It's increasingly possible for businesses to deploy connected devices without having to write any software.
Hardware modules and even complete devices which can be configured out-of-the-box to talk directly to IoT cloud platforms are appearing, accelerating the development of the IoT market.
In this two part series, two veterans of the IoT industry explore this theme. This week, we hear from Richard Holmes - Business Development Director for IoT giant electronics distributor Arrow Electronics - who is responsible for developing new partnerships and building an ecosystem of key vendors, Arrow Electronics teams, and their business partners to deliver IoT solutions and services in the industrial space.
Missed last week's post? Here's IoT without software: I
An industry perspective
We're now at a point where businesses and end users are starting to expect that they can adopt technology without a requirement for significant deep skills. They're more focused now than ever on the push to solve problems within their organisations and create new offerings quickly and at scale rather than adopt technology for technologies sake.
Technology providers of all shapes and sizes, from hardware and software backgrounds are responding to this by creating communities and ecosystems, adopting open standards and enabling interoperability like never before.
Back in November at Electronica, I noticed that vendors (such as Arrow partner, Microchip) are bringing out products that make integrating and connecting with ioT platforms easier. In fact, I recorded a podcast with their Product Marketing Director, Ovyind Strom, on this very subject. Their AVR-IoT WG board enables engineers to connect to Google Cloud in 30 seconds, and is a base for a number of products/shields to build out capability at the hardware level.
Just as development boards have made it easier to get started with hardware, the cloud side of things are similarly simplifying processes. The likes of IBM, Microsoft and AWS are making strides in delivering more "out-of-the-box" dashboarding and industry specific pre-built templates alongside established visual coding tools, such as Nod-RED.
My youngest daughter recently received a Kano programmable wand for Christmas how easy it is to get a 9 year old interested in what's effectively scripting app functions!
Tying together hardware and software
We're starting to see a collaboration between public cloud IoT platform providers and a number of the hardware and components/silicon vendors we work with. A number of the latter are also really starting to push their own businesses and certain customers to build more "production-ready devices" (PRDs) to make adoption less daunting for clients who have either no software or no hardware development capabilities.
As a result, it's becoming less daunting for business owners to get into IoT - less upfront investment, less risk, and fewer issues hiring staff with the right skill sets - reducing the barriers to starting on the IoT journey. This doesn't just reduce the time-to-viable-product, but can also set a company on the right path to effective productionisation and scaling, and by using standardised parts with standard APIs, a vendor can often access multiple paths to realise value from their devices and the data they product.
There's an interesting trade-off:
- Off the shelf solutions require little or no software but might...
- lock you into specific ecosystems
- be a one-size-fits-all which doesn't quite fit your use case requirements
- Integrating your own hardware and software components...
- allows you to retain more control
- but requires more upfront knowledge and investment
What modules or devices that can be connected to IoT without zero or minimal coding?
Here are some examples, whilst not an exhaustive list:
- AVR's IoT WG board
- Disruptive Technologies' temperature and presence sensors
- MachineQ LoRA devices can be connected to AWS IoT or Azure (via the MachineQ cloud)
- Vicotee and Particle have similar offerings with their own clouds
- Omega 2 temperature sensors
- The Intel NUC can be connected to AWS IoT using very minimal code (Node-RED)
- Generic Node from The Things Network (currently requires some software, but "Software-Defined ioT" - all the reference hardware and software is pre-assembled)
- The Bosch TDL110 is an out-of-the-box solution for tracking applications which requires no code, and even comes with a phone app
IoT in 2019 so far
It seems that the next generation of "IoT-in-a-box" offerings are coming along fast. Less closed, proprietary all-in-one solutions, and more open, connected solutions that interoperate with multiple vendors, allowing businesses of all sizes to build and deploy new IoT services in a matter of days without having to write software.
Will AWS, Azure and Google eat it all? This seems unlikely if previous markets such as the Web or Smart Home are any guide: the big players help to create the market, but they can't possibly do everything well, so there's plenty of opportunity for other vendors to plug into their ecosystems and fill gaps, all the way from the edge to the centre.