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Internet of things providers set to battle over platform dominance

The need for interoperability will lead to rival internet of things (IoT) standards and ecosystems – which could put the brake on adoption

Businesses can accelerate their internet of things (IoT) work by exploiting platforms which provide pre-built application functionality – but the market for IoT platforms lacks industry or de facto standards and application programming interfaces (APIs).

IoT platforms bundle many of the infrastructure components of an IoT system into a single product.

But, the challenge for businesses starting to develop IoT-based products and services is that much of the technology is immature.

As with the 19th century railway pioneers, the CEOs of businesses building IoT platforms see a substantial opportunity to become the equivalent of a standard rail gauge for IoT.

Gartner research director, Nick Jones, said: “The IoT demands an extensive range of new technologies and skills that many organisations have yet to master."

Jones warned that a recurring theme in the IoT space is the immaturity of technologies and services, and of the suppliers providing them: "Architecting for this immaturity and managing the risk it creates will be a key challenge for organisations exploiting the IoT. In many technology areas, lack of skills will also pose significant challenges.”

In Gartner’s definition, the platforms provide low-level device control and operations such as communications, device monitoring and management, security, firmware updates; IoT data acquisition, transformation and management such as polling devices and storing data in the cloud; and IoT application development.

Challenges facing IoT platforms

While these platforms can help a business kickstart its IoT projects, in its Top IoT Technologies for 2016 report, Gartner warned: “Many IoT platforms are expensive, with significant upfront license fees plus costs of up to a few dollars per "thing" per month, so they are unlikely to be viable for applications involving low cost things or where things don't generate a recurring revenue stream.”

Read more about the internet of things (IoT)

According to Jones, considerable technical and commercial volatility is to be expected. All such products are proprietary, and migration from one to another is not simple.

The situation is made even more complex because suppliers in the nascent IoT market are trying to developing competing ecosystems. Although ecosystems and standards aren't precisely technologies, most eventually materialise as APIs, which can then be accessed via an IoT application.

While Gartner sees standards and their associated APIs as essential to enable IoT devices to interoperate and communicate, many different types of IoT standards and ecosystems already exist. More will follow.

The analyst firm predicted commercial and technical battles between these ecosystems will dominate areas such as the smart home, the smart city and healthcare.

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