Choosing an IoT Platform Provider

The IoT Landscape is large, fragmented and changing fast. As a consumer, app developer or “thing” maker the amount of choice is bewildering and takes the Paradox of Choice to an anxiety level of eleven.

Matt Turck of FirstMark Capital does a good job of capturing the current ecosystem in his Nascar-like diagram of devices, platform providers and technology building blocks. Matt created this diagram at the end of last year and it’s already out of date.

The Thing Makers are on the march

At the digital agency where I work, we’ve seen a crescendo of requests from clients in the past twelve months to do projects in the IoT space. In particular, from the “thing” makers, aka those companies that are making devices that connect to the internet. Each one has different business and technical needs and constraints but one thing is always the same, the first decision they need to make is which IoT platforms and providers to choose for their architecture.

In helping them make this important decision we’ve developed a robust criteria with which to evaluate platforms and providers. We’ve found it flexible enough to use across different verticals, whether you are targeting personal devices, wearables or industrial scenarios.

8 must-consider criteria for evaluating IoT providers

  1. Business Stability — we ask a number of questions related to the corporate background and stability of any provider. We want them to be around in 12 months!
  2. IoT Standards & Consortiums — we examine which technology standards the provider has adopted and if they use proprietary technology. The goal here is to adopt a platform that is technologically future proof and also provides access to markets that drive specific business goals.
  3. Hosting Model — we look at how they provision environments for customers and which providers they leverage for this. For example, do they provide public or private cloud options and who provides their underlying infrastructure.
  4. External Communication — the ability to develop on top of a platform is important for customization and we ask how extensive their API coverage is and to what extent is it standardized.
  5. Big Data — Again, flexibility is the key here, so we look at how data is stored and how flexible the storage model is in addition to extraction and reporting tools that might be available.
  6. Trust — Particularly in the consumer market, trust is very important. We want to know about policies and track record for security and privacy of user data.
  7. Device Communication — There are various ways that IoT devices can communicate with the cloud and each has its advantages and disadvantages. We want to know how they support connections and communications to IoT devices both in the cloud and local (M2M).
  8. Device Management — does their platform and hardware modules (if available) make it easy to support and maintain IoT device remotely including over-the-air updates.

IoT Standards and Consortiums

Probably the most important criteria included above is the IoT Standards and Consortiums.

Like any emerging technology trend, there are a bevy of commercial and not for profit organizations lining up to have a say in how the foundational technologies should be defined and standardized. IoT is no different and we expect that tech companies will lead with platform innovation which will inform points of views among consortium groups and lastly standards-bodies will aggregate and normalize architectures and technologies. An example of this is Nest with its Thread technology group, around which a working group of companies like Samsung, ARM, Freescale and a growing army of companies.

The big question on everyone’s lips is who will win and therefore which consortium and technology approach will become widely adopted by the rest of the ecosystem. A good leading indicator is the mobile platform ecosystem wars as many of the technology players and approaches are the same. In that world, Apple and Google provided the best economic opportunity for participants in the ecosystem by creating a marketplace connecting developers with consumers and simple ways to monetize. In the IoT world, those platforms that provide the easiest way to make money will ultimately win. Apple and Google have literally billions of consumers already on their platforms and just need to connect the dots to unlock that market for their IoT ecosystem partners in order to win.

Since this is so strategic, this evaluation feeds directly into our recommendations for IoT platform providers.

Final Thoughts

As with any technology decision make sure you have full understanding of business and technical constraints and requirements and feed those into your evaluation of IoT providers. This important step will inform the relative importance you place on different criteria and therefore help to focus your efforts leading to a more targeted decision.

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Nike’s timely exit from wearables

fuel band

Nike have exited the wearables market at the perfect time. In launching the Fuel Band, they helped establish a category and set consumer expectations for fitness wearables hardware and software experiences. Oh and they learnt along the way how to plug it in most efficiently into stickiest part of the Nike ecosystem, the data.

“Just last week, Nike announced the launch of its San Francisco-based Fuel Lab. The testing space, born from its accelerator program, will join Nike’s slew of other innovation-branded R&D havens where companies will be able to design hardware products that incorporate the company’s proprietary point-based workout metric, NikeFuel.

Essentially, it will be a incubator for FuelBand successors, as long as they plug in to Nike+, for which Nike is publicly releasing an API this fall.”

Their focus on APIs through public developer programs and exclusive incubators will foster the right level of ecosystem innovation at the hardware level and have it accrue to their core competency – their sports products. Now that manufacturing and prototyping costs have reached a startup friendly level (hello 3D printing), gone is the need to have bucket loads of cash to get a product off the ground. Nike is sensibly dispersing that risk to the ecosystem and focusing on its core products. Bravo.

