Point of View

A reality check on who is winning the IoT platform battle

June 27, 2018

The IoT services market is still nascent in terms of technology fragmentation (over 500 IoT platforms*) and services provision. Despite rapid advancements across standards, platforms, techniques, infrastructure, devices, architecture, and security, a diverse ecosystem is evolving to provide the “customer solution.”

 

The Internet of Things has made tremendous advances in the past 18 months in every aspect: standards, platforms, techniques, infrastructure, devices, architecture, security, ecosystems, partnership networks, communication standards, acquisitions, practical project experience, diversity of application, and integration with “new” technologies. But we are many years away from platform standardization as we see in the world of PCs and mobiles. IoT platforms are analogous with PC and mobile operating systems.  Windows and MacOS dominate the world of PCs and iOS and Android dominate the world of mobiles. By comparison, there are over 500 IoT platforms in the market today.

 

We analyzed 250 IoT engagements across 27 service providers in the recently published HfS Blueprint on IoT Services. We came across 30 different platforms frequently used by service providers in their IoT engagements. Microsoft Azure emerged as the winner, followed by Amazon AWS, PTC Thing Worx, IBM Watson, and GE Predix. Other top platforms were SAP, Huawei, MindSphere, Google, Oracle, and Hitachi (Exhibit 1).

 

Exhibit 1: IoT Platforms – The Winners and the Challengers

Source: HfS Research, 2018 || Sample size =250  IoT projects

 

There are over 500 IoT platforms, and new ones seem to come out each day promising a seamless conduit between connected devices and user applications. All platform vendors declare that theirs is the best, providing features and capabilities that exceed everything else! 

 

This PoV focuses on the top 5 most used IoT platforms who are the current “winners” in the IoT platform space. We also profile six other “challengers” that are competing successfully with the top 5 and have the potential to become the market leader over time.

 

The Winners account for nearly 65% of the IoT engagements

 

Exhibit 2: The IoT Platform Winners: Key features

Source: HfS Research, 2018  || *Based on 250  IoT projects

 

No. 1: Microsoft Azure IoT Platform

 

“Azure IoT Hub is the bridge between customers’ devices and their solutions in the cloud, allowing them to store, analyze and act on that data in real time.”

–Sam George, Partner director for Azure IoT, Microsoft

  

Azure IoT Suite is a Microsoft cloud computing-based IoT platform launched in 2016. It is an end-to-end platform that provides comprehensive IoT solutions to various industries and enterprises for streamlining their business processes. Microsoft offers an Azure IoT Suite that combines several services such as IoT Hub, Machine Learning, Stream Analytics, Notifications Hubs, and Power BI to build powerful IoT solutions. Microsoft is being careful to ensure that Azure IoT can be used with any type of device. With the Windows 10 IoT core, a slimmed down version of Windows 10 designed specifically to run on IoT devices, Microsoft is positioning itself as a whole solution IoT provider. It provides a large ecosystem for IoT project development along with a new set of features and capabilities that surpasses those of its competitors.  Azure IoT Suite is as a turnkey solution by Microsoft that customers can implement. The offering can be customized to fit the unique needs of organizations. It also provides finished applications to speed the deployment of common scenarios we see across many industries, such as remote monitoring, asset management, and predictive maintenance, while offering the ability to grow and scale solutions to millions of “things.”As per our analysis, smart city is the vertical with the most number of engagements for the Azure IoT platform.

 

No. 2: Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT Platform

  

“The promise of the Internet of Things is to make everyday products smarter for consumers, and for businesses to enable better, data-driven offerings that weren’t possible before. World-leading organizations like Philips, NASA JPL, and Sonos already use AWS services to support the back-end of their IoT applications.”

— Marco Argenti (Vice President, Mobile and IoT, AWS)

 

Launched in 2015, it got its strong market holding due to the fact that the AWS cloud was launched in 2002, long before its competitors Google and Microsoft entered the cloud space. AWS cloud holds a share of around 47% in the public cloud share. They were the first to turn cloud computing into a commodity. Since then, they’ve put a lot of effort into innovation and building features and have the most comprehensive set of tools available. IoT is a platform that enables devices to connect to AWS Services and other devices, secure data and interactions, process and act upon device data, and enable applications to interact with devices even when they are offline. AWS IoT integrates with Lambda, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon S3, Amazon Machine Learning, and Amazon Dynamo DB to build IoT applications, manage infrastructure, and analyze data. AWS is the leader in web services and wants to head the IoT space as well. While Amazon probably has the most comprehensive service, it can also be expensive. For AWS, most engagements were from the connected industry sector. It also provides a wide variety of SDK facilities as compared to its competitors. 

 

No. 3: PTC-ThingWorx IoT Platform

 

“PTC is committed to leading the convergence of the physical and digital worlds by making IoT and augmented reality (AR) accessible, intuitive, and robust. With ThingWorx, companies can transform their businesses and capitalize on the power of IoT and AR faster than ever.”

— Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC

 

PTC acquired ThingWorx, an award-winning platform for building and running applications for the Internet of Things, at a cost of approximately $112 million in December 2013. The acquisition of ThingWorx positioned PTC as a major player in the IoT market. ThingWorx is a platform for the rapid development and deployment of smart, connected devices. It’s a set of integrated IoT development tools that support connectivity, analysis, production, and other aspects of IoT development. It is an enterprise-ready technology platform that enables innovators to rapidly develop and deploy smart, connected solutions for the Internet of Things. It is available only by subscription model which gives customers the benefits of faster access to new ThingWorx features and enhancements, flexibility, lower upfront costs, and cloud deployment options. PTC’s ThingWorx software still constitutes a smaller fraction of total revenue. It remained PTC’s fastest-growing business, growing 33 percent year over year in the second quarter to $29 million.

 

It has the most number of engagements with the smart city segment and gives the widest choice of protocols to its customers. ThingWorx’s latest version 8 comes with deeper cloud support and integration with AWS and Microsoft Azure. It also comes with improved industrial connectivity, native anomaly detection, and the option of getting professional support services.

 

No. 4: IBM Watson IoT Platform

                                   

“The Internet of Things is making an enormous impact on our lives and helping to spur even deeper levels of innovation for those developing the connected devices and products of our future, IBM is helping knock down the barriers to getting started with IoT, making it accessible for clients as they begin their digital transformation.”

— Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson IoT, Commerce and Education

 

IBM Watson IoT Platform is a service that is available in IBM Cloud. It’s a fully managed, cloud-hosted service with capabilities for device registration, connectivity, control, rapid visualization, and data storage. IBM is offering a configured IoT platform for different things like buildings, lifts, and vehicles, which is an exception to most of the major public cloud providers who offer a similar platform with only small differences. IBM can also demonstrate the power of cognitive analytics in the Internet of Things. The addition of Watson provides cognitive computing, machine intelligence, and learning to allow organizations to derive meaningful analysis from the data generated by IoT endpoints. Thus, IBM has come to market with an end-to-end offering that provides the tools, services, and partners to enable IoT across industry transformation, applications and solutions, platforms, and devices and networks. As per our analysis of IoT projects, we understood that connected health acts as the topmost vertical for the IBM IoT platform. It also provides the highest number of SDK options among its competitors.

 

No. 5: GE-Predix IoT Platform

 

“Predix is a platform-as-a-service (platform) based upon Pivotal Software Inc.’s Cloud Foundry that is tuned to the unique requirements to industrial applications. Among those are the need to process many different types of data on different schedules and in different locations with goals ranging from improving efficiency to predicting failure to optimizing logistics. And that processing may have to be done under the harshest of environments, such as inside a jet engine at 35,000 feet or on a remote oil rig in the North Sea.”

—John Magee, Former Vice President Product Marketing

 

Launched in 2015, Predix is General Electric’s software platform for the collection and analysis of data from industrial machines. Predix is a cloud-based PaaS which claims to enable industrial-scale analytics for asset performance management (APM) and operations optimization by providing a standard way to connect machines, data, and people. GE is a member of the Industrial Internet Consortium which works to aid the development and use of industrial internet technologies. According to GE, “Predix Cloud will focus on providing a platform for developers to unlock an industrial app economy that delivers more value to machines, fleets, and factories.” GE calls Predix “the world’s first and only cloud solution designed specifically for industrial data and analytics.” According to our analysis, Predix is mainly used in the connected industry segment with a market share of around 6% overall.

 

The share of winners varies across industry verticals

 

As per our analysis of 250 engagements across 27 service providers, Microsoft Azure came out to be a leader among all platforms. Exhibit 3 shows the different industry segments and share of the top 5 platforms in those segments. AWS stands second or third in all industry verticals. Predix is strong in connected industries, IBM is strong in connected cars and connected health, whereas PTC is strong in smart city and connected health.

 

Among industry verticals, smart city emerged to be the segment with the most number of IoT engagements followed by connected industry, connected car, connected health, smart energy, and retail respectively, as shown in Exhibit 3.

 

Exhibit 3: IoT platform share across key industry verticals

Source: HfS Research, 2018  || Sample size =250  IoT projects

 

Watch out for the Challengers

 

Exhibit 4: The IoT Platform Challengers: Key features

Source: HfS Research, 2018 ||*Based on 250  IoT projects

 

SAP Leonardo IoT Platform

 

“SAP is helping customers map their journeys through digital transformation, and the IoT has the potential to drive the largest segment of growth in new business value, we offer the right solution infrastructure and are committed to building the strongest, most comprehensive ecosystem for the IoT in the industry. Our robust platform and line-of-business and industry applications for the IoT enable customers to improve their operational efficiency and transform their business models.”

