10 Leaders In Internet Of Things Infrastructure

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.

Network Computing Editors

September 15, 2016

10 Slides

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.

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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.

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