3 Steps To Choosing The Right IoT Vendor

3 Steps To Choosing The Right IoT Vendor
by Padraig Scully on 10-30-2016 at 8:00 pm

There are thousands of contrasting IoT vendors in the market today. A strong push from hardware companies, communication providers, independent software vendors, system integrators, startups and IoT cloud platforms (of which there are360+ competing providers in this market alone) has resulted in a complex and confusing market. As a result, it can be difficult for an OEM to evaluate which IoT vendor is the best fit for their connected solutions. But this is a very important decision that will shape an OEMs’ IoT journey as they will likely be reliant on that vendor for years to come.

The process of identifying the right IoT vendor was recently analyzed as part of an industry white paper we published with the title “Guide to IoT solution development”. In the white paper, we discuss the IoT Solution development process across 5 major phases:

[LIST=1]

  • Business case
  • Build vs. Buy Decision
  • Proof of Concept
  • Piloting
  • Commercial Deployment

    According to the paper, there are three important steps to choosing the right IoT Vendor:

    [LIST=1]

  • Mapping the engineering requirements
  • Deciding on build vs. buy
  • In case of buy: Selecting the actual vendor

    1. Requirements Engineering– Understanding what is needed for your IoT Solution.
    Assuming you have nailed the business case (i.e., you have a clear vision for your IoT solution) and have double checked the basic assumptions (i.e., expected ROI) for your business case you will need to formalize your engineering requirements. This is necessary (at least on a high level) so that you can craft the right IoT initiative for your organization, perform the Build vs. Buy decision and consult the right vendors or partners.

    a). Asking the right questions

    Firstly, you should come up with answers to operational questions such as:

    • What end points will provide the data?
    • What data points should be collected?
    • Which analyses will generate strategic insights?
    • Which enterprise systems need to be connected?
    • What services do I need to offer?

    IoT needs to be thought through from end-to-end or device-to-cloud. Keep in mind that the true value of IoT solutions resides in the data generated by your connected products – from which you derive actionable intelligence and feed timely insights back into products, processes, and operations to transform the entire business.

    b). Mapping the requirements by area
    As a second step, you should make a rough draft of your end-to-end solution according to 5 distinct layers: 1. Device, 2. Communication, 3. Cloud Services, 4. Applications, and cross-layer 5. Security. (For more details on the 5 layers see our white paper). For each component ask questions such as: Do we have the technology expertise in-house? Can we keep pace with the technology evolution and future customer requirements?

    For example, it is important to know how much data will be generated, in which form and how fast it will be retrieved. This will determine which kind of database and storage solution is required and whether you will be able to build this on top of your existing data infrastructure or not.

    2. The Build vs. Buy decision

    After assessing the engineering requirements, you need to decide which components of the solution you want to build from scratch. In many cases, it is beneficial to work with existing solutions by third-party vendors i.e., out-of-the-box solutions.IoT projects increasingly rely on existing out-of-the-box solutions

    The paper highlights that recently more and more IoT projects rely on existing out-of-the-box solutions.

    WHY COMPANIES GO WITH “OUT-OF-THE-BOX” SOLUTIONS

    Benefits & Reasoning:

    • Quicker Time To Market — Critical infrastructure in place by default.
    • Access to crucial skills — Readily available partner network with expertise across domains.
    • Secure by design — Secure development lifecycle builds in security from outset
    • Optimized to work with wider ecosystem — Aligned with industry standards across partner ecosystems e.g., IIC
    • Scale with ease — Modularized and optimized for large scale deployments
    • Enable a more end-to-end offering — Multiple parts work together from one vendor e.g., OS, Cloud, Analytics

    Before deciding to go with an out-of-the-box solution, companies should however evaluate the related costs as well as the threat of becoming “locked-in”. Being “locked-in” with the wrong vendor may strip away certain degrees of freedom in the overall solution or lead to uncontrollable support, maintenance and customization costs in the long run.

    Most vendors offer the ability to perform an initial pilot trial. While companies may initially test some features for free, it should be noted that a certain budget needs to be planned in for the pilot phase as some integration effort and data modelling is always necessary to get the pilot project up and running.

    3. The vendor selection

    There are numerous reasons to choose one IoT solution vendor over another. In an industry survey we asked 144 companies currently building IoT Solutions: Which vendor is primarily in the lead to co-ordinate your IoT solution development?

    Most companies looking to IoT Cloud Platforms for solution development:

    The analysis shows that most companies developing IoT solutions see IoT Cloud / Platform companies in the lead (29%). While 21% of respondents see no vendor in the lead, instead they are building in-house. (See Exhibit). However, finding the most suitable IoT Cloud / Platform vendor is difficult with hundreds of competing providers in the market today.

    One should also note, at this point (Q3/2016) there is no single IoT vendor that can provide the complete end-to-end out-of-the-box solution. However, as our 2016 IoT platforms market report verifies some companies offer more than others and together with their partner ecosystem some can provide complete end-to-end IoT solution support.

    Comparing key IoT Solution vendors
    Correctly assessing the capabilities of each possible vendor against your requirements definition is crucial for your selection. While there are hundreds of existing Enterprise IoT projects, the use case at hand determines your solution requirements, the vendor selection process largely depends on the components the vendors offer and how they fit into your solution.

    To assist companies in better understanding the offerings of IoT Solution Vendors, we showcase a high-level comparison of 8 major IoT solution providers including Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Intel, GE, Google, PTC and SAP.

    The complete comparison as well as other best practices for OEMs, ODMs, and device manufacturers on how to transform their companies and build solid IoT Solutions can be found in the “Guide to IoT solution development” which is available for download free of charge.

    More IoT Articles on SemiWiki!