The Internet of Things is still very much a growth industry. As a technology area whose development is dictated by the needs of the operational side of any given business, it’s a new challenge for traditional IT companies – and one that gives them an unusual array of competitors.
But there are always going to be a few companies that set the tone, and we’ve collected what we think are the 10 most powerful players in the IoT sector right now.
A word on methodology. We began by looking at about 25 prominent corporate names in IoT, comparing them based on how innovative their technology is, their market share and solution depth and breadth.
What we mean by the latter two terms is fairly straightforward. Depth refers to how much of the stack in a given IoT implementation that a company’s products are designed to handle, while breadth refers to how many different verticals to which those products are relevant.
Market share can be difficult to measure, so we offer those estimates based mostly on extensive conversations with and data provided by analysts. Finally, where innovation is concerned, we tried to get a sense of the degree to which a given company’s technology is unique or at least much-imitated by its competitors.
Here's the 10 most powerful in alphabetical order:
Innovation: Accenture isn’t known for its in-house technical wizardry, and the secret sauce here is the company’s expertise at bringing in hardware and software from its partners, including Microsoft, Amazon and Cisco, which in itself is quite an achievement. The company refers to it as “connected platforms as a service,” or CPaaS.
Market Share: Directly quantifying IoT market share is a difficult exercise, but Accenture’s one of the best-known integrators on the market, bringing together platform providers, hardware manufacturers and makers of specialist solutions.
Depth of solution: Per Gartner’s latest IIoT Magic Quadrant report, the combination of open-source IP and Accenture’s own, usually acquired, tech makes for an “extensible and configurable” IoT platform. Ironically, it can be something of a walled garden. Once you’re working with Accenture, you’re mostly locked into working with its partners, Gartner notes, but that partner ecosystem is still quite extensive.
Breadth of solution: Accenture’s made a successful business out of helping enterprises in a wide variety of industries get their technology to work for them, so they’ve got a broad base of vertical-specific knowledge to call on for IoT, which is a critically important thing to have.
Amazon Web Services
Innovation: The fully integrated approach to IoT analytics – which lets AWS bring its formidable array of data analysis and machine learning tools together with several purpose-built frameworks for IoT insights and control – is now par for the course among big public cloud providers offering themselves up as a general purpose IoT back-end. But AWS was the first one to pull all those elements together in a meaningful way and has set the standard.
Market share: It’s difficult to get a sense of overall market share for a product that AWS sells across many verticals, although a survey of enterprise IoT users from the 451 Group rated them third overall among IoT platforms. But if the company’s frequent announcements of big-name new partnerships with firms like Volkswagen, VMware and Sprint are anything to go by, some of the world’s large IoT back-ends live somewhere on AWS.
Depth of solution: Amazon’s IoT offerings are heavily focused on back-end storage, analysis and general management of the data produced by IoT implementations. So you’re not going to buy sensors or edge hardware or networking elements from Amazon, nor the main management software you’ll use to directly oversee your systems. But AWS will handle most of the data manipulation.
Breadth of solution: As a company whose main point of entry into the IoT market is as a huge public cloud provider, this is a particularly strong category for AWS. The entire point of most IoT implementations is the creation of valuable insight from machine-generated data, so there really aren’t many IoT deployments that aren’t a good fit for AWS’s IoT-focused products.
Innovation: As the world's premier creator of small-scale silicon, Arm provides one of the key underpinnings of IoT. Its expertise at designing efficient, low-power chips for mobile and embedded use means that a lot of the devices we think of when we mention IoT couldn’t exist without the company’s innovative designs. What’s more, Arm recently announced its own Pelion IoT platform, in an attempt to capture a share of that market space. (And it even supports x86!)
Market share: Arm’s long been the dominant designer of chipsets for smartphones and other smaller devices, so its enormous presence in the IoT space shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The company’s designs are near-ubiquitous across most IoT verticals.
