The Internet of Things needs a strong backbone for the many billions of connected devices and apps most prognosticators expect. Find out which companies are building the IoT behind the scenes.
By pretty much any account, the Internet of Things will be huge, with 25 billion connected "things" by 2020, according to Gartner. IoT will become a $7 trillion business in that same year, predicts research firm IDC.
IoT, like mobile, will ultimately be about devices and apps -- both business users and consumers really just want to know: "What is this, and how can it help me?" Not too many people really care about how their iPhone or the apps they use on it work; they just care that it all works.
Just like with mobile, IoT devices and apps, from smart parking meters to connected cars to a kitchen that you can control from your phone to just about any other scenario you can imagine, require infrastructure: All of the behind-the-scenes stuff that ultimately enables and powers the end user. From processors and other hardware components, to wireless technologies and other networking needs, to connectivity management and app enablement platforms, massive IoT growth will require comparably significant infrastructure development.
We wanted to know who's doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes for this latest installment in our Top in Tech series. It was actually not an easy question to answer, because definitions and categorization around IoT remain relatively new and quite fluid. So we asked for some help.
Techaisle principal analyst Anurag Agrawal told us there are seven key categories in IoT infrastructure:
- Security and privacy
- Data analytics and management
- Data integration (sharing of data across a massive number of devices)
- Governance (new rules and processes)
- Data transportation (bandwidth and pipes required to transport data between devices and compute engines)
- Computing near the data (as large amounts of data get created it is better to bring computing closer to the data)
- Power (powering 25 billion-plus devices)
Who's addressing those areas? "Each and every IT and telecom company is addressing either one or all of the above key areas," Agrawal said.
Apparently, we needed to set a few additional ground rules in our search for IoT infrastructure leaders. For starters, we're not including companies focused on industry-specific devices such as the connected car or smart vending machines. Likewise, we're setting aside some big names in tech -- think Microsoft, Oracle, Google, and IBM -- because this list isn't focused on cloud computing or software, per se.
Steve Hilton, co-founder and president at MachNation, which specializes in IoT and related technologies, noted a company like IBM "has pieces for the IoT puzzle, but [they're] software and cloud-based rather than hardware." We're focusing on the hardware side of things. Lastly, we tried to strike a balance between household names and smaller firms that most people outside of the industry probably haven't heard of.
With those parameters in mind, we asked Agrawal and Hilton for their picks. Consider this a living list of IoT infrastructure leaders rather than the be-all, end-all. Both analysts noted there are many, many more companies working on IoT. Moreover, the frontier is evolving quickly. "Things can always change in the IoT world," Hilton said.
Have your own picks for IoT infrastructure leaders that we didn't include here? Tell us about them in the comments.
(Image: jeferrb, via Pixabay)
-- Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.
Both Agrawal and Hilton quickly named Intel. Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to talk about IoT infrastructure without including the chip-making giant. Hilton said Intel is one of the "leaders in IoT gateway-based hardware. Many IoT solutions use gateways at the edge, because these enterprise gateways are highly secure, well supported today in the enterprise and can support a variety of sensor types, [such as] video cameras, equipment sensors, [and] biometric devices." Hilton adds that Intel, like Cisco (they're the next slide), also has more complete IoT solutions that incorporate their own gateway devices.
(Image: Intel Free Press)
Hilton places Cisco in the same leadership group as Intel. The tech giant was an early entrant in the IoT race because its large footprint in networking and related areas gave it an advantage. Cisco has further tried to establish that leadership identity with its own all-encompassing term for IoT: "Internet of Everything" (IoE).
"Cisco is well-known because it was one of the first to make noise in the industry, they even called it IoE instead of IoT," Agrawal said. "Cisco is at the core of IoT technology as it provides routers, switches and security solutions."
(Image: Cisco, via Instagram)
Those 25 billion "things" are going to need a few processors. "ARM is a leader in IoT processors and related technology," Hilton said. ARM is responsible for producing the chip-level processing associated with IoT hardware devices. "They have a strong device-level IoT security and provide both high- and low-powered processing hardware options for IoT," Hilton said.
(Image: ARM )
"Telit is a leader in IoT modules," Hilton said. The company produces the communications modules that are used in many 2G, 3G and 4G-backhauled IoT devices. "Telit also has a more complete IoT solution that includes a platform and resold communications from a variety of mobile network operators [MNOs]," said Hilton.
Hilton places Ericsson, along with Jasper (next slide), in the "connectivity management platform" category for IoT infrastructure. They provide the platforms telecom carriers use to manage the SIMs or connectivity elements on a edge device. Both have large carrier customers and provide ancillary services.
Jasper is all-in on IoT, dubbing itself and its SaaS platform "the ON Switch for IoT." Like Ericsson, it boasts an existing customer base that will be hungry for IoT services: Jasper has more than 2,000 current customers and partnerships with more than 100 MNOs around the globe.
Cumulocity, as with the three companies that follow, all fit Hilton's definition of IoT appplication-enablement platforms (AEPs), "the platforms that enterprises use to aggregate, visualize and analyze IoT sensor data." Many firms in this category also offer solutions for managing IoT devices -- not the SIMs but the devices themselves, Hilton added.
"Cumulocity has a horizontal platform with overall excellent features, technology, UI/UX, APIs and developer approach," Hilton said.
Davra, which has long partnered with Cisco, earlier this year signed on as an IoT Management and AEP provider for Cisco's SolutionsPlus Program, which enables Cisco customers to buy non-Cisco products and services from the Cisco sales force as part of a broader technology acquisition.
"Davra Networks has a gateway-centric platform that manages IoT hardware devices and the IoT LAN network environment, a nice selling point," Hilton said.
"2lemetry is a platform we identified at end of 2014 as a leader [in IoT] and has recently been acquired by Amazon," Hilton said. (We guess that means MachNation was right?) Neither company said much about the deal publicly, but TechCrunch, which first reported the acquisition back in March, described it as a building block in Amazon's own IoT strategy.
IoT will contribute significantly to continued exponential growth of data -- and plenty of companies will want to mine that data for business value and insights. Cyberlightning offers a visual approach. "Cyberlightning focusing on data visualization for IoT solutions with a particularly interesting 3D visualization tool.