IoT Comparison: AWS vs Azure vs Google vs IBM

Tudip

Tudip

21 May 2019

IoT is the technology that connects ‘things’ to the ‘internet’. These things or devices can be anything like smartphones, washing machines, refrigerators, headphones, air conditioners, and almost everything that you can think of. Devices generally consist of a circuit board with sensors attached that connect to the internet. Here are some examples of IoT devices:

  • Pressure sensors on a remote oil pump
  • Temperature and humidity sensors in an air-conditioning unit
  • Accelerometers in an elevator
  • Fire detection sensors in a room

IoT services can also be applied to big machines, like jet engines in airplanes. The most exciting IoT projects that are currently in high demand include smart homes, smart buildings, smart factory, smart infrastructure, smart retail, self-driving cars, etc.

There are several IoT services available in the market. It is difficult for the developers to choose the best IoT platform for the specific task in hand. To help to find the best IoT service provider in the market, we have compared the top IoT services.

Amazon Web Services

AWS is the leader in IoT in terms of the no. of services provided. But it is costlier as compared to the other IoT service provider.

AWS IoT solutions are available for both – edge software and cloud services. Edge software allows developers to connect devices, collect data, and make intelligent decisions even when there is no internet connection. Whereas, the cloud services enable them to securely connect a group of devices, maintain their health, keep them secure, and detect, and respond to actions across IoT apps and sensors.

  1. AWS IoT edge software

    Edge computing brings the power of computing close or near to the source of data generation, rather than depending on a centralized cloud for data processing. AWS IoT provides two solutions for edge computing- Amazon FreeRTOS and AWS IoT Greengrass

  2. Amazon FreeRTOS

    It is an operating system for microcontrollers which makes small, low-power edge devices easy to program, deploy, secure, connect and manage. Amazon FreeRTOS integrates the FreeRTOS kernel, a popular open source operating system for microcontrollers, with software libraries. It makes it easy to securely connect small, low-power devices to AWS cloud services like AWS IoT Core or edge devices running AWS IoT Greengrass.

  3. AWS IoT Greengrass

    AWS IoT Greengrass helps the device to act locally on the data they generate, while still using the cloud for management, analytics, and durable storage. Using the AWS IoT Greengrass, devices can run AWS Lambda functions. It can get predictions based on machine learning models. It can also communicate with other devices securely even when there is no internet connection.

AWS IoT cloud services

For connecting IoT devices with cloud applications and other devices, AWS IoT provides a number of cloud services.

  1. AWS IoT Core

    AWS IoT Core is a managed cloud service which lets connected devices securely interact with cloud applications and other devices. It can support hundreds of devices and can process and route those messages to AWS endpoints and to other devices reliably and securely. With AWS IoT Core, our applications can communicate with all your devices, all the time, even when they aren’t connected.

  2. AWS IoT Device Management

    It securely organizes, monitor, and remotely manage IoT devices at scale. We can register our connected devices individually or in bulk and can manage permissions so that devices remain secure. We can also organize our devices, monitor and troubleshoot device functionality, query the state of any IoT device in your fleet, and send firmware updates over-the-air (OTA). We can manage devices from constrained microcontrollers to the connected cars all with the same service.

  3. AWS IoT Device Defender

    AWS IoT Device Defender is a fully managed service that helps us to secure our IoT devices. It continuously audits our IoT configurations to make sure that they aren’t deviating from security best practices.

  4. AWS IoT Analytics

    It is a fully-managed service for sophisticated analytics on massive volumes of IoT data. We don’t have to worry about the cost and complexity typically required to build an IoT analytics platform. It gets insight of the massive data and helps to make accurate decisions for IoT applications and machine learning use cases.

  5. AWS IoT SiteWise

    AWS IoT SiteWise is a managed service which helps us to collect and organize data from industrial equipment at scale. We can easily monitor equipment across the industrial facilities to identify waste, breakdown of equipment and processes, defects in products.

