Should I Use an IoT Platform? – Reduce Cost and Boost Quality

In this post, I discuss how you can reduce cost and boost quality with an IoT platform, how to choose the right platform, and debunk myths about the benefits of building your infrastructure in-house.

The gap you are experiencing might be covered in the next release, not to mention all the new functionality, partners, and tools theyll continue to provide throughout the years.

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Many folks are worried that investors will see less value in their product if theyre leveraging 3rd party components or platforms. Nothing is farther from the truth.

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So lets debunk some of the most common arguments against IoT platforms.

Aligning with a vendor that understands your industry is always a plus. Their solution will be designed to handle your type of data, analytics, and even help you comply with industry regulations.

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Choosing the right vendor can be daunting. To get you started, here are 5 key areas to look for:

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IoT platforms are meant to be generic, so most likely youll find some gaps vs. your ideal solution. The key here is to assess how big that gap is and figure out ways you could get around it. Is it a must have? Are there other platforms or software vendors that can cover the gap?

Building an IoT product is very complex. By outsourcing non-core areas of your product to a platform, youll reduce risk, minimize cost, improve quality, and accelerate time to market.

Oh, and one last thought. If you arent thinking of using an IoT platform, I assure you your competitor is. Dont be surprised if they beat you to market and are able to provide more value added features faster. Just sayin

Here are some of the top IoT platforms in the market today (in no particular order). Their functionality is somewhat similar. Some of the main differences have to do with Industrial vs. Commercial focus. As you start your evaluation, you cant go wrong with any of these:

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The beauty of these platforms is that they already did the infrastructure heavy lifting, which allows you to focus on your core application. These companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building their products so you dont have to.

You simply dont need to build the complete IoT infrastructure yourself. Theres no point reinventing the wheel.

Process data locally (edge computing)

The goal of any platform is to reduce your development risk, accelerate your products time-to-market, and reduce cost. In fact, I recently talked to someone at AWS who said their internal vision is totake over all the sh*t companies dont want to deal with.

IoT is so big that theres no way a single company can dominate it all. Looking for a company with a strong app and partner ecosystem will be a good investment in optionality and expansion. Most of the top IoT platform providers dont do hardware themselves, but they have a strong partner ecosystem to pull from. That is always a good sign.

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In addition, there are some behind-the-scenes operations youll need:

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Investors care about unique value propositions and ROI. How would you explain to them that you spent their money reinventing the wheel? Not a conversation I look forward to.

Extensibility will be key, so make sure you select a provider that gives you programmatic access to as much of their functionality as possible.

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Let me put it this way: saying that your product loses value if you build it on a platform is like saying Tesla cars have no value because they dont make their own tires. Or saying Netflix has no value because they build it on top of AWS. I dont think so.

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You need the ability to identify and manage all of your devices (at scale)

Ive heard countless arguments about why companies need to build their own insert technology here. Too often, companies waste millions of dollars and years of effort reinventing the wheel, instead of pushing their product forward.

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So lets break down the key tasks that an IoT product needs to perform, and therefore, highlight the functionality that should be covered by a platform. In general, an IoT product needs to:

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News flash: If youre building your own IoT infrastructure, youre wasting time and money, and jeopardizing the quality of your product.

Building a functional IoT backbone will take millions of dollars and many man-years of your engineering team. Not to mention QA, UX, Product Managers, etc. On top of all that development cost, you need to add support and maintenance costs. Forever. Instead of creating an asset, youve probably created a liability.

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Even if you are able to pull off the enormous technical challenge, in the end, youll have something thats not core, is not differentiated, and is probably 25 years behind where the industry is today. As a Product Manager, itd be very hard to justify that investment.

Yes, platforms cost money. But in the long run, these costs are small compared to what itll cost you to build your own.

Also ask yourself if that functionality can wait. One of the big advantages of jumping onto a platform is that you piggy-back on their growth. Top companies have hundreds of developers working on enhancements and new functionality.

When people talk about IoT platforms, they usually launch into technical jargon like transport protocols, rules engines, data lakes, etc. While all thats important and should be considered at some point, it doesnt really make clear how a platform can help you.

Ultimately, you are looking to build a partnership with one of these companies. Its a complex decision, and you cant make it alone. Itll require you to work closely with various groups in your company including Engineering, UX, Data Science, Finance, and more.

Building your own IoT infrastructure means wasting time and money, and jeopardizes the quality of your product.

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By using a platform, youll save costs because youll have more functionality with less engineering effort, sooner. And you can focus your development efforts on what really matters: your core value proposition.

Daniel Elizalde is the founder of TechProductManagement, where he trains Product Managers around the world to become highly successful at managing IoT products. He is the author of the leading blog on IoT Product Management, and the creator of the IoT Decision Framework. Daniel teaches this framework through his online course: The IoT Product Manager and also teaches the popular course Product Management for the Internet of Things at Stanford Continuing Studies.

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IoT is risky enough as it is. Trusting the core of your product to an unknown company might backfire. Make sure you evaluate their reputation, stability, financials, and track record.

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Connect to the cloud to send data / receive commands

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Acquire data from the real world (via sensors)

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Rich Mironov debunks the do it yourself illusionin this great post.

As of today, there are hundreds of IoT platforms available in the market, with more coming out every day. In fact, according toIoT Analytics, there are over 360 platforms out there today, so youll need to do your research.

. Adopting a new platform is not a trivial thing. Look for companies that have a strong solutions team (or professional services) that can train your team, help you with the architecture, and handhold you through the proof of concept stage.

Command the things to perform specific tasks based on insights

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Although this post talks about software and hardware platforms, the build vs. buy decision is a business conversation. Therefore, based on myIoT Decision Framework, we are here:

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Think about it. IoT platform vendors have large teams of developers improving features, fixing bugs, and making sure their offering is rock solid. By leveraging their work, the quality and stability of your product will ride the wave of their investment.

Based on this simplified description, a good IoT platform should provide the tools and infrastructure to cover as many of these tasks as possible. For example, if you select a platform thats very strong on analytics, but doesnt help you in getting data from the devices to the cloud, then youll have a big gap.

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