May 15, 2014

IoT Platform Trends

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a presentation on strategic trends in M2M and IoT platforms. The group I was briefing was particularly interested in the rise to prominence of horizontal platforms that enable the delivery of M2M and IoT applications.

This development coincides with the market evolving from M2M towards IoT, and is accompanied by a reduced emphasis on vertical-specific application opportunities. One of the key issues to arise is an analogy with the ‘maker’ culture in the IoT arena. Loosely defined, the ‘maker’ term applies to pioneering individuals who have literally been making connected devices using readily available, and often low-cost, technology components.

An important characteristic of the IoT applications is one of much greater access to data (in terms of quantity and frequency) from connected devices and sensors. This is giving rise to a ‘self-service’ culture where individuals are able to create innovative applications from disparate, inexpensive and easily accessible data sources. In a sense, the market is primed for a new class of user - the data 'takers'.

This is where a potentially disruptive class of horizontal platforms comes into play because they simplify the economics and ease-of-use in creating IoT applications.

To put matters into perspective, the following illustration provides a high-level comparison of a traditional M2M platform and the emerging alternative that so lends itself to IoT situations. The generic application scenario (in the center of the illustration) comprises a set of connected devices. These are connected via a service-enablement platform operating over an access network (which may involve fixed-, mobile- and short-range wireless connectivity technologies). The service enablement platform contains the functionality necessary to launch and operationally support an M2M/IoT application.

To the left of this generic structure is the conventional M2M platform architecture. This has three components for: connectivity management (network provisioning, activation etc.); service enablement services (device management, identity management, user-dashboard and portal to report on device behaviour etc.); and, application enablement (application development and management etc.) services.

The IoT scenario, on the right hand side of the illustration, consists of applications that may run on personal communications devices (Smartphones, tablets etc.). These have been provisioned as mobile data devices which are capable of supporting ‘over-the-top’ applications. In this scenario, the M2M equivalent of connectivity management maps onto traditional mobile data provisioning platforms. On top of this, connected device data may be aggregated in a Smartphone/tablet “App” or via a cloud-like data repository. In either case, data can be aggregated, across silos, to create an IoT application.

This ‘self-service’ architecture, in varying implementation guises, underpins the concepts that have been rolled out by organisations such as BugLabs ( and Freeboard), IFTT and Ubidots, for example. An early proponent of this philosophy is Telenor Objects, although its offering was targeted at enterprise users and, arguably, somewhat ahead of the market.

Although these are early days for many of these emerging platforms, such horizontal concepts could dramatically re-shape user expectations (user interfaces, ease of use, data ownership etc.) over time. While many of today’s exponents are focusing on the consumer/individual user segment, there is no doubt that they will pose a commercial challenge to many existing M2M platforms, which have been built for enterprise and mission critical applications, and which individual companies are rapidly pirouetting to address the nascent IoT demand.

There should be serious cause for concern among platform developers and service providers alike if consumers, borrowing from the ‘maker’ culture, start to become ‘takers’ of data for their own IoT application purposes.


  1. 9 Feb 2015 update

    It is interesting to see what Microsoft is attempting with OTT user data - see references to Accompli and Cortana.

  2. 28 April 2016 update

    This platform announcement from Samsung follows in the vein of AT&T's M2X in offering an OTT platform for data aggregation (a throwback to Telenor Objects).

    Based on the comments below, it would be good to see evidence of wider device support to align with the 'cross-silo' ethos.

    The ARTIK Cloud provides the tools companies need to securely collect, store, analyze and act on data collected from any connected device or cloud service

    Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer for Samsung, said ARTIK is unlike other IoT cloud platforms in that it breaks down data silos between devices. He also noted that ARTIK has been in development for three years.

    As for the rest of the ARTIK family, the ecosystem began as a one-stop chip module with a built-in application processor, modem chip, memory chip, and sensor. ARTIK is offered in three options with different sizes and specifications: ARTIK 1, ARTIK 5, and ARTIK 10.

  3. 7 Oct 2016 update

    DT launches a multi-IoT platform at the House of Clouds, which is what it calls its cloud datacentre in Biere.

    DT will start by offering a proposition that unites various platforms available right now. The House of IoT will begin with the Azure IoT Suite from Microsoft, followed by Cisco Fog and the IoT platform from Huawei.

    DT will start by offering a proposition that unites various platforms available right now. The House of IoT will begin with the Azure IoT Suite from Microsoft, followed by Cisco Fog and the IoT platform from Huawei.