Billions of devices, lots of opportunity
The Internet of Things (IoT) is still nascent, but growing quickly. Research firm IDC predicts it will become a $1.46 trillion international market by 2020, up from $700 billion last year.
Amazon Web Services
Many expect the cloud will play a big role in IoT, and the biggest cloud provider is Amazon Web Services. The cloud is a natural spot to store huge amounts of data, and Amazon is increasingly offering powerful services to gain insights on that data. In 2015 AWS launched its Internet of Things platform, which uses tools like Kinesis (a real-time streaming service), S3 (the Simple Storage Service), and DynamoDB (the massively-scalable NoSQL database).
AT&T is banking on its broadband network being a key enabler of IoT. The company has launched M2X, a cloud-based data storage service and Data Flow, a development portal for building applications for the world of IoT. AT&T hopes to have 10 million vehicles connected to its network by 2017, including 1.2 million fleet vehicles and 243,000 shipping containers.
German conglomerate Bosch is perhaps best known for its automotive parts division, but it also makes products ranging from home appliances to enterprise software. Bosch says its range of products will be connected to the IoT to ease maintenance and monitoring of devices, making it one of the key enablers of IoT. Plus, the company has built an IoT cloud to process all that data.
Cisco predicts that by 2020, there could be 50 million devices connected to what it calls the Internet of Everything. It’s hoping many of those devices will use the company’s networking equipment to communicate. Cisco has carved out a range of IoT services, from network connectivity (including switching, routing, wireless access and embedded network hardware), to fog computing services (which bring data collection, storage and analysis to the network edge), to data analytics, security, management and automation.
As an enterprise hardware manufacturer, Dell is preparing its infrastructure components for a world of IoT. It’s offering endpoint connectivity for devices plus back-end storage and analytics platforms to manage IoT data. In 2014 Dell opened its IoT Lab in Silicon Valley in partnership with Intel.
GE is credited with coining the term the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ to depict the idea of connecting devices used in manufacturing to the Internet. GE hopes to help facilitate that through its Asset Performance Management platform, which aims to use data and real-time analytics to prevent unplanned downtime. Predix, a cloud-based data and analytics service, is another pillar of GE’s IIoT plans.
Google’s IoT ambitions span consumer and enterprise-facing initiatives. Google paid $3.2 billion for smart thermostat maker Nest, which the company could expand to include a whole connected, smart-home system. On the business side, Google says its combination of fiber-optic back-end network, combined with its massive public cloud mean it is in a unique position to serve the needs of IoT.
Hitachi Data Systems
HDS, the technology arm of Japanese industrial conglomerate Hitachi, has two important components to take on the IoT market. On the Hitachi side, the company is partnering with Intel to ensure its machine and industrial equipment are connected. On the HDS side, the company is rolling out new cloud-based platforms to collect and analyze IoT data. It’s hoping this combination of industrial hands-on equipment and back-end technical services will make it an IoT powerhouse.
Chinese telecom/network vendor Huawei made a big push in the IoT market last year by releasing LiteOS, a micro operating system for IoT devices. It joined the Cloud Foundry open source community to help create an IoT application development platform, too. Huawei is taking on the IoT market in Asia and increasingly in the U.S., hoping a world of connected devices will usher in new opportunities for its core networking products.
IBM has been making a big push with its Watson “smart” products and is hoping to inject its cognitive capabilities into its IoT services. The Watson IoT platform combines a cloud-based development and production environment for applications, software and services tailored for specific industries, and cognitive analytics atop it all.
In a world of connected devices, all those gadgets are going to need processor chips. Intel wants to be the company supplying silicon for the Internet of Everything. The company has rolled out a variety of products to serve IoT, from its Quark line that provides low-power computing for small-form factor appliances, to Atom processors that are ideal for rich graphic rendering.
Microsoft has rolled out an IoT Suite for its Azure public cloud, which includes an IoT Hub for users to connect, monitor and control devices; a streaming analytics service combined with machine learning; a notification hub for sending messages across IoT devices, and Power BI. To ease customers’ transition to IoT, Microsoft has a handful of preconfigured IoT templates, including one for customers to remotely monitor IoT devices, and another for rolling out predictive maintenance.
Oracle wants its databases and applications to be the platform its customers use to manage and analyze IoT data. Oracle is building connections for its SQL, NoSQL and Hadoop databases to ingest IoT data and integrate data back into the company’s applications (Oracle Sales cloud, Service Cloud and CRM). Oracle has an IoT service and IoT cloud that prepackage these workflow services into a product.
PTC – a company known for its design modeling software and product lifecycle management (PLM) tools – has become an important IoT company through an aggressive acquisition strategy. PTC bought ThingWorx, an IoT application development platform; Axeda, a cloud service for managing connected devices and processing machine-to-machine data; and Coldlight, a machine learning/artificial intelligence platform for analyzing data.
While many other companies on this list are building ways for connected devices to impact industrial and commercial operations, Salesforce.com says that the IoT presents a new opportunity for marketers to gain deeper insights into their prospects and customers. Connected devices allow chief marketing officers (CMO) to learn how their products are being evaluated and used, what stage of the process the prospects are in and potentially what factors influence buying behavior. Salesforce.com has introduced its IoT Cloud, powered by its real-time processing engine named Thunder. IoT is not just about connected machines; it’s about connected products and marketing too.
Samsung promises to make all of its devices IoT ready by 2020. As one of the largest makers of phones, appliances, televisions and robots – Samsung will be one of the companies leading the charge to connect devices to the Internet. The company is developing a series of ARM chips for its devices, along with APIs that it says will allow its devices to connect to any IoT platform customers want.
The company perhaps best known for making medical equipment makes a lot of other gadgets too, all of which it says can benefit from being connected to the IoT. Siemens is working to connect its devices, and has partnered with SAP to provide analysis, while also building customer software for what it calls the “Web of Systems.”
Semiconductor company Qualcomm has its fingers in all sorts of IoT initiatives, including helping to start the AllJoyn initiative, which aims to create an open source protocol for IoT devices, to introducing a series of IoT-optimized chips named SnapDragon, to offering a variety of connectivity services and platforms.