  6. AWS Partner Device Catalog

    The AWS Partner Device Catalog helps us to find devices and hardware to help us explore, build, and go to market with your IoT solutions.

  7. AWS IoT Events

    AWS IoT Events is a fully managed IoT service that helps us to detect and respond to events from IoT sensors and applications.

  8. AWS IoT Things Graph

    AWS IoT Things Graph is a service that helps us to visually connect different devices and web services to build IoT applications.

Azure

The Azure Internet of Things (IoT) is a collection of cloud services that connect, monitor, and control billions of IoT assets which is managed by Microsoft. Pricing-wise, Azure IoT is cheaper than the AWS IoT and Google Cloud IoT platforms. It is the second-largest IoT platform in terms of the market share

The IoT solution is made up of one or more IoT devices and one or more back-end services running in the cloud which communicate with each other. There are two paths for building our own solutions:

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

  1. Azure IoT solution accelerators

    This is a collection of PaaS solutions that we can use to accelerate our development of an IoT solution. We can use the provided IoT solution and then fully customize that solution as per our requirements. We need Java or .NET skills to customize the back-end and JavaScript skills to customize the visualization.

  2. Azure Digital Twins

    This service enables us to create comprehensive models of the physical environment. We can model the relationships and interactions between people, spaces, and devices. For example, We can predict maintenance needs for a factory, analyze real-time energy requirements, or optimize the use of available space.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

  1. Azure IoT Central

    This is a SaaS solution that helps us connect, monitor, and manage the IoT devices. We can select a template for the device type and create and test a basic IoT Central application that the operators of the device will use. The IoT Central application will also help us to monitor the devices and provision of new devices. This service is for straightforward solutions that don’t require deep service customization or any programming knowledge for configuration.

  2. Azure IoT Cloud Services

    Azure provides the following services that helps to connect devices to Azure cloud and to analyze the data.

  3. IoT Hub

    This service allows us to connect from the IoT devices to an IoT hub. It helps to monitor and control billions of IoT devices. This is especially useful for bi-directional communication between our IoT devices and back end.

  4. IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service

    This is a helper service for IoT Hub that helps users to provision devices to IoT hub securely. With this service, we can easily provision millions of devices rapidly, rather than provisioning them one by one.

  5. IoT Edge

    This service builds on top of IoT Hub. It is used to analyze data on the IoT devices rather than in the cloud. By moving most of the workload to the edge, few messages need to be sent to the cloud.

  6. Time Series Insights

    This service helps us to store, visualize, and query large amounts of time series data generated by IoT devices. We can use this service with IoT Hub.

  7. Azure Maps

    This service helps us to provide geographic information to the web and mobile applications. It uses a full set of REST APIs as well as a web-based JavaScript control that can be used to create flexible applications that work on desktop or mobile applications.

Google Cloud

Google is one of the top IoT service providers around the world, making it easier for developers to build connected devices. It provides Cloud IoT Core as its flagship IoT solution for creating secure and innovative solutions. It is a little cheaper than AWS but more expensive than Microsoft Azure.

Some of the key features of Google IoT

  • Cloud IoT Core

IoT services

Image Source: Google

Google’s Cloud IoT Core is a managed solution to connect, manage, and consume data from numerous connected devices. It offers a complete solution for developers, allowing them to collect, process, analyze, and visualize IoT data in real time for supporting better operational efficiency.

Mostly, the Cloud IoT Core comes integrated with Google Cloud data analytics services. It enables the use of IoT data stream for advanced analytics, visualization, machine learning, etc. As a result, it becomes easier to analyze problems, improve efficiency, and develop rich models that can optimize business processes.

Further, this service supports standard protocols like MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). It allows developers to use their existing devices with minimal firmware changes.

Since Cloud IoT Core runs on the serverless infrastructure of Google, it scales automatically in real time when any changes are made.