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Top 3 experiences at SxSW 2014

  1. Game of Thones – “Ascend the Wall”

    Quite simply, stunning. A great use of Oculus Rift, wind machine and rumble floor. As someone who doesn’t like heights, I was surprised I survived (emotionally). Game of Thrones fans will love the way this connects them to the show / brand / location in a new way, beyond just watching from the couch. The exhibit goes on tour soon throughout the US – I recommend checking it out.

    Actress Maisie Williams of

  2. Samsung’s Galaxy Vine Studio

    With the rising popularity of Vine, Samsung cleverly played off the availability of the Vine app on Android by creating a small studio where “Vine Artists” created fun vine videos for visitors and their friends. The results were pretty cool and the process of creating the videos was appealing too – good win for their hardware and app store.


  3. Lightwave at Pepsi

    I’m a a big fan of large, digital / physical installations. Pepsi commissioned a piece, in collaboration with Lightwave that visitors interact with via their brain waves (yup!). Their whole Art meets Data meme is spot on too – as millennial artists begin to gain cultural relevance, they will begin to create experiences that leverage technology more and more: non-interactive mediums will no longer be compelling enough for future generations.

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Modeling User Satisfaction for in-flight wifi

I’m a frequent flier. When in-flight wifi first emerged about 18 months ago on airlines like Alaska and Delta, I was in heaven. I could be productive and stay in touch with colleagues, partners and friends whilst in the air. Fast forward to present day and the experience is unreliable, slow and almost impossible to use. I often just disconnect and ignore that it’s even available.

It got me thinking, at what point does the service level of in-flight wifi drop to levels where it degrades customer satisfaction, to the point where it almost makes more sense to not offer the service in the first place. I’d love to see that model.

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Being emotional about London


I couldn’t help get a bit teary eyed on my flight from Austin to San Francisco today. United (whom I don’t fly with often, but enjoyed their service) and their Hemispheres magazine had a lovely piece on London, positioned as a city steeped in history, culture, art… yes I’m still talking about London, dear reader.

The thing that really got me was the history part. Having been in the USA for nearly four years, and living life at a frenetic pace, I’ve come to appreciate the history, the slower pace of European life amongst other things. The following paragraph filled me with a lot of pride and passion for London, it almost made me want to be back there, drinking a warm, dark beer and complaining about the cost of the Olympics. Oh, England, I miss you sometimes.

WITH THE OLYMPIC GAMES starting up later this month, the world’s eyes will turn to London. That is, if they ever turned away to begin with. The biggest city in Europe and the former capital of a vast empire, London offers in equal measure cutting-edge culture and a history so pervasive it’s almost impossible to comprehend.

Founded by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, London (née Londinium) endured plagues, invasions, wars, fires and other forms of upheaval and unpleasantness on its journey to become the capital of England, the center of the British Empire and, more recently, a global trendsetter in literature, music and fashion.

Today the city is vibrant, a financial powerhouse even amid an economically shaken European Union — but from the stately parks of Kensington to the bohemian haunts of the East End, the wide and low megalopolis affectionately known as “The Smoke” has lost none of the inimitable contrasts that have long defined it. It remains, as ever, London.

I feel obliged to admit that once I arrived in San Francisco, I upgraded my rental car to a real American muscle car… a Corvette, and nearly killed myself on the way to my hotel.

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Windows 8 UX Fundamentals–Free Virtual Training

Metro style apps are the focal point of the user experience on Windows 8 Release Preview, and great Metro style apps share an important set of traits that provide a consistent, elegant, and compelling user experience.

With the first apps in the Windows Store, it’s exciting to see the designers begin to push the boundaries of the Metro design language on Windows 8. There’s plenty of innovation and beautiful apps to come, and if you want to learn how to get started, this free virtual training is perfect for you.

On 14th June from 9am to 5.30pm PST, the Windows User Experience Team will be presenting sessions on how to design great apps that leverage the full extent of the platform and adhere to UX guidelines. After this training, you will understand the tenants of a great app, how to think about information architecture, best practices for designing flexible layouts, touch, how to leverage contracts in the platform, and much more.

14th June, 9am-5.30pm PST – Event Agenda

  • Metro style design
  • Commanding, Information Architecture & Navigation
  • Designing for Touch, Mouse & Keyboard
  • Animations
  • Designing for view states
  • Designing apps with adaptive layouts
  • Using Contracts
  • Connected and Alive
  • Anatomy of an App: Case Study

Register today, you’ll be able to login to the event when we publish the event URL later this week. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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