Internet of Things (IoT) companies provide networking, device, and sensor technology to organizations to connect all devices to the internet and each other. This enables rapid data transfer between devices on an IoT network, including unstructured data from sensors like images, videos, and temperatures. For enterprises that need instant information to be reported by their sensors, an IoT network allows them to more quickly make changes to develop products or improve services.
Consider a soft drink machine located at a subway stop. Prior to the debut of IoT, the machine would be checked and refilled, the money collected, and the machine operation fixed or adjusted when the machine was serviced by a route driver. Little more could be known from the machine than what drinks were purchased.
Once updated with a system of sensors and a network transmitter, the now IoT-enabled soft drink machine becomes more than a device that simply takes money and dispenses a beverage.
Each sale can record the time of day the sale was made, what payment method was used and what beverage was purchased. The IoT-enabled machine can communicate with the distributor when the machine is running low on the most popular beverage.
What do IoT companies do?
Different types of IoT companies design and manufacture sensors, networking hardware and smart devices, as well as developing the software needed to gather, transmit, and respond remotely via the internet.
IoT equipment manufacturers build IoT hardware. This includes:
- Networking hardware like routers and gateways
- Smart devices, such as watches, thermostats, and alarm systems
- Sensors that detect environmental data
Developing IoT software involves:
- Testing applications
- Developing and updating IoT operating systems
- Developing the software platforms platforms used by end users to analyze and act on collected data.
Managed IoT services
Platform management service providers upkeep IoT networks and devices, installing and updating them, so enterprises don’t have to shoulder all the costs of hardware and software.
IoT networking technology includes:
- Gateways, which are devices or virtual environments that connect IoT devices to the internet and handle data preprocessing before sending the data to a cloud environment
- Devices and appliances that collect or generate data, from computers and refrigerators to remote weather stations and even lightbulbs
- Sensors, which pick up data from any monitored point on the network
- Wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi
Also read: The Internet of Things Sensor Market
Although IoT networking may include some security functions, like a firewall, IoT security is a category of its own. Unlike smartphones and laptops, many IoT devices don’t require any passwords for access, which makes them an ideal entry point into a network for threat actors.
Security for the Internet of Things requires tools that configure device policies, scan devices and networks for vulnerabilities, and respond to anomalies. IoT security is often embedded (built into IoT devices and networks) or agent-based (third-party installed software). However, IoT devices don’t always have the capability to run software — they’re small enough that they may not have sufficient computational power, according to Trend Micro. This necessitates network segmentation, so that attackers can’t breach an entire network just by accessing one IoT device.
Also read: Top IoT Security Solutions
What industries do IoT companies serve?
Although most industries can benefit from IoT technology, there are some in particular that have already deployed IoT or particularly benefit from the real-time data and alerts that the networks provide:
- Manufacturing: IoT benefits include supply chain management, factory and warehouse condition monitoring, worker safety monitoring, and parts inventory and condition.
- Retail: IoT benefits include tracking inventory more accurately, maintaining temperature of goods, and improving security while transferring products.
- Construction and infrastructure: IoT benefits include improved worker safety, accurate measurements, and analytics for road and traffic data.
- Medicine and healthcare: IoT benefits include rapid data transfer for telehealth, patient monitoring and alerts, and medicine inventory tracking.
What standards have been established for IoT?
Standards for IoT networks include:
- Wi-Fi, the worldwide standard for wireless internet access
- Zigbee, a standard for technology that controls home automation like temperature change and light switches
- Data Distribution Service, a standard for big data exchanges that carries a type of database within transfers
- Bluetooth, a radio technology that allows users to wirelessly connect devices within a short distance to each other
- Low-range WAN, a technology that allows data transfers with a low bit rate over distances up to 10 kilometers
Cisco develops IoT networking hardware, including switches for industrial deployment, routers, and gateways, which can be accessed and monitored through an operations dashboard. It also offers industrial wireless devices for creating a wireless personal-area network and an embedded network portfolio, which includes small hardware that has Cisco networking technology.
Fortinet offers IoT security solutions for enterprises through its FortiNAC platform, whichprofiles network devices from over 150 vendors, provides access control, and allows users to create microsegmentation policies. Businesses are able to set automation policies that change configuration when FortiNAC notices a particular anomaly.
Fortinet also offers IoT security solutions through its Oxagile platform, which provides IoT development and consulting services. It designs solutions that collect data from IoT devices, normalize the data, and send it to a cloud environment or other location. Oxagile’s cloud applications process sensor data, and its monitoring tools allow businesses to view IoT analytics on the web or on mobile devices.
PTC is an industrial IoT provider that offers product as a service, remote condition monitoring, and plant benchmarking. Manufacturing plants’ data can be analyzed to improve manufacturing performance, using PTC’s industrial IoT platform ThingWorx. Moreover, the digital work instructions solution provides manufacturing employees with data like machine health and maintenance history and job instructions.
SAP provides IoT data services to enterprises through its SAP Business Technology Platform. Customers can use sensor data to automatically guide supply chain processes, and they can run business intelligence and analytics at edge locations.
For businesses that need big data services and IoT running in tandem, SAP offers device management and connectivity along with big data storage. SAP also makes APIs available for integrations with supply chain applications.
To learn more about IoT providers, read Best IoT Platforms and Software.