Architecting connected ecosystems requires a new technology stack
Building a successful connected product is far more complex than your standard digital service or CPG product. IoT requires the architecting of a complex ‘connected ecosystem’, comprised of multiple edge devices, a responsive platform, and the careful analysis of multiple data streams.
This means that, much like the ‘smart shelves’ example, user data must be distributed seamlessly across multiple platforms or devices. And in an age where user privacy is of utmost importance, with significant data leaks leading to PR nightmares, the technical complexity only increases exponentially from here.
The new technology stack breaks your IoT product into two distinct layers.
1. The Edge layer
Edge devices allow users to connect to and transfer data across a network, moving computing closer to consumers. This, in turn, allows them to remain engaged with your product, so you can collect as much data as possible. The most common kinds of edge devices include:
Third-party standardized edge devices: These include standard mobile phones and web browsers.
Third-party non-standardized edge devices: These collect unique data to enable smarter connected services for customers.
First-party edge devices: These are edge devices that your company develops itself.
2. Platform layer
Regardless of type, the edge device operates by connecting to a cloud-based IoT platform. This platform collects data from the edge device, stores it, and uses it to unearth business insights and trigger automatic processes.
“The relationship between a platform and the apps that are built on it is symbiotic. They need each other more than one needs the other.”
—IoT expert, Julien Genestoux
A robust IoT platform enables companies to rapidly develop multiple connected products and iterate on those products quickly—a very attractive proposition for organizations in the product space. To serve these organizations, several top companies have developed Platform as a Service (PaaS) IoT frameworks—vendors like AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, Cisco Jasper, GE Predix, IBM Watson, and Salesforce.
Introducing dramatic changes to your platform
To compete successfully in the connected world (and to protect your company’s reputation) your IoT platform must be built, or rearchitected, with the following in mind:
- Edge device management: Your digital platform must be able to connect with, monitor, manage, control, and extract data from connected devices, of which there may be an enormous number, and which may be located in remote areas with spotty connectivity.
- Security: Your platform must handle security and encryption for end-to-end communication, and it must be bulletproof.
- Over-the-air updates: Your platform must be able to send updates to and from edge devices on the fly, potentially without user intervention.
- Interoperability: Loosely defined, interoperability is the ability of two or more entities to interact and exchange information. Your platform must maximize interoperability across your entire ecosystem.
- Scalability: Network resources must be used efficiently. Your platform must feature standards-based solutions for utilizing automation and horizontal device management.