Connecting Devices to Cloud IoT Platform-as-a-Service:
Challenges and Solution

Connecting Devices to Cloud IoT Platform-as-a-Service: Challenges and Solution

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In 2020 there will be 15 Billion connected devices and possibly higher as more vendors are building connected products. In our experience, key challenge is not a number of devices, instead of the ability of these devices to feature heterogeneity, security, and diversity across multiple industries. Instead, it is reliably addressing the heterogeneity, security, and diversity of constantly evolving IoT devices.

In effect, enterprises and OEMs want to integrate multiple systems to achieve efficiencies, which requires continuous data collection from multiple sensors later to be consumed by applications to make intelligent business decisions. To facilitate interaction among connected devices and business applications, there comes evolution of IoT Gateways and Cloud-based IoT Platforms.

Challenges: Connecting IoT Device to Cloud Services

Billions of devices are connected today, but not all are able to communicate with cloud-based applications or platform.  These devices are known as “Edge” devices, which can be hardware sensors, consumer appliances, industrial controllers, or other industrial devices residing on private or potentially proprietary networks.  And, to develop a path for information flow from these Edge devices to the gateway to cloud services brings several challenges, which includes:

  • Connected Devices built using Diverse Hardware Platforms: OEMs put in an excessive amount of time and resources on the hardware platforms that involves sophisticated processors, optimal memory, efficient power management, multiple sensors, and many other electronics modules along with embedded software applications and embedded operating systems.
  • Reducing Network Latency: Many IoT devices send data at a very high rate which can sometimes swamp available network bandwidth. This requires a powerful networking topology architecture that enables faster device-to-cloud communications. For an example, the temperature sensors send hundreds of bytes in a fraction of seconds which could generate Terra Bytes of data in a single month, generating potentially very large data transport cost.
  • Complexities in Gateway Orchestration / Data Routing: Potential flood of data over a variety of proprietary network protocols can be dealt via gateways for seamless edge devices connectivity. But, Converting the data into a common format sending to multiple systems/applications simultaneously, possibly using different methods or protocols is a challenge in itself. Moreover, Gateways need to incorporate specific rules or orchestrations which helps an application to define what data is actionable and which data is redundant based on specific business requirements.
The Solution: Building unified Cloud IoT Platform-as-a-Service that connect multiple devices to Cloud Services

IoT platforms host a comprehensive suite of integrated technologies that enable OEMs and enterprises to easily and quickly configure and manage almost any IoT product deployment. The cloud based IoT platform enables enterprises to connect diverse hardware-platform based devices, collect Terra Bytes of data and send processed and contextual data to different cloud applications that can scale from simple proof-of-concept to full commercial deployment across diverse industries. But, on the other side its reliability, scalability, and robustness are constantly questioned. Any IoT cloud platform should involve the following key features into it:

  • Device Connectivity: IoT cloud platform allows out-of-box connectivity using different protocols using MQTT, AMQP (both over WebSocket) and HTTPS along with prebuilt patterns for BLE, Zigbee, Thread, and more along with protocol conversion functions.
  • Device Management: IoT cloud platform provides out-of-box strong device management mechanism to provision and connects list of devices, track their operational status with an ability to handle configuration, firmware updates and manage device level error reporting and handling as it keeps devices and sensors up to date and functional.
  • Data Collection: IoT cloud platform services enable bi-directional data transfer from remote devices to cloud web services by ingesting many different data formats and types, normalizing the incoming data, and storing it. Further, cloud IoT platform-as-service makes it easy for manufacturers to understand a connected product’s performance and end users’ experience, that will enable them to provide better customer service, reduce their support and maintenance costs, offer new value-added services and features to end-users, and improve the design and functionality of future products.
  • End-to-end Security: To ensure end-to-end security of IoT solution, IoT Platform facilitates layered security right from sensors and hardware platform to network topology to cloud based software platform with features like RSA key-based device authentication and verification, secure web-socket, fully encrypted sessions over a wireless local-area network (WLAN), SSL powered HTTPS protocol, password protected secured access to IoT Platform. The cloud platform ensures that
    • only authorized users can gain access to a particular connected device;
    • end users’ data access is blocked by unauthorized entities;
    • cloud data access is prevented by another cloud entity;
    • user’s network is safeguarded from hacking and phishing attempts.
Build vs. Buy Approach: Selecting right Cloud IoT Platform-as-a-Service implementation strategy
Evaluation Criteria Build Buy

