Much of the discussion around the Internet-of-Things has centered on devices, connectivity and IoT platforms. At the back-end, these IoT platforms provide secure and scalable device onboarding via cloud solutions. While devices, connectivity and IoT platforms are cornerstones for a good and economically viable IoT solution, these should not be the only point of attention. In this and some follow-up posts, we will build the case for orchestration for the Internet-of-Things.
What is IoT Orchestration?
We define IoT application orchestration as the process of integrating IoT application(s) with enterprise IT systems, cloud services, mobile applications within and across the boundaries of a company. Orchestration is typically used to automate or improve processes, and potentially synchronize data, all in (quasi) real-time. IoT orchestration essentially comprises three elements:
- Interconnecting multiple IoT horizontal or vertical solutions, potentially sourced from different suppliers.
- Integrating IoT with IT systems such as enterprise IT, cloud services, mobile applications and APIs.
- Using the orchestration platform as a foundational layer for service innovation towards customers and partners.
In this post, we will look at the first item in the list: orchestration as a way to build cross-vertical IoT applications.
Interoperability is key to unlocking the full business potential of IoT.
McKinsey estimates that up to 40% of the value to be unlocked by IoT can be attributed to ‘cross-vertical’ applications, i.e. requiring multiple IoT solutions to work together. A couple of examples:
- In a smart city, multiple point solutions for traffic management (parking monitoring, ANPR, roadworks DB, traffic guidance, congestion info, public transport info, etc.) need to be combined to create a holistic view on mobility.
- In smart energy, data from multiple building management, HVAC or lighting solutions can be combined to reach the full potential of energy savings and optimization.
- When B2C IoT solutions (such as wearables, weather stations or alarm systems) are used in an enterprise context, solutions from multiple vendors can be combined in order to address a business need.
Interoperability can be achieved at various levels of the protocol stack and at various places in an end-to-end solution:
- At the lowest level, it can be done at the network level, at the place where data is gathered. The main problem with this approach is the early stage of IoT standardization and the lack of adoption of common protocols and payload formats.
- The other broad option is to accomplish interoperability through (cloud) API integration. This can be done via aggregation and orchestration systems that, as a middleware layer, sit between IoT systems and applications.
Waylay is an IoT orchestration platform that facilitates interoperability through such back-end integration.
Why an IoT orchestration platform?
Using an orchestration platform brings the following advantages to enterprise customers:
- The ability to aggregate and process data across verticals creates a holistic view that cannot be achieved by analyzing data from each IoT system individually.
- Having an overarching layer across vertical solutions from multiple vendors, decreases the dependency on a single supplier. In addition, data normalization can abstract differences towards higher level aplications
- You do not need to worry about lower level details such as data access authorization and collection, these are taken care of by the middleware. This allows to create new business applications in a fast and scalable way.
- Application orchestration avoids one-off point-to-point integrations and spaghetti code, instead it provides scalability and manageability.
- Due to their modular structure, middleware platforms are also more future-proof than single-purpose built integrations.
- McKinsey&Company : “The Internet of Things: mapping the value beyond the hype”, June 2015.