Additionally, Cloud IoT Core integrates with Cloud IoT provisioning service to simplify the provisioning of devices and onboarding experience for customers. For provisioning, it leverages tamper-resistant hardware-based security so that millions of devices can be provisioned without human intervention.

Features of the Cloud IoT Core:

  1. Device manager:

    The device manager allows individual devices to be configured and managed securely in a coarse-grained way through a console or programmatically. It establishes the identity of a device. It also provides the mechanism for authenticating a device when connecting. It maintains a logical configuration of each device that can be used to remotely control the device from the cloud.

  2. Protocol bridge:

    The protocol bridge helps to provide connection endpoints for protocols with automatic load balancing for all device connections. It has native support for secure connection over industry standard protocols such as MQTT and HTTP. The protocol bridge publishes all device telemetry to Cloud Pub/Sub, that can then be consumed by downstream analytic systems.

  • Cloud Pub/Sub

Cloud Pub/Sub is Google Cloud’s stream analytics program. It supports device-to-cloud IoT scenarios. It first ingests event streams and then delivers them for processing to Cloud Dataflow and for analysis as a data warehousing solution to BigQuery. By using Cloud Pub/Sub to handle the delivery of event data, developers can maintain focus on other areas. It supports large scale message ingestion over HTTP (REST) or gRPC. Its Client libraries exist for Go, Java (Android), .NET, JavaScript, Objective-C (iOS), PHP, Python and Ruby.

  • Cloud IoT Edge

Cloud IoT Edge helps to extend Google Cloud’s data processing and machine learning capabilities to the edge devices like wind turbines, oil rigs or robotic arms. It allows them to make decisions on a local real-time basis in response to the data they receive from their sensors. Cloud IoT Edge can either run on Android devices or on Linux-based operating systems.

  • Firebase

It is a self-contained mobile and IoT development platform. Firebase supports messaging over HTTP and XMPP from device-to-cloud and cloud-to-device. It comes with SDKs for iOS, C++, JavaScript and Android.

IBM

IBM is a leader in The Forrester Wave: Industrial IoT Software Platforms. This is enough to justify why IBM is counted among the top IoT service providers.

IBM Watson IoT Platform

It is a managed service hosted in the cloud, enabling secure connection, management, and processing of IoT data. Along with the power of IoT, it leverages technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain to allow enterprises to capture data from devices, equipment, and machines. They can further use this data to gain insights and make better business decisions.

Built on IBM Cloud, the Watson IoT Platform is a scalable IoT service that can adapt in no time when a business needs grow. It uses AI for data analytics so that the data from IoT devices can be processed instantly, and enterprises can gain valuable insights from it. It uses blockchain to securely sharing information across the ecosystem. Implementation of blockchain technology increases trust and transparency by validating provenance and events in an immutable ledger.

IBM Watson IoT Platform is used by several companies to power their devices, appliances, and machines. For instance, Whirlpool is using the solution for its home appliances, including washing machines, dishwashers, and ovens.

It is available in three editions:

  1. IBM IoT Connection Service:
    IBM IoT Connection Service integrates a bundled set of preselected services to form a public, multi-tenant SaaS solution on the IBM Cloud framework.
  2. IBM IoT Analytics Service:
    It helps in gaining insights in real time with simplified data ingestion and curation. IBM analytics service can be deployed to the cloud, on-premises or in a hybrid environment. IBM Cloud solutions allow us to easily analyze the data and build machine learning models which can be deployed in cognitive applications.
  3. IBM IoT Blockchain Service:
    IBM Watson IoT Platform Blockchain Service enables the Internet of Things (IoT) to integrate with business processes in a shared and immutable ledger. This service allows IoT devices to send data, and respond to business events through a private blockchain ledger shared by your business network. With the IoT Blockchain Service, we can use IoT to improve visibility, provide analysis, and engage users through devices to automate and streamline business processes, and minimize delays, waste, and disputes in your supply chain.

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