Scalability
  • This approach helps when you want to connect a selected number of products across limited product lines with an ability to scale as per business needs.
  • This approach helps when deploying millions of products across dozens of product lines, manufacturers should be confident that their IoT platform will scale automatically, securely, cost-effectively, and without hiccups.
  • With an SOA Architecture, each part of the system can be changed independently, providing better flexibility and improved scalability.

Interoperability
  • It requires on-demand and time-consuming updates to ensure that devices don’t live in silos but can continue to interact with selected 3rd party devices, protocols, applications, and cloud services as long as they don’t change.
  • It demands dedicated time and efforts to operate, maintain, and enhance it by own throughout its entire lifetime.
  • It evolves with others, to prevent it from becoming a silo or dead end when it comes to integration with multiple devices, industry-leading third-party cloud services such as CRM, voice, ERP and more or keeping pace with evolving standards, protocols, and latest security updates.

Security
  • Manufacturers need to ensure secure and responsive connectivity for different vulnerable attacks while provisioning, controlling or making remote software updates for the connected device
  • It promotes the quality, security, performance and reliability of the product’s cloud connectivity, device connectivity, and mobile or web application control through SSL secure REST APIs.

Faster Time-to-market
  • It is easy to connect and control existing configured devices but cumbersome process when introducing new devices in ecosystem.
  • It involves vendor dependency to accommodate new devices and increase time-to-market in some cases.
  • Easy onboarding with on-demand developer community support to expedite the new device’s connectivity.
  • Can enable the launch of IoT products quickly – before competitors.

Performance Evaluation
  • To provide scalable and highly responsive experiences to meet customer’s expectations, manufacturers will have to hire cloud DevOps to operate and monitor the solution that deliver results at higher performance.
  • It is built using powerful cloud computing services which resolves the performance bottlenecks by adding the overhead of virtual machines, possibility to share one physical machine with several virtual machines and with multi-tenancy infra-structure.

Analytics – Actionable Business Intelligence
  • It requires building customized analytics and reports by own or with the help of third party services. Adding a new report might take time and effort if it is not built using modular or customizable approach and at times it requires vendor dependency.
  • Provides few out-of-box analytics capabilities for generic use cases such as devices are likely to fail, as well as how customers use your products with very few customizations required.
  • Need to engage BI/Big Data Analytics experts to integrate third-party services for customized reports.

Regulations 
and Compliances
  • It requires time and huge efforts along with industry expertise to comply with laws and regulations
  • It offers easy out-of-box compliances with HIPPA, FDA, and other standards.

Pricing
  • It is saves money drastically over the years with no device based costing and offers the options to save on infrastructure costs. But, it involves customization and maintenance overheads.
  • It costs as per usage and the amount of data you store.  So, you might end-up paying more if you connect multiple similar devices transferring .
Summary:

To conclude, IoT cloud platforms are revolutionizing businesses-models as we know it with rapid adoption and expansion.

In our experience, most manufacturers will find that building an IoT platform, considering all the factors and skills involved in the process would be too difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. To jump-start IoT projects with confidence, OEM and enterprises leverage industry-leading and most well-known platforms that are tested for readiness, compatibility, and usability.

About VOLANSYS:

Volansys is a one-stop solution enabler having expertise in implementation of IoT Products with end-to-end IoT system engineering services. We build solutions comprising of custom hardware development for embedded systems combined with custom cloud platform, mobile apps, and performance tuning. Volansys IoT platform partnerships include Ayla Networks, EVRYTHNG, ClearBlade, ThingWorx, Arrayent, Samsung ARTIK, IBM Watson and People Power. Volansys has extensive experience of implementing IoT solutions for diverse domains including Industrial IoT(IIoT), Manufacturing, Healthcare, Smart Appliances for Home & Office, Smart Energy Devices, Automobile, Freight & Logistics, and Smart Consumer Devices.

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