Depth of solution: While the company has attempted to chase a share of the IoT platform market with Pelion, Arm is vastly more important because of its chip designs. This could change if Pelion and its associated interconnectivity, security and onboarding solutions gain more market traction, but, again, the really important thing is the silicon.
Breadth of solution: Arm processors are darn near everywhere in the world of IoT, so it’s difficult to imagine any company having much broader applicability.
Innovation: The innovation for AT&T is, as you might guess, focused on the connectivity piece of IoT. The giant mobile service provider has been aggressive in its pursuit of IoT integration into its national network, and offers a wide range of services through its IoT platform, including onboarding and data visualization.
Market share: Should AT&T be measured against pure connectivity providers like SigFox, standards like LoRaWAN or other types of wireless connection used in IoT, like Wi-Fi? Regardless, what does seem clear is that AT&T is a wildly popular choice for cellular IoT connections. A 2018 study from Counterpoint Research said that AT&T’s share of that market is nearly twice that of its nearest competitor.
Depth of solution: AT&T’s presence in the IoT world isn’t limited to providing connectivity, the company’s obvious strong suit. In addition to its in-house IoT platform offering and a range of connectivity services, AT&T partners with some of its suppliers to offer wireless hardware for customers trying to connect their own devices to the IoT.
Breadth of solution: While not every IoT application is the right fit for the type of cellular connectivity that AT&T provides, it’s still a pretty popular option for more data-intensive tasks, and AT&T has a non-trivial presence elsewhere in the IoT stack.
Innovation: When Cisco didn’t have in-house expertise to advance its IoT portfolio, it did what Cisco does: acquire it. Case in point: the Jasper control center for connectivity management. In addition, the company’s undoubted networking expertise has been well-applied to IoT-specific issues, and its ability to integrate basically any connectivity option smoothly is enormously helpful. Among other things, the company produces ruggedized wireless gear for industrial environments, a field networking control suite and a version of IOx for edge devices.
Market share: Not content with being the 800-pound gorilla of enterprise networking, Cisco’s also the 800-pound gorilla of IoT networking. In the edge compute market, in particular, analysts agree that the company is among the biggest players, and Cisco’s got at least a presence in several major IoT market segments, including oil and gas, healthcare and automotive.
Depth of solution: Cisco has a fairly diverse IoT presence, including partnerships with IIoT vendors, the Jasper business unit for connectivity management and the Kinetic IoT platform for data management. In short, Cisco has an active presence in lots of different parts of the IoT stack.
Breadth of solution: Cisco’s has partnerships throughout the IoT ecosystem, including its network management technology, which is available on all three of the major cloud platforms. Coupled with its applicability to many verticals this means it’s got a very, very wide IoT footprint.
Innovation: Having arguably the biggest accumulation of coding talent on the planet isn’t going to hurt a company trying to offer innovative, flexible features for IoT users. Its Pub/Sub technology dramatically simplifies event data handling, and the company’s powerful AI/machine-learning technology can be delivered right down to the edge.
Market share: While Google’s the smallest of the three large, general-use IoT public clouds, that still makes it a major player in the IoT platform market.
Depth of solution: Even though the focus is clearly on the back-end, Google boasts enough clever features – like dedicated IoT development platform Firebase and the ability for its IoT Core to natively speak a lot of different messaging languages – to make the case that it’s not just applying its in-built data-crunching smarts to information that’ll have to be provided by somebody else.
Breadth of solution: Like the other big cloud providers, Google’s IoT offerings might appeal to pretty much anyone trying to get the most out of their data, given the company’s expertise in analytics and machine learning. Businesses with a particularly diverse lineup of edge devices, such as those with a need to use multiple message formats, might be especially interested.
Innovation: Another long-standing industrial player making its presence felt in the new IIoT market, Hitachi offers its Lumada platform as an appliance, software subscription or as a service. Lumada takes a somewhat different approach to key IIoT functionality like digital twinning, with a slightly offbeat version it calls “asset avatars,” which are focused on asset monitoring and alerting features, according to Gartner.
