If you, like 70% of Fortune 100 companies and 38% of all manufacturers, are priming your business for future success by investing in the Internet of Things, congratulations—you’re tapping into one of the fastest-growing networks in the world.
Whether your motivation is consumer demand, pressure from competitors, or untapped revenue streams, the benefits and ROI of IoT are clear and well-documented: deeper analytics, smarter decision making, improved efficiency, and ultimately, a boosted bottom line.
Unfortunately, just deciding to harness IoT technology is the easy part. What’s less obvious is the next step: choosing the architecture that will connect all of the disparate platforms and devices that form your network.
It’s a complicated decision, in part to both the sheer amount of options available in the booming IoT market and their nuanced differences in functionality. Some are better suited for specific industries and applications, some are more geared towards enterprises, and to make matters worse, just about all of them like to dress up the same core features in different branded jargon.
So to help separate signal from noise, we asked system architects at Codal to break down the more popular IoT cloud platforms out there. Whether you’re considering dipping your toe into the IoT waters or ready to pull the trigger today, here’s an excellent crash course in the cloud platforms out there.
AWS IOT CORE
Falling in the ever-growing technologies housed under the AWS umbrella is the eCommerce giant’s suite of Internet of Things services. Though AWS offers roughly a dozen discrete IoT services, the foundation of all of them is the aptly named IoT Core, which allows for the simple connection between device, cloud, and application.
Like the rest of Amazon’s other cloud offerings, the calling card of AWS’s IoT services is its flexibility and scalability. Adhering to the same ‘building-block’ philosophy as the rest of the AWS suite, it’s easy to build complex systems with IoT Core and connect it to AWS products like Lambda, Kinesis, S3, and DynamoDB. In other words, if you’re already relying on AWS for most of your tech stack needs, IoT Core is likely going to be your best bet.
Another key factor to consider when selecting an IoT cloud platform are the protocols it supports. Because the Internet of Things can extend to such a wide variety of connected devices, the usual protocols that cover communication between ‘standard’ devices, like computers or smartphones, doesn’t always cover it.
A BRIEF ASIDE ON PROTOCOLS
If you’re not sure which devices you’ll be using, or which protocols, here’s a quick primer on a few common ones and their basic applications.
- HTTP : the protocol of essentially any data exchange on the Web—every IoT cloud platform will support this.
- MQTT : a popular IoT protocol that’s specifically designed for unconventional Internet-connected devices. It’s ideal for intermittent connections (a common feature of IoT applications), and has a small code footprint and bandwidth requirements.
- AMQP : another industry-standard IoT protocol that’s a bit more heavy duty than then slimmer MQTT. It offers a wider range of features and better interoperability as well.
- WebSockets : Sometimes called ‘HTTP 2.0’, WebSockets offers bidirectional communication, compared to HTTP’s unidirectional. Their other differences get pretty technical, but you can read more here if you’re interested.
AWS IoT Core supports HTTP, WebSockets, and MQTT. If the devices you’re connecting to use either of those protocols, AWS is an excellent match.
If not, don’t fret—AWS IoT Core can support other custom protocols. It even claims devices connected with IoT Core can communicate even if they’re using different protocols. But HTTP, WebSockets, and MQTT are going to be much simpler to set up and configure with IoT Core.
AWS IoT Core is priced by connection time, messages, actions, and ‘rules triggered’. Its free tier covers:
- 2,250,000 minutes of connection
- 500,000 messages
- 225,000 Registry or Device Shadow operations
- 250,000 rules triggered and 250,000 actions execute
MICROSOFT AZURE – IOT HUB
Like its Amazon counterpart, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure offers several different IoT solutions for a number of different applications. Azure’s foundational block of their Internet of Things suite of products is IoT Hub, an analogue to AWS’s Core.
While in a similar league as AWS, Azure does have differentiators that distinguish itself from the other enterprise IoT solutions. Azure plays well with HTTP, MQTT, and AMQP, the latter of which AWS does not support.
The Big Three IoT Cloud Platforms
Azure also offers a few out-of-the-box IoT solutions for common, industry-specific applications. 40.2% of companies investing in IoT are doing so for manufacturing or logistics use cases. Microsoft has responded accordingly by rolling out products like dashboards, KPI reporting software, and more. Other industries Azure offers dedicated products for include discrete manufacturing, energy, process manufacturing, transportation, and logistics.
Azure’s pricing comes in different tiered plans, all of which promise no upfront costs or termination fees. You can calculate the ballpark pricing here, though it does tend to be cheaper than AWS on average.
GOOGLE CLOUD – IOT CORE
Finally, we reach the third marquee technology enterprise that’s entered the IoT cloud platform market: Google Cloud. Like AWS and Azure, it offers dozens of different IoT solutions, and also supports the industry-standard HTTP and MQTT protocols. Its foundational IoT offering even shares the same name as Amazon’s: Core.
Calculated by the number of operations plus storage costs, Google Cloud’s pricing typically clocks in between the higher AWS and the lower Azure. IoT Core is free for the first 250 MB/month, then jumps to $0.0045/MB for 250MB-250GB, $0.0020/MB for 250GB to 5TB, and $0.00045/MB for 5TB+.
If you’re still not ready to make a decision about the right IoT platform for your business, don’t worry. This is a major decision, and it isn’t going to be resolved just from reading a blog article.
What can help further things along is reaching out to a design and development agency like Codal. We can provide industry insight gained from over a decade of experience helping companies formulate their broader digital strategies. Reach out to Codal today and learn which IoT platform is the perfect fit for you.