— Tanja Rueckert, SAP President Business Unit IoT & Digital Supply Chain

 

SAP cloud IoT platform was launched in 2015, with a revamped version launched as SAP Leonardo in 2017. SAP cloud platform is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that allows SAP customers and partners to build and deploy cloud and on-premise extensions, integrations, and new innovative applications in SAP data centers around the world. The SAP cloud IoT platform is an in-memory IoT platform that can help to quickly develop, deploy, and manage real-time IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. The SAP Leonardo platform delivers capabilities to create and scale new intelligent applications by leveraging the IoT, machine learning, big data analytics, and even blockchain technologies. SAP Leonardo is a digital innovation system, which combines design thinking services, machine learning, big data, the IoT, data intelligence, blockchain, and analytics to run the enterprise smoother. It is one of the biggest competitors in the space of IoT platforms and has been working aggressively to expand newer technology. The launch of SAP Leonardo is considered as the biggest move the company has made since SAP HANA. Much of the engagement of SAP platforms was found to be in the connected industry space.

 

Google IoT Platform

 

“As part of our IoT integration strategy, Google Cloud IoT Core has helped us focus our engineering efforts on building oil and gas applications by leveraging existing IoT services to enable fast, reliable, and economical deployment. We have been able to build quick prototypes by connecting a large number of devices over MQTT and perform real-time monitoring using Cloud Dataflow and Big Query.”

— Chetan Desai, VP Digital Technology, Schlumberger Limited

 

Recently in February 2018, Google Cloud IoT Core was launched in full scale. Cloud IoT Core is a fully managed service that allows to easily and securely connect, manage, and ingest data from millions of globally dispersed devices. Cloud IoT Core, in combination with other services on the Google Cloud IoT platform, provides a complete solution for collecting, processing, analyzing, and visualizing IoT data in real-time to support improved operational efficiency. Cloud IoT Core sits on top of the Google Cloud Platform and is marketed as having an edge over its rivals through its focus on “intelligence.” Google has partnered with and is in the process of partnering with more organizations on both the device side (including Cisco, Intel, and Sierra Wireless) and the application side (including Agosto, Foghorn, and Losant) to help customers find hardware and build solutions using IoT Core and other Google services. Most of the engagements were from the smart city segment. To be precise, we can describe Google as a sleeping giant with enormous potential to become a significant rival for the other players in this space.

 

Oracle IoT Platform

 

“To stay competitive, organizations need to rethink API management and service integration across cloud, mobile and IoT initiatives. With Oracle Cloud Platform’s comprehensive suite of integration services, we are able to help our customers increase business agility by improving productivity, lowering costs, and ultimately accelerating innovation.”

— Amit Zavery, Senior Vice President, Cloud Platform and Integration products at Oracle

 

The Oracle Internet of Things (IoT) Cloud Service was launched in 2016 and is a managed Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud-based offering that helps to make critical business decisions and strategies by allowing devices to connect to the cloud, analyze data from those devices in real time, and integrate data with enterprise applications, web services, or with other Oracle Cloud Services such as Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service. Oracle offers a range of “IoT Apps” that includes Asset Monitoring, Production Monitoring, Fleet Monitoring, and Connected Worker. Oracle has already been injecting AI capabilities into IoT networks.

 

The best part of connecting an enterprise application with the Oracle IoT Cloud Service is that this can be done fully based upon REST APIs exchanging messages with each other. Having the option to connect to and from the Oracle IoT Cloud Service in a loosely coupled way using REST APIs makes complete new models possible. For the Oracle IoT platform, much of the engagement was from the smart city segment. Oracle’s newer version of the IoT platform comes up with a full set application such as Asset Monitoring, Production Monitoring, Fleet Monitoring, Connected Worker, and Service Monitoring for Connected Assets, thus showing an inclination toward IIoT.

 

Hitachi IoT Platform

 

“IoT represents a critical inflection point, in which the interests of business, industry, and society are now intersecting and aligning like never before; our repeatable solutions are already helping businesses, cities, municipalities, and industrial companies around the world.”

— Kevin Eggleston, General Manager, Americas, Hitachi Insight Group

 

Hitachi’s IoT Core Platform Lumada was launched in May 2016, with a v2.0 release in Nov 2017 to fully update it with an elegant, portable architecture that enables it to run both on-premises or in the cloud and to support industrial IoT deployments both at the edge and in the core. It is more commonly known as the IIoT platform in competition with IIoT platforms.

 

Most platforms we see are designed to talk to a limited set of IoT devices. Hitachi is doing the hard work to communicate with vast amounts of industrial equipment that were never designed for the internet nor any kind of connectivity. Hitachi has expansive expertise in both operation technology (OT) and information technology (IT) and thus can help customers create customized IoT solutions that are tailored to their unique requirements.