Market share: Lumada’s not yet the go-to platform for any particular vertical market, but Hitachi’s broad reach has created a Lumada presence across several industries, detailed below. It’s also worth noting that Hitachi’s presence in the IoT market proper is a fairly recent development, dating back just two years.
Depth of solution: Analysts cite this as a particular strength for Hitachi, praising the company’s ability to offer an end-to-end IoT solution to its customers, from edge compute and monitoring functionality all the way through machine learning and a cloud back-end. Hitachi’s long experience on both sides of the operational/IT divide is a big part of that.
Breadth of solution: Fittingly, for the product of a heavily diversified company like Hitachi, Lumada’s target customer isn’t just traditional industrial and utility companies. The company has also taken aim at smart cities and the transportation sector, and its availabliity as hardware, software or a service helps make its IoT offerings an attractive option.
Innovation: IBM’s advanced AI and machine learning capabilities through its Watson platform were ground-breaking at the time of their release, and they remain capable tools for turning IoT-created data into business value. In addition to making the actual management of IoT infrastructure easier, Watson brings the ability to glean powerful insights from machine-generated data.
Market share: A recent survey from 451 Research ranked IBM as second only to Microsoft in terms of enterprise IoT-platform market share, comfortably outdistancing the other cloud-platform specialists, including Amazon and Google. That’s not even counting IBM’s Maximo asset management system, newly updated for the IoT era and part of the company’s long-standing presence in the industrial sector.
Depth of solution: IBM’s still mostly supplies the brains of IoT operations rather than the hardware, but that still means Watson’s smarts can be applied to at least a few different layers of the IoT stack, including networking automation, beyond just crunching the numbers.
Breadth of solution: Getting the most out of the data an IoT system provides is a common need across most types of IoT implementation, so the potential applicability of Watson’s smarts alone makes IBM strong here.
Innovation: Microsoft wasn’t the first to the party on integrated, public-cloud-based back ends for IoT, but they’ve created a lot of IoT-centric applications and systems, including IoT Hub, solution accelerators and digital-twin tech for Azure. What’s more, the company has targeted specific verticals, including manufacturing, energy and logistics.
Market share: There aren’t a lot of direct measurements of overall IoT platform market share out there, but Microsoft has numerous partners across many different industries including Fujitsu, BMW and Intel. This suggests the company appeals to a broad base.
Depth of solution: Microsoft is heavily focused on data and the cloud, so Azure can take care of managing and extracting value from an IoT data set thanks to the its advanced analytics features like Time Series Insights and Azure Maps spatial analytics.
Breadth of solution: Analytical insights, whether they’re real-time fault detection or long-view productivity trends, are the holy grail of IoT, and in that capacity Azure IoT can be a productive part of essentially any IoT deployment. Put another way, every IoT setup needs a way to collect and process all the data it generates, and Azure has a range of services to address widely varied use cases.
Innovation: Having acquired the various components of the ThingWorx IIoT platform over the course of the past six years, PTC has spent the interim crafting it into one of the most complete industrial offerings on the market. The company has applied its long-standing experience in heavy industry (it was founded in 1985 to sell a CAD-modeling product for industrial design) to the IoT, making it one of the leading specialist industrial IoT platforms on the market.
Market share: Industry analysts tend to agree that ThingWorx is among the market leaders in its category, and is among the first names that analysts mention when the topic of prominent IIoT companies is raised. Gartner, for example, rates PTC closer to the leaders quadrant of its most recent IIoT Magic Quadrant report than any other company.
Depth of solution: Boasting a strong analytical back end, ThingWorx’s applies it top-to-bottom, from digital-twin functionality for endpoints to rigorous data analysis, which means that it’s a relatively compete solution for the industrial use case.
Breadth of solution: Although it’s inarguably an IIoT-focused platform, ThingWorx boasts great flexibility within that market segment, with a large developer community working on a wide array of IIoT functionality.
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