Internet of things platforms: Azure, AWS, IBM Watson and more - Which is the best IoT platform for your business?

AWS, Azure and IBM Watson all provide IoT services, we examine these and other offerings

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The internet of things is about connecting internet-enabled devices that relay information back to us, to (typically cloud-based) applications and to each other (device to device). See also: 12 best uses of IoT in the enterprise.

Put simply, IoT platforms connect the sensors and data network to one another, integrating with back-end applications to provide insight into large volumes of data. For example, it means that businesses with IoT networks can trigger push notifications automatically when a device come in contact with a particular sensor, providing real-time analytics of events.

Unsurprisingly, IoT has become a clear area of focus for some of the leading IT vendors recently, with many keen to capitalise on early interest and position themselves as the IoT market matures.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, with its Azure public cloud, arguably have the most complete portfolios of IoT services and platforms at the moment. However they are far from the only large tech firms creating products that help businesses manage, secure and analyse IoT data.

Here are some of the leading internet of things platforms currently available from the big IT vendors...

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Internet of things platforms: AWS IoT

Announced at the AWS Re:Invent conference last year, the AWS IoT Platform provides a device SDK, secure device gateway, registry (for recognising devices), device shadows (a virtual version) and a rules engine (to evaluate inbound messages).

The vendor claims the new platform will make it easy to connect sensors - on cars, turbines, sensor grids and light bulbs for example - using the AWS' public cloud to store, process and analyse the data by these devices.

AWS has also struck partnerships with the likes of Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to create hardware component 'IoT Starter Kits' that are compatible with its services.

Cost: $5 per million messages

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Internet of things platforms: Microsoft Azure IoT

Running alongside Microsoft Azure cloud services, the Azure IoT suite offers a rules engine, identity registry, information monitoring and device shadowing.

The IoT platform, unveiled early last year, incorporates existing products such as Azure Stream Analytics to process massive amounts of information in real-time.

Cost: Free for up to 8,000 messages per month or £15.28-£30.55 per month for 400,000 messages or £152.73-£305.45 per month for 6,000,000 messages.

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Internet of things platforms: IBM Watson

IBM's Watson analytics platform is also being targeted at IoT use cases. Watson Internet of Things enables users to set up and manage IoT connected devices via IBM's Bluemix, its hybrid cloud platform as a service (PaaS) development platform.

IBM Watson users receive device management, real-time data exchange, secure communications and data storage.

Earlier this month, IBM announced the acquisition of The Weather Company, adding weather and data sensor data to its Watson IoT service.

Cost: You can trial IBM Watson IoT for free. The platform is pay-as-you-go after that.

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Internet of things platforms: Cisco IoT Cloud Connect

Cisco provides an IoT solution for mobile operators and has recently partnered with the Australian based National Farmers' Federation to invest in IoT solutions within agriculture. Cisco IoT Cloud Connect will provide data and voice connectivity, IP session control, SIM
lifecycle management, and customisable billing and reporting.

Cost: Available on request

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Internet of things platforms: Salesforce

Powered by Thunder, Salesforce's IoT solution centres on customer engagement. The platform can build business rules and gather data from devices, sensors and websites to push out automated messages to consumers. The data received is analysed to produce business insight and custom actions.

Cost: Available on request

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Internet of things platforms: Oracle

Oracle's IoT cloud platform provides analytics from IoT applications enabling automated notifications to connected devices. Oracle offers device virtualisation, high speed messaging and endpoint management with big data analysis for real-time IoT data.

Cost: Wearable devices $0.40 per month for 100,000 minimum devices, consumer devices $0.80 per month for 50,000 minimum devices, telematic devices $2 per month for 20,000 minimum devices and commercial/industrial devices $3 per month for 10,000 minimum devices.

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Internet of things platforms: General Electric's Predix

Aiming to help organisations in industries such as aviation, healthcare, energy and transportation, Predix is a platform as a service that supports the development of apps that can use real-time operational data to provide insight for better and faster decision-making.

Predix runs Digital Twins (a virtual model) to enable small changes to be made and deployed and Predix Machine to provide a communications layer integrated with the cloud, analytics, sensors and controls.

In 2014, General Electric partnered with Verizon, Cisco and Intel to create 'Predix-ready' devices.

Cost: Available on request

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