How to Choose the Right IoT Platform for Your HVAC Product
The IoT space has exploded in recent years. So much so that it is difficult to say just how many IoT platforms are out there–and the number is only set to keep on growing. According to IoT Analytics, the IoT platform market is expected to surpass $22 billion by 2023.
But, with so many platforms to choose from, how can you be sure you’re choosing the right platform for your HVAC product?
We’re here to help you out!
In this article, we’ll take a look at the different approaches to choosing an IoT platform and also some factors to consider before choosing an IoT partner.
What is an IoT Platform?
Before we get started, we should note that this article is not for IoT beginners. If you have no experience of IoT, we recommend you start here.
In the simplest of terms, an IoT platform is the software that connects everything in your IoT system: from logging the original data, all the way through to presenting it within your UI (user interface).
Okay, that may not sound simple, so let’s take a look at an example.
Take Amazon Alexa. There are over 50 million Alexa devices in the US alone. If you have an Alexa device, or a similar equivalent, then you’ll know that it can perform certain tasks for you. If you have smart lights, you can say ‘Alexa, turn out the light’–et voila!–Your room is plunged into darkness without you having to lift a finger, thanks to the IoT platform.
The IoT platform works in the background to make sure Alexa hears and understands your command, and then performs the correct action.
If we want to take a look at this from a HVAC perspective, let’s think of a smart thermostat, like Tado. Tado allows users to control their home heating from a simple, easy-to-use app.
Again, the IoT platform works in the background to connect the hardware (Tado) and the software (the system that turns the heating up or down). If an app was involved then this would also be connected as part of the chain.
An IoT platform is like the glue that holds all the components of an IoT system together. This is why they are sometimes referred to as ‘middleware’ solutions or the ‘plumbing’ of an IoT system–because they carry information from one point to another.
5 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right IoT Platform
When you choose a platform, you create a strong dependency to it. Changing it during the lifetime of your product will result in huge costs and disruptions, so you need to make sure you choose the perfect partner–first time. Here are 5 factors to consider when choosing the right IoT platform…
1. The Data Plan
When you choose an IoT platform, you need to make sure it can handle all of the data that will be coming through your customers’ devices. And, should your customer base grow (which is always the hope!) then your data plan should be scalable to meet your increasing needs.
The more control you can have over your data–how much you use, when to suspend it, increase it, and so on–the better!
2. Connectivity Method
Depending on the type of IoT product you have, you’ll need to select the most suitable connectivity method. There are several different methods of connectivity, the most popular being WiFi and Cellular. When choosing an IoT platform be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of each connectivity method and judge how it would work in practice for your product.
Aside from the connectivity method, you should also find out all you can about the platform’s network coverage and reach. Make sure that this fits with your current and future business needs.
3. Geographic Coverage
This one is pretty-straightforward, but worth mentioning anyway! When choosing a platform, ask if they cover all of the regions that you need to reach. Global support is ideal as this doesn’t limit you in the future, should you choose to expand your business and sell your HVAC product in other countries.
4. Security & Privacy
Compliance is a big deal, especially when you are handling customer data. Be sure to study a partner’s security and privacy policies before doing business with them. This should also include researching how they have dealt with security and privacy issues in the past.
As you may have realised by now, you’ll be relying on your IoT platform heavily. So it is super-important that you choose one you can trust and have faith in. When choosing an IoT platform, consider their reputation. Look up their past customers (maybe they work with similar companies to yours!) and find out how many years they have been operating successfully for.
The Different Approaches
There are two different approaches to choosing an IoT platform. You can go for a generic approach with a provider that doesn’t specialise in any business, or you could specialise.
Let’s take a look at each approach in more detail.
Approach One – Generic
There are some IoT giants in the world already, and you may feel in safer hands if you do business with them. These generic platforms will be able to handle your HVAC product’s needs (for example, data from a thermostat) just as well as they can handle other products from very different industries (for example, data from an activity tracker). In other words, they are data agnostic.
This isn’t necessarily a reason to choose a generic platform, but it does show their capability to work successfully with many industries. If you do choose to go with a generic provider, check if they have worked with products like yours in the past. If they have then this can give you more confidence to work with them.
1. Big businesses have more experience and stronger reputations.
2. Everything in one place.
1. The cost is likely to be higher.
2. They know IoT, but they don’t necessarily know your industry.
Examples of generic IoT platforms:
1. Google Cloud Platform – ran by one of the largest companies in the world, Google’s IoT platform has machine learning capabilities for any IoT need. However, it is one of the more costly options. Find out more here.
2. Particle – this is a more cost-effective and beginner-friendly IoT platform. Users can choose from three different connectivity methods (WiFi, Cellular, and Mesh)–each one has a different price point. Find out more here.
3. Amazon Web Services – Amazon’s IoT platform is reputable and reliable. There is also a lot of learning materials for users, to help them get started with IoT. Like Google, this is an expensive option. Find out more here.
An IoT platform is like the glue that holds all the components of an IoT system together. It’s also known as the ‘middleware’ or the ‘plumbing’ of an IoT system.
Approach Two – Specialised
HVAC is a very specialised industry, and so perhaps you want to choose an IoT platform that is specific to HVAC. This can give you peace of mind that your partner not only understands how the internet of things works, but also understands how your industry works and can use this to help you create the best IoT HVAC product you can.
This will mean that if you have any questions related to your product, your provider should be able to answer them. However, companies that specialise in IoT for HVAC are likely to be less well-known than the businesses mentioned above. You may want to do a more extensive background check to ensure their reliability first.
1. The platform will be made for your industry and therefore closely suited to your IoT needs
2. Dealing with smaller businesses should mean that services are less-expensive
1. These platforms are likely to be less-established than the ones mentioned above.
2. Your platform may not cover everything for you. You may have to deal with a couple of different providers.
If you’ll excuse the self-promotion, Foobot specialises in applying IoT and machine learning to air sensors in order to make invisible pollution, visible. Our end-to-end platform collects data from hardware and presents it via our easy-to-use API. This data can then be used in a variety of ways, like actuating HVAC equipment more effectively in buildings.
Avoid Rushing Into A Decision
When it comes to choosing the right IoT platform for your HVAC product, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the information out there. Hopefully we’ve been able to condense the important stuff so that you can keep taking steps toward making an informed decision and take the IoT world by storm!
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