The dictionary definition of platform feels more related to the platforms we see at train stations, but these days its definition has been broadened to include the basis and framework which construct certain equipment and systems.
One of the characteristics of a platform is that ‘many people can use it easily or utilize it for various purposes’. Sometimes platform refers to an operating system or technological environment that is used as the basis when producing vehicles, hardware, or applications.
The beginning of platforms came when manufacturers started to introduce them into mass production and automation when producing things like TVs and vehicles with consistent quality. This process made it possible to produce a specific level of quality at a lower cost without concerns about the skill levels of workers, and this process and the equipment used became known as a platform.
When PCs and Internet browsers became widely used, operating systems like Windows and other browsers such as Internet Explorer were called platform. The term ‘development platform’ which provides the environment required for development also started being used.
The concept of platforms began to draw attention when Apple launched their first smart phone and their app store succeeded as a business platform between the developer and users.
iOS which is the operating system for their app store supports various devices from Apple, as another type of platform. The virtuous circle through which developers can make profit by uploading their own apps and users download them vitalized this platform called an app store and made it a new legend.
As IoT is gaining popularity, the term platform is also mentioned at the same time, because the companies or organizations know the ones who make a successful business platform will also be at the forefront of the IoT market.
Unlike in the past where products and services were made first and then their platform ecosystems were established, these days, it’s more common to launch platforms with products or service simultaneously.
Since the current IoT market doesn’t have any company with absolute power, companies generally adopt a couple of strategies when preparing platforms. While companies which led the field with strong platforms for smart phones like Apple and Google established their original platforms, other companies providing components like chips, devices, networks, and services usually form an alliance to collaborate for new platforms.
Then let’s have a look at some of the top platforms popular in the IoT market.
① Apple HomeKit
Apple is still holding its place as the most popular company in the IoT era, with their iOS software platform. Apple created an IoT platform named HomeKit for users who want to control devices at home more easily, while attempting to provide new business opportunities to other providers and developers for home devices.
You can create your own smart home that can be easily controlled with an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch with home devices such as lights and other embedded electronics with HomeKit.
② Google ‘Brillo•Weave’
Google is developing Brillo, a light operating system for IoT devices, as well as a platform called Weave for communications between devices. With the aim to establish a system for smart homes, they provide a communication platform between IoT devices and promote developers to make shared codes which bring together smart phones, IoT devices, and cloud environments through Weave.
③ Samsung Electronics ATIK
Samsung Electronics made public their IoT platform ATIK last year. This is a platform that combined their processor and software, so that Galaxy users can control smart devices at home. Samsung Electronics is running tests to commercialize it within the year, and their goal is to apply ATIK to all electronics by 2020.
Now that we’ve looked at major platforms from Apple, Google, and Samsung, let’s have a look at standardized platforms created by multiple companies in collaboration.
④ ‘AllJoyn’ from AllSeen Alliance
The AllJoyn Platform introduced in 2013 by AllSeen Alliance, a standard organization including Qualcomm, Cisco, Microsoft, and LG Electronics, was first developed by Qualcomm in the hopes of promoting their chip sales then later turned into an open source platform. Devices embedded with AllJoyn using the same Wi-Fi signal can communicate with each other.
Developers can establish new services with AllJoyn, since Windows 10 and LG Electronics are equipped with this platform.
⑤ ‘IoTivity’ from Open Connectivity Foundation
In 2014, Intel, Samsung Electronics and others formed OIC (Open InterConnect Consortium) against AllSeen Alliance, and they began to work on a CoAP protocol based platform IoTivity. The IoTvity open source platform has a loyalty free policy so many companies can launch products applied with IoTvity without any issues.
They also provide various open source hardware (Arduino, Edison, etc.) and software platforms (Android, Ubuntu, Tizen, etc.). Since Qualcomm and Microsoft also became members of the AllSeen Alliance, they changed their name to Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and are taking steps as a standard organization.
⑥ ‘oneM2M’ Platform from oneM2M
Telecommunication Technology Association (TTA) from Korea and seven other standard organizations such as ETSI (Europe), TIA, ATIS (US), ARIB, TTC (Japan), and CCSA (China) formed oneM2M in 2012 to develop a global IoT service platform standard technology.
This alliance is the world’s largest with 235 Telecommunication companies, as well as solution/network/device providers participating. oneM2M only provides standard documents, and software should be developed by each company.
Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI) launched their oneM2M open source 1.0 package software, and a oneM2M platform was developed based on this by three telecommunication companies and LG CNS.
In March of 2016, LG CNS and LG U+ launched the world’s first M2M based commercial service “kid watch”, and are planning to launch more oneM2M based services in the future.
LG CNS also attained an international standard certification for oneM2M for the first time in the world. Their technology will not only improve compatibility among IoT products and bring forward commercialization of low-power devices, but also contribute to the vitalization of global IoT market.
Today, we learned about what platforms are, how important they are in the field of IoT, and examples of platforms from leading companies as well as from standard alliances. The reason Apple could lead the smart phone market is because they had their app store platform and iPhone which satisfied consumer needs.
Many global companies are creating their own platforms in order to gain a foothold in the IoT market, but there hasn’t been any platform leading the market yet. This is because there aren’t enough IoT services fulfilling customer value.
In the near future, even smaller device providers will add internet functions to their products, and a platform environment will be created so that implementing smart phone apps or related services can be easier. I hope to see the IoT ecosystem become more vitalized.
Written by Eunyoung Lim, LG CNS