 

For Hitachi, most of the engagements were from the smart city segment. Hitachi Smart Spaces and Video Intelligence is being used by the city to gain data about bike, transit, foot, and vehicle traffic, as well as parking and public safety. Even if they are late in the launching of the IoT platform, they have improved and optimized its Lumada IoT platform. These improvements are based on numerous deployments in proofs-of-concept (POC) and co-creation project engagements with customers and partners as well as in its own factories.

 

Huawei Ocean Connect IoT Platform

 

“With high-speed connections, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based Cloud, the platforms will help industries achieve leapfrog development through intelligent analysis, decision-making, and assistance”.

— William Xu, Director of the Board and Chief Strategy Marketing Officer of Huawei

 

Huawei OceanConnect is an open ecosystem built on the IoT, cloud computing, and big data technologies. Huawei IoT solutions integrates large-granularity industry services. It provides open APIs, service orchestration, and open data to implement a cost-effective and short product development cycle. In the IoT field, Huawei cooperates with IoT partners in creating the oneM2M organization and standardizing service platforms to reduce industry fragmentation. Huawei also promotes 3GPP and GSMA standardization and industrialization of NB-IoT, LTE-Vehicle, and wearable devices. Huawei OceanConnect is working with more partners to build a fully connected world and expand the ecosystem. Huawei is one of the world’s largest suppliers of telephony & networking equipment. Huawei IoT strategy is “1+2+1” which happens to be very telecom-centric. “1+2+1” means 1 IoT platform, 2 (NB-IoT/LTE/5G & Agile Gateways) access methods, and 1 IoT operating system (OS).

 

Most of the engagements of Huawei was from the smart city segment due to the fact that they are strong in connectivity as Huawei is one of the world’s largest suppliers of infrastructure (telephony/networking) equipment. Thus, they are very telecom-centric and dominate the telecom space.

 

MindSphere IoT Platform

 

“By bringing together a worldwide community comprising industrial and IT companies of all sizes from all sectors of industry as well as startups, we aim to establish and drive forward an ecosystem based on MindSphere.

— Jan Mrosik, Chair of the Management Board of MindSphere World and CEO of the Siemens Digital Factory Division,

 

It is an open cloud platform launched by Siemens for the Industrial Internet of Things. OEMs and application developers can access the platform via open interfaces and use it for services and analysis of industrial equipment. It also allows customers to create digital models of their factories with real data from the production process. MindSphere infrastructure uses AWS Azure and SAP HANA as a Cloud platform. Recently in Jan 2018, they launched “MindSphere world” with 19 founding members with the aim to expand the global reach of the ecosystem based on MindSphere. Apart from it, Siemens launched MindSphere Rocket Club to promote IoT startups that can design industry-specific applications to be shared with industry leaders.

 

Mindsphere has the most number of engagements in the connected industry segment. Mindsphere, with the combined global scalability of Siemens and the world’s largest cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, has huge potential in the IIoT space.

 

Bottom Line: Microsoft Azure, Amazon, PTC, IBM, and GE take an early lead in the IoT platform space but there are variations by industry verticals

 

There are countless IoT applications and development platforms with promising capabilities. The tag “Top IoT platform” is subjective and changes from business to business and project to project. Customers often need a standardized end-to-end platform that helps to manage the world of connected devices and applications along with future proofing business. Although there are several options available in the market, choosing the right one would be pretty difficult with the numerous big players coming up with their platforms. With so much change occurring in the IoT space, platform providers need to be very clear about how they differ from their rivals. As per our analysis, Microsoft Azure along with Amazon, PTC, IBM, and GE have taken an early jump as leaders followed by Google, SAP, Oracle, Siemens, Huawei, and Hitachi, which are major competitors having the potential to become leaders in the future. There are differences in platform share across different industries and one way for platforms to differentiate is to focus on a few selected industries.

 

Choosing a platform starts with a good understanding of IoT strategy. Identifying the kinds of business problems that need to be solved and where the biggest challenges are help in the selection of a platform. A comprehensive IoT platform delivers three main capabilities: application enablement, data aggregation & storage, and connectivity management. But till now only a small percentage of platforms has met the criteria as defined to become core IoT Platform. With newer platforms of every shape and size joining the industry, it may become confusing for the customer as there are more than 500 platforms and the number is growing every year. But if a company has a platform that lacks one or more of these layers, it must import them from elsewhere, introducing unnecessary complexity and cost. Thus, a company should select an IoT platform that meets their business needs and permits deployment with minimal disruption to existing systems.

 

People and companies don’t switch platforms very often. So once a platform emerges as the winner, it will be tough for another platform to overtake the winner. It will be interesting to see who wins and who loses the platform war.

  

*We came across 30 different IoT platforms in engagements we analyzed; overall there are more than 500 IoT platforms. 

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