What’s an IoT platform and what role does it play?

A platform plays a key role in an IoT solution development journey

by Mobeen Khan

On February 26, we announced our win with CarForce and previewed the Internet of Things (IoT) solution the connected car company is building with us.

Now, we’d like to introduce people to the underlying platforms we’ve deployed to work with CarForce and others. Additionally, it’s important to talk about the role these platforms play in the broader ecosystem.

What’s an IoT platform?

An IoT platform is an end-to-end software framework. It's the glue that pulls together information from sensors, devices, networks, and software that work together to unlock valuable, actionable data.

A platform should have the ability to:   

  • manage devices   
  • allow remote connections to all relevant objects or devices   
  • collect and manage data and help you define business rules   
  • enable analytics and visualization   
  • integrate with IT and cloud servicesThe platform plays a key role in an IoT solution development journey for enterprises to enable value for the business and its customers.

Factors to consider

It can be challenging for an enterprise to determine what makes a good IoT platform and which platform can help solve its business problems. There are a multitude of choices in the market, which makes it even more confusing for customers to make the right choice.

To help you in your search, here are some key factors to consider:   

  • Does it provide network agnostic connectivity?   
  • Does it provide protocol agnostic connectivity?   
  • Does it provide device and data management features?   
  • Does it provide global deployment and scalability?   
  • Does it provide end to end security?

Another critical factor to consider is ease of use.

Businesses want a rapid pace when going from proof-of-concept (POC) to deployment and scalability. They also want to quickly conduct small prototypes and prove the value from IoT before they really consider deploying across their business.

AT&T IoT Platform

Today's enterprises are a complex web of diverse global assets.

Rather than running the business based on siloed information generated from these assets, organizations should consider integrating the various operations under a single end-to-end IoT-driven approach. To help achieve this and bring your company to new heights, we employ the following:   

  • technology expertise   
  • network solutions   
  • deep industry-specific knowledge   
  • strong collaborator ecosystem   
  • a robust delivery mechanism

Here are some key characteristics of our platform:   

  • Global Device Certification Program: Helping customers accelerate innovation with AT&T-certified modules that are unique to industry use cases   
  • Global connectivity: AT&T Control Center, Multi-Network Connect, and satellite connectivity provide global enterprise coverage for virtually any certified IoT device   
  • Insights: By collaborating with IBM Watson and Mnubo, we can deliver data-driven insights and intelligence   
  • Cybersecurity: To keep your IoT data off the open internet, we provide NetBond private connectivity from device to the cloud   
  • Services: Professional services with multi-disciplinary experience and certified system and solution integrators   
  • Data Management: DataFlow (and its predecessor platforms) provides device management, data management, and application enablement capabilities for your solution needs

What is DataFlow?

DataFlow is a key component of the AT&T IoT Platform.

AT&T DataFlow will combine the AT&T M2X and AT&T Flow Designer platforms, making it easier for enterprise developers and system integrators to build and launch IoT solutions. As business demands evolve, organizations can use this service to easily orchestrate the distribution of sensor data between IoT devices, existing business infrastructure, and a host of integrated cloud services to scale IoT solutions.

DataFlow, a cloud-based AT&T managed solution development platform, will allow for remote connections and management of all objects and devices. The GUI-based development environment facilitates the data collection, management, and integration with IT and business operations to help generate value for enterprise customers.

Let’s look inside the DataFlow platform and observe the key features it provides for solution developers:

DataFlow helps businesses maximize their IoT investments by connecting, collecting, transforming, and orchestrating their data.

Solution developers are looking for microservices-based platform services to build and deploy solutions without needing to write long and complex code.

The DataFlow solution development life cycle will provide enhanced project templates, device templates, and a client libraries-based approach to take you from design to deployment. It will also integrate with IT and OT systems. Additional key features include:   

  • Develop and scale fast: Rapid application development and prototyping for new IoT applications. Open-sourced based architecture with hardware, software, and community client libraries to move fast   
  • Drag-and-drop service catalog: Connect devices and enterprise IT solutions through drag-and-drop interface and catalog of pre-built connectors (without writing code)   
  • Easy integration: Deploy enterprise-grade applications into multi-site production, directly from the UI   
  • Business operations dashboards and widgets: Monitor and maintain the health of your connected business   
  • Network and multi-cloud agnostic: Connect any internet-connected IoT devices; backup and restore IoT data on multiple clouds   
  • Project specification approach: Provisioning of ready-made templates plus automatic deployment of servers and infrastructure to help deploy custom IoT solution   
  • Connected objects and registry: Ability to track, in near real-time, any number of unique objects, their associated data, and relationships with one another   
  • Broker: Ability to handle vast quantities of messages directly from connected devices and/or external services, each with unique data management requirements   
  • Device adapter: Ability to utilize data from internet connected devices with a variety of protocols and sources, each arriving in unique and traditionally non-compatible formats to ingest and process the data

AT&T DataFlow is available now for preview by interested customers and is expected to be commercially available in the second quarter of 2018. To learn more, please visit our DataFlow page.

IDC vendor assessment

In January, IDC published the IDC MarketScape: Worldwide IoT Platforms (Device and Network Connectivity Providers) 2018 Vendor Assessment.

In the assessment, AT&T was positioned as a “Leader.”

“AT&T was rated as the most likely communications services provider (CSP) to gain prominence in the Internet of Things market, demonstrating that the company has garnered strong mindshare in the space, especially within its home market of the United States,” IDC said in the assessment.

The IDC MarketScape vendor analysis model is designed to provide an overview of the competitive fitness of information and communications technology (ICT) suppliers in a given market. The research methodology utilizes a rigorous scoring methodology based on both qualitative and quantitative criteria that results in a single graphical illustration of each vendor’s position within a given market.   

  • The Capabilities score measures vendor product, go-to-market and business execution in the short-term.   
  • The Strategy score measures alignment of vendor strategies with customer requirements in a 3-5-year timeframe.   
  • Vendor market share is represented by the size of the circles.   
  • Vendor year-over-year growth rate relative to the given market is indicated by a plus, neutral or minus next to the vendor name.

Visit the AT&T IoT solutions page for reports, videos, and other resources to help you learn more about the emerging technology that's helping businesses transform.


What you need to know about IoT platforms

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