When to develop IoT solutions and when to buy IoT solutions
by Svitla Team
To buy or to build IoT solutions, that is the question. For enterprises, the decision to build or buy IoT solutions is a constant puzzle that must be faced with a thorough evaluation to understand the full spectrum of criteria involved.
With all the significant benefits the Internet of Things brings to the table and its remarkable growth (according to a McKinsey report, the industry could generate up to $11.1 trillion by 2025), it’s more important than ever before for companies to decide between purchasing IoT system services from a 3rd party vendor or building an in-house solution to maximize value and resources.
While building a custom IoT solution for your enterprise sounds alluring, it can be challenging to support and afford such types of platforms. According to MachNation, using an IoT Application Enablement Platform (AEP) is 40% less expensive than building and maintaining an in-house solution.
An AEP is a technology offering that is optimized to deliver top-of-the-line, extensible middleware to build a set of interconnected or independent IoT solutions to meet customer needs.
On the other hand, the plethora of IoT vendors and platforms available in the market can be daunting, and as the world of IoT continues to shift, transform and evolve, it is easy to get lost in the mix.
In this article, we will give you a simplified overview of both build and buy aspects of IoT solutions, to help you understand what will work best for your organization.
Select the right model for your IoT needs
There are a number of factors that must be taken into account when deciding between the buy or build models for your IoT needs.
These factors, both internal and external, include core competencies, support, time, budget, and environment, to name a few. Next, we are going to examine ready-to-use IoT solutions and custom IoT solutions to provide you a detailed picture before you select the right model for your enterprise.
Ready-to-use IoT solution and its applications
There is a clear trend in the IoT world toward companies choosing ready-to-use IoT solutions because of their simplicity and easy onboarding. Usually, these companies hire a 3rd party vendor to minimize the risks and challenges associated with an in-house solution.
From the get-go, the 3rd party vendor will ensure the IoT solution provides all the necessary features and functionalities to comply with the client’s requirements. This is a very comfortable approach as companies can begin working with the IoT solution immediately.
These are the benefits of selecting a ready-to-use IoT solution:
- Ready-to-use IoT solutions are the perfect choice for companies that don’t possess an internal team of experts with IoT experience.
- You have a working solution that is ready to market in a shorter period of time.
- The risks and challenges associated with an in-house IoT solution are greatly reduced as the 3rd party vendor has full ownership of the solution.
- With a ready-to-use platform, companies have time and resources to focus on their critical core competencies.
- The cost of buying is significantly lower than the cost of building a solution.
Custom IoT solution and its applications
While the many benefits of ready-to-use solutions make a strong case to select that route, there are many contributing factors that tilt the scale towards selecting a custom IoT solution.
Companies are drawn to building an in-house solution if:
- Deployment size is significantly large.
- The quantity of data stream to the cloud is very large.
- Technology is a key competence or the company offers technology-driven services.
- There’s not one right solution in the market that would accommodate all the company’s needs and requirements.
Under these exceptional circumstances, companies benefit from building their custom IoT solution from scratch in order to provide an optimal one-stop platform with all the required functionalities.
The benefits of building a custom IoT solution are:
- The result is a personalized solution that provides all the features and capabilities desired while connecting all devices.
- Organizations can leverage in-house experts to build and deploy a custom IoT solution.
- The IoT solution can reflect the company’s brand to provide a more refined and improved user experience.
- The company owns the solution and has full control over updates, upgrades, and maintenance.
Internet of things development. Server-side IoT solution
The backend, or server side, of an Internet of Things development, allows the platform to collect data and send it to the cloud where servers allow users to store, view and computer data. The backend is specifically important to support communication, analytics, and processing to unearth value from data.
Pros and cons: Write your own backend
It’s a more suitable choice to write your own backend if your organization wants to build a corporate-level IoT system with many millions of devices connected.
The pros of a custom backend:
- Possible deployment to corporate datacenter servers.
- Capable of making modifications as necessary to support any kind IoT devices.
- Custom selection of frameworks and programming languages (RoR, C# .NET, Java, and more).
- Use of microservices and other modern architectures.
The cons or drawbacks of writing your own backend are:
- A large amount of time to deploy.
- Highly expensive to develop and support.
- Constant problems with fixing bugs.
