Leveraging Kaa IOT platform for quick prototyping

With the explosion of the number of smart devices, Remote diagnostic and Monitoring tools are in great demand, to reduce customer support costs and to improve predictive maintenance aspects. Since the complexity and features of the software/firmware of these smart devices have been growing exponentially, the troubleshooting of the devices is becoming more and more complex. But very few of them have matured sufficiently to handle smart devices. Some of the popular commercial remote troubleshooting solutions are LogMeIn and TeamViewer.

Recently at Sequoia, I was trying to develop a quick POC for remote diagnostic and monitoring solutions for multiple smart devices. The system envisaged would have a diagnostic app running on the smart device, a technician console for communicating with the app and a communication link between them. The challenge I had was twofold (a) the company was a startup and had limited resources (b) the short time line available to develop the POC. After considering several possible solutions, I chose Kaa, an IOT platform, that works well for the quick development of a remote diagnostic and monitoring system.

The main considerations in selecting an IOT platform for a low cost diagnostic system were the following,

  • Multi-platform support.
  • Ease of deployment and development.
  • Integration with 3rd party tools; for example, integration with data pipelines for big data processing and analytics.
  • Scope for feature addition to the existing platform.
  • Actively maintained open source project.
  • Detailed documentation and good community support.

Kaa was the perfect choice with the above attributes. Kaa (http://www.kaaproject.org/) is a 100% open source Apache licensed platform. It has good community support and documentation. Kaa provides integration with other data pipelines like Kafka (http://kafka.apache.org/), Flume (https://flume.apache.org/) and Spark(http://spark.apache.org/). The integration with these data pipelines are very useful, especially when planning an analysis on the collected data. It also integrates well with databases like Cassandra, Mongo DB etc.

There are many features in Kaa like Events, Data Collection, Notifications, Profilingetc. The Events feature of Kaa can be used for transferring bidirectional messages between the technician console and the remote diagnostic app running on the smart device. Both unicast and multicast messages between endpoints are supported through Kaa platform. In Remote Diagnostic System, an end point can be an app (diagnostic) on a smart device; the technician console can be a web dashboard, another app on a smart device or even a desktop application.

Endpoint device <=> Kaa Server <=> Endpoint device/Dashboard/a stand-alone desktop application / Bigdata Server / Database

Since Kaa platform supports multitenancy, only the end point application needs to be developed. All the rest of the communication is taken care of by the Kaa platform.

Troubleshooting information was very easy to obtain with the Kaa platform. This information can be used to identify the technical faults of a particular device or to analyze its maximum life span/stability.    Further the analysis possibilities are unlimited; the frequently occurring issues and the pattern of their solutions can used to  train a machine learning model. Such trained models can be used in the future for automating troubleshooting using a bot.

I was impressed by the robustness of the platform including 3rd party support and easy customization options.

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Business Trends in IoT Ecosystem

Key Trends

There is a trend in the IoT landscape of vendor consolidation around a few major platform vendors. The vendors from different links of the chain collaborate by providing a seamless experience to build, deploy and operate IoT solutions. Many of the major IoT platform leaders have defined end to end system specifications with their ecosystem partners for a secure, scalable and interoperable deployments. This has led to transforming the vertically fragmented and inadequate proprietary markets into well-organized and horizontally scalable open markets. It will enable key players to gain a major share in the IoT market, which is predicted by IDC to reach an annual revenue of USD 1.7 trillion by 2020.

Collaboration, Acquisitions and Partnerships

The acquisition of Wind River and McAfee by Intel, Nest by Google, Solair by Microsoft, Jasper by Cisco and Atmel by Microchip can be seen as strengthening their foothold and consolidation of services in the IoT ecosystem.  These market leaders have also formed alliances and partnerships with other horizontal leaders, SMEs and start-ups to build their own ecosystem. Some of these partnerships are Samsung-SAP, Cisco-GE, Apple-IBM. All these happened because of the awareness of the industry that there was too much fragmentation with companies working in silos. These heavy-duty collaborations are essential for the IoT market to succeed. It is interesting to note that innovation is a key element and the start-ups are going to play a crucial role in that. 2lemetry, Estimote, Digital Lumens, Litbit, Skycatch are some of the leading start-ups getting attention with their innovative ideas.

What the market looks for

When businesses plan for the IoT transformation, the major considerations are the ease of interoperability, seamless integration, maintainability and scalability factors. The other factors being reducing risk and lowering the cost of implementation and operation.

The market needs vendors, device manufacturers and services providers who can help to quickly rollout the IoT solution with the essentials. These include automated discovery and provisioning of sensors and actuators, device control, seamless storage and processing of data, security of data and devices, analytics capability and monetizing of the services. This is where these collaborations are going to benefit the end customer and the industry as a whole.

The Benefit and Value Add

The crux of this collaboration is the desire of every player in IoT, big or small, for a transformation from a product business into services business, seeing the long term and continuous monetization opportunity. In essence, the alliances of platform leaders with vendors at different planes of the spectrum will influence the choices of picking devices, software, services and operators in an end to end IoT solution. The positive note about all these collaborations and alliances is that it is going to eventually help the end users with competitive pricing, faster deployments, innovative and effective solutions.