proven components as possible. If you are building your IoT system for a home project, mid-sized business or enterprise level, use a ready-made cloud platform. Only in exceptional cases will you need to write your backend for IoT. Modern IoT platforms are so well configured and scalable that they can meet the requirements of almost any system. Build an IoT for all your ideas with joy and satisfaction.
 

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