Pros and cons: Use existing backend
If organizations prefer to start an Internet of Things development from scratch in a very short period of time or with a limited budget, the best option is to use existing backend solutions, which are most likely provided as cloud services.
The pros of existing backend solutions are:
- Fast and cost-effective backend placed into the cloud.
- Easy monitoring, administration and support of standards for IoT protocols and numerous IoT devices.
- High levels of scalability to connect as many IoT devices as needed.
- Easy integration with other services via API.
The cons or drawbacks of using existing backend solutions are:
- A significant amount of time to adapt the system for custom requirements.
- Difficult to add unique IoT devices as necessary.
- Condition to choose a cloud service location that is very close to the user’s IoT devices.
- Likelihood of problems with custom software module integration.
- An impediment to replace the framework for custom modules. Frameworks must be developed according to the guidelines of the existing solution.
Client-side IoT solution
Popular platforms: Raspberry Pi, ESP8266, Arduino
The Raspberry Pi was first introduced in 2006 as a series of single-board computers intended to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries.
Raspberry Pi saw its popularity rise and as of 2018, it reported sales over 19 million dollars, making it the best-selling British computer.
Today, Raspberry Pi, which is as small as a credit card, is considered by many as the best starting point to work with IoT. This capable device allows users to explore computing and to learn how to program in languages such as Scratch and Python.
The Raspberry Pi computer is user-friendly and can be easily plugged into a television, computer monitor, standard keyboard and mouse, and other peripherals. As IoT continues to evolve and grow, Raspberry has become a trusted ally to connect devices.
The ESP8266 is a Wi-Fi microchip with full TCP/IP stack and microcontroller capabilities. In 2014, a software development kit for programming was developed to program the chip directly, removing the need for a microcontroller. There are other SDKs, mostly open-source, available for working with the ESP8266, including Arduino, which we will review next.
The ESP8266 component is highly popular for advocates of interconnected devices with its network connectivity, small size, and affordable price. The Wi-Fi microchip provides endless possibilities for remotely-controlled devices, sensors, data transfer, and more. A simple and effective example of an ESP8266 + IoT application is a lamp remote controller via a Wi-Fi network.
Next, we are going to dive into Arduino. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that designs and manufactures single-board microcontrollers to build digital devices and interactive objects that sense and control devices in the physical and digital world.
Arduino is a simple and affordable solution to connect any device to the Internet. An application of Arduino + IoT is a security system that informs and controls sensors to trigger an email every time your house door is opened.
Production line IoT client systems
While Xiaomi is well-known for its smartphones, mobile apps, electronics, laptops and more, it is gaining popularity in the field of IoT thanks to its smart home device ecosystem. Xiaomi smart home products range from blood pressure monitors to webcams to air purifiers and even a smart rice cooker.
Samsung is also dipping its toes in the IoT world with the recent purchase of SmartThings, which is a home digital ecosystem that leverages the benefits of IoT to provide a highly-interconnected environment for its devices and users.
Custom and existing IoT protocols
Based on how you want to interact with IoT, you can select a network protocol that suits your needs.
The MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) network connectivity protocol is designed as a lightweight publish/subscribe messaging transport. It is very useful for remote connections where a small code footprint is required and/or network bandwidth is limited. Essentially, MQTT is designed to minimize bandwidth and supports 3 quality of service levels: fire and forget, at least once, and exactly once.
The Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) is a specialized web transfer protocol that uses the familiar REST design where resources are available by servers and clients access these resources via GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE methods. In essence, CoAP provides document transfer via the REST client/server protocol, it is easy to translate to HTTP for web integrations, and offers security via Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) protocol.
The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a good, old friend in the world of IoT. This communication protocol is inexpensive, text-based, provides numerous libraries and goes through firewalls. It’s known as the foundation of the data communication for the World Wide Web where hypertext documents include hyperlinks to other resources such as a mouse click or tapping a screen.
In all honesty, the verdict between building or buying an IoT solution points to select the latter option. Buying an IoT solution from a top platform vendor can alleviate a lot of the risks and challenges of building an in-house solution, but either way, the decision should be solely based on what benefits the organization the most.
At Svitla Systems, we provide a comprehensive look at IoT strategy. We have a team of experts that are ready to assist you, so please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more or request help. We are here for you!
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