10 Rules for Choosing an IoT Platform

IoT platforms form the backbone of any home, office or factory automation. No surprise that there are plenty to choose from. Confused? We help you pick an IoT platform for home automation and smart services that suit your needs.

 

The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t just all about operating smart home technology or digital production plant remotely. IoT also allows you to automate apps, devices and services,  freeing up time to deal with other priorities and matters. This means choosing an appropriate platform provider is crucial. We’ve compiled a list of 10 key considerations when choosing an IoT platform for your home or your business. 

What is an IoT platform? What does it do?

IoT Plattform_Conrad Connect TitlebildThe Internet of Things enables using a variety of apps, devices and services based on online cloud connectivity. Unlike closed systems, the IoT makes fiddling with a separate PC, mobile phone or browser-based GUIs to operate each device a thing of the past. 

What’s more, in many IoT-centred set-ups you don’t actually need to lift a finger at all as the interconnected devices auto-respond to commands forwarded by timers or sensor readings. This is done by creating chains of conditional statements, also known as applets, that form the backbone of how the IoT works. Applets use if-this-then-that logic to trigger single or multiple responses in interconnected devices switching on off as a result or modify their operation. For instance, “If the C02 readings exceed a preset limit then switch light colour to red to indicate it’s time to let some fresh air in” is a simple yet practical applet you can use at home and at the workplace. 

 

The IoT makes smart homes more comfy and safe and helps boost productivity and reduce costs at the workplace. Moreover, IoT solutions are essential for manufacturing companies adopting Industry 4.0 automation technologies, creating opportunities for new business models in the process. 

When it comes to IoT solutions, there’s plenty of choices,  covering a vast range of uses across all industries. As individual solutions turn out to be substantially different, the system you choose will have a major impact on how well your IoT applications are able to support you with achieving your business goals. Hence, below 10 rules that help you make an informed decision.

smart thermostat
A classic smart home example are intelligent thermostats. Image by riopatuca, shutterstock. 

 

fitness tracker_shutterstock_344305205
IoT exceeds the limits of the smart home, as herewith, for example, fitness trackers. Image by Syda Productions, shutterstock.

 

1. Compatibility is where it’s at

komplett system für alle iot geräte
A system for all smart devices to have everything controlled
by one IoT platform. Image by REDPIXEL.PL, shutterstock.

The IoT is all about operating mobile apps, smart devices and web services from different suppliers on one universal platform,  thereby promoting further integration across the digital world. However, not every product out there is, or is intended to be, IoT compatible.

In this context, it’s mainly the big players who are very finicky when choosing which IoT platform providers to collaborate with. Means you need to make sure that your platform supports your favourite streaming services, multi-room speakers, activity trackers and home automation system. Otherwise, you won’t get the most out of your smart devices. Having said this, even if your preferred brand can’t directly hook up to your choice of platform, there might be third-party cloud services that allow you to do so.

2. Continuity. Establishment beats start-ups

Technology standards and product functionality are constantly improving, with the programming interfaces changing all the time across the board. This is why you need to choose a platform provider that keeps up with current developments and ensures continuous compatibility of IoT-enabled products. However, as both the IoT and IoT platform providers have been around for a short while only, no one out there can boast a track record when it comes to IoT continuity matters. Although suppliers who’ve already gained experience in related fields of Electronics are probably in a much better position to ensure quality in the long term than start-ups.

3. Allrounders versus specialists

IoT platforms tend to have different scopes. Generally, two main IoT models are available. So-called horizontal platforms provide defined features suitable for a variety of uses across a wide range of devices. On the other hand, vertical models cater to the specific requirements of a certain business area or industry sector. 

There isn’t always a clear-cut distinction between an all-rounder and a specialist platform. Means choose service providers that have a track record in the field most relevant to you, however, who aren’t afraid to step outside their comfy zone if necessary. For example, pick an IoT platform that doesn’t limit home automation services to devices within your home, but also supports smart gardening appliances, or even covers connected cars.

4. Open source instead of vendor lock-in

Don’t want to be locked in a deal that restricts you to using products and services from one brand? Already opted for a cloud solution that allows you to operate devices from different manufacturers? Make sure you don’t end up in a vendor lock-in when choosing your IoT platform.

Avoid IoT solutions that stipulate the use of a manufacturer-provided gateway or require other provider-supplied hardware as this means locking yourself in, relying on one vendor for the majority, if not all of the services, also limiting your future choices. Which can make changing providers a rather costly endeavour. Even more so if your new supplier doesn’t support the existing hardware and your original investment is basically a write-off. Nowadays, software- or browser-based  IoT platforms are pretty much industry standard, means all you need is an internet connection.

