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What IoT Platforms Have Been Missing; Economics and Ecosystems

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Every technological shift only scales when there are proven economic advantages, and the IoT and Industrial IoT are no exception. In fact, according to Eric Simone, founder and CEO of ClearBlade, an Enterprise IoT Edge Computing platform company, “given the number of moving parts in any meaningful enterprise IoT deployment, there’s no getting away from the requirement to prove to end customers how connecting things will save money or increase revenue.”

Simone, who worked twice at IBM and established ClearBlade in 2007, over ten years ago when IoT was starting to take off, knows what it takes to cross the chasm of cool ideas into massively scaled deployments.

“In addition to solid software,” Simone said, “two elements are mission critical to successful projects – economics and ecosystems. Without understanding how to create profitable business models, and without working well with partners, in both the hardware, software and networking domains, even the most visionary projects will not work.”

Start-ups, large enterprises, investors, developers, governments and systems integrators have embraced the IoT with great energy given its natural potential to improve communities, manage urban growth, secure towns and cities, and make factories and farms more productive and efficient.

Simone says “innovation has outpaced implementation, and that has caused some understandable wariness. We’re getting through the early period, however, when miscalculations and unintended consequences have caused disappointments and losses.”

Traditional Business Models Need Not Apply
Traditional hardware business models, including hardware and software combined models, do not apply to IoT and IIoT.

The logic is straightforward: IoT devices require an upfront commitment, followed by recurring costs for connectivity. Applications are dynamic and, done well, result in long-term value for customers.

“Getting to the ROI is different in this world,” Simone said. “Especially when you layer in machine learning and AI, advantages improve over time, as information collected can make a huge different in improving services and yield over years and even decades. From monitoring to predictive maintenance, compliance monitoring, equipment monitoring, asset tracking, and more, with well-designed systems the data generated can be analyzed in so many productive ways.”

ClearBlade has won large deals across different applications and industry verticals, from the largest private smart community development in NYC since the building of Rockefeller Center, to projects with tier 1 rail providers, and medical device companies.

“Getting the technology right was one thing in winning these incredible projects, getting the economics right was another,” Simone said. “In some cases, the cost savings created a nearly immediate ROI, in other cases the impetus was more about safety and regulation, but even in those cases making sure the economics worked made all the difference in the decision.”

From Economics to Ecosystems
Simone also credits interoperability and integration as key to success, even if partnering can get complicated. “There is no one company who can do everything well, which is why we have spent a lot of time building our own ecosystem and joining others.” This includes Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry, where ClearBlade is a charter member, NPM (Node Package Manager) the world's largest software registry for developers, and the Industrial Internet of Things Consortium (IIC).

“The edge is naturally important and really hard to do,” Simone said, “but the edge isn’t everything. We engineered and continue to evolve our platform and products to operate at scale in any cloud, on-premises and edge deployment, with the same technology; that said, we knew we needed to ensure protocol compatibility, and hardware agnosticism.”

The agnostic approach by its nature requires a lot of development cycles, to ensure the technology works across many different types of equipment and networks, as well as interfacing with other platforms and code.

“It took us years to get to this point, and nobody else we are aware of has all the capabilities we deploy today in all environments. This was hard and expensive to do, but we committed to doing this the right way, and we’re attracting a lot of new ecosystem partners as a result, and winning deals together.”

ClearBlade works with any cloud (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM), has been built into vertical solutions (with large enterprises and projects including BNSF, Hudson Yards, Becton Dickenson, Mining (via Nanotron), and even connected cows (via Nanotron).

With Ingram Micro, ClearBlade is the technology underpinning their new IoT Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and with Nanotron and Corvalent they provided OEM embedded licensed IoT software.




Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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