5. Does user friendliness result in limited functionality?

Automation is the biggest selling point for IoT solutions. Nevertheless, the extent of user-defined routines available for different applications varies greatly between individual systems. More features and functions mean more freedom when it comes to setting up home automation, smart building and smart production lines that meet your requirements. GUIs should be clear, concise and intuitive, however, without being overly simplistic thereby limiting the options available to you. 

Providers use different approaches to ensure both user-friendliness and ability to cope with complex automation demands. As a rule, don’t choose platforms based on how cool or fancy their GUIs look. Usability is what really counts, not window dressing.

Wach werden 2.0 mit IoT

Waking up 2.0 with sunrise light, favourite radio station getting louder, preheated bathroom and weather information on the phone - Automatically triggered via Wi-Fi plugin or triggered actively!

Bunte Lichter und laute Musik - spontane IoT Party

Spontaneous party wiss less annoyed neighbours Coloured lights and loud music, that pauses for 30 sec. when the door is opened & lowers volume when there is movement in front of the door.

Persönlicher Drill Sergeant zum Feierabend mit Schritt-Check im IoT Projekt

Step-Check at the end of the day Reached the daily desired number of steps? Green light and TV switches on. If not, a red light goes on and a message depended on the weather, motivates you to do sports.

6. Ready-to-use templates to help you get started

Want to get stuck in immediately? Choose a platform that features a library of ready-to-use templates for IoT projects that allow incorporating your existing hardware without the need start from scratch. These days, curated presets are a part of many IoT platforms. However, when it comes to opportunities to tap into the accumulated knowledge of an expert user community, there are few and far between: having access to tried-and-tested templates shared by fully-fledged tech buffs significantly boosts your options.

7. Does the platform speak your language?

One important detail that is often overlooked. Whether or not the platform supports the language of your country is going to make a big difference when it comes to user-friendliness. Sure, the internet speaks English. However,  your platform provider offering versions in your native language do help immensely if you are just starting out. Allows you to focus on getting the hang of features and functions instead of having to turn into a linguist every time things don’t work out as they should.

8. Touchpoints: The more the merrier

touchpoints_pc_mobil
Whether laptop, tablet or smartphone: allow all desired access
preferences. Image by Foxy burrow, shutterstock.

These days, mobile phones are the No. 1 gateway to the digital universe. One of the reasons why some providers allow managing their services via smartphone app only. However, oftentimes setting up more complex automation protocols is much easier done on a desktop PC  with a sizeable screen. Moreover, responsive web apps for various screen sizes enable accessing your system at any time and from wherever you are using a wide range of mobile devices.

9. Extra benefits: Data visualisation and IoT Analytics tools

IoT Plattform_Daten speichern und auswerten
Store and evaluate smart data directly with the IoT platform
regardless of different apps, like here with Google Sheets.

Once you caught the IoT bug you may want to expand your system, adding more devices and automation routines. IoT platforms not only facilitate operating a network of smart appliances, but they also help you keep an eye on things. In this context, dashboards are a very handy way of visualising data and monitoring procedures, however, not all providers to offer them. 

Displaying data is just one of many aspects of nowadays IoT platforms. For instance, IoT analytics tools and AI can show you where and how to save energy which lowers your utility bills. If your chosen platform doesn’t come with this feature, there ’s a range of third-party service providers available that give you access to these tools using an external cloud interface. So, shopping around is always a pretty good move.   
 

10. Protecting personal information needs to be a top priority

IoT Plattform_Sicherheit
Privacy and IT security are very important topics and should
definitely be a criterion when choosing an IoT platform.

The IoT enables you to collect a lot of useful information about your home or your business. Goes without saying that, ideally, you and you alone should be the sole beneficiary of this information. means make sure to check out the data protection policy of your IoT platform provider. For instance, state-of-the-art encryption during data transfers to the cloud is an absolute must. Furthermore, if the servers used to store your personal information are located in the EU, your privacy is safeguarded by comprehensive and consumer-friendly privacy law.

Here at Conrad Connect, protecting your personal information is paramount to us. All our servers are based in Western Europe. We SSL- encrypt all personal information we collect and process prior to the transfer. We won’t share any of your sensitive information without obtaining your prior consent first, and you may delete all your data at any time. 

Besides following a stringent data protection policy, we support over 1.000 individual smart devices from more than 70 different brands from across the entire Smart Living product range. Our drag-and-drop rule editor and a browser app in both English and German make creating applets super easy. Moreover, a large and active community of Conrad Connect users sharing ready-to-use project templates shows you the ropes if you are new to the Internet of Things.