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To own or to rent? That’s a question we usually reserve for our personal lives. This conundrum, however, has become increasingly relevant to IT leaders’ decision making. When it comes to IoT, it’s no longer a case of if, or even when; it’s a case what do we do now—the future is finally here.

IoT platforms help IT leaders accelerate launch time and reduce the costs associated with developing IoT-enabled products, services and applications. It is estimated that in the next five years, IoT platforms will manage the interoperability of nearly 25B newly connected devices. Choosing the right IoT platform to marry your smart technology to is a decision that cannot be taken lightly, or made easily given that 300+ IoT platforms now exist.

As with any big decision, making the wrong choice the first time around and needing to switch to a better IoT platform can be expensive, time-consuming and messy. Just as there are many factors to consider when mapping out your IoT solution’s functionality, there is also much to consider when deciding between IoT platforms, including the business model of your platform.

The SaaS Model

Today most IoT platforms are delivered via a Software as a Service pricing model, offering browser-based services to customers on a pay-as-you-go basis. SaaS model IoT platforms offer standardized connectivity features and dashboard interfaces for IoT applications. Without having to internally manage backend servers, businesses can quickly develop simple IoT applications using these one-size-fits-all platforms. Under such pricing models, however, speed comes at a cost.

The hardware connectivity and complex data management challenges businesses face after launching IoT applications makes it very difficult to manage using a ‘standardized’ approach. It often takes industrial organizations several development cycles to fully understand the use cases and requirements of their IoT app. The unique challenges that arise post launch of an IoT application often require businesses to adapt their IoT platform to their business processes, operational procedures or customer demands. Platform users, additionally, have no control over price increases or whether the platform is removed from the market.

SaaS model IoT platforms also present significant data ownership and security hurdles that may be insurmountable for organizations operating in highly regulated industries (i.e. healthcare, manufacturing). While you might own the data that your applications’ users generate, it’s important to understand your rights regarding how your platform vendor uses this data and your data extraction options in the event that you decide to switch platforms. Be sure to carefully review the fine print for details regarding data ownership and potential charges for exporting your data.

Despite claims of ‘flexibility’ and ‘customization’, SaaS model IoT platforms typically release product updates after weighing requests from a significant portion of their customers. In this way, customization can be significantly slowed. This process can become a challenge if the platform’s user interface options do not adequately align with your particular business process or customer use case. Any platform upgrades that your organization requests will also become available to other platform users—competitors included—eliminating any opportunity to realize first-mover advantages. Thus, these platforms can limit their users’ ability to swiftly release product updates and take advantage of valuable customer input.

The Source License Model

The CirrusCon Application Platform is one of the few IoT platforms on the market that does not utilize a SaaS model—instead using a source license model, which allows businesses to build and own their IoT app. Businesses that own their IoT platform can more precisely configure their app to changing business processes, user-generated feedback, market changes, and more. With time, this continued platform customization will allow them to build up their intellectual properties (IPs) and create tangible value.

The platform’s open standard backend interface also makes it easy to interface to third party data service providers, and swiftly add new functionality as needed. Many current users of the CirrusCon platform, for instance, have scaled their platform’s data processing capabilities by integrating with third party partners such as data service providers Flowthing.io and wot.io. The platform is also ideally suited for applications that involve supporting customers and internal operations. CirrusCon users also have the ability to fully customize their IoT app’s interfaces, and administrative controls for internal and/or customer use.CirrusCon provides the same cloud- and hardware-related benefits as SaaS model platforms—enabling faster time to market and lower upfront costs. With cloud server costs at an all time low, businesses that own their IoT platforms are able to realize greater profit margins than ever before. Unlike with SaaS model IoT platforms, the product developments that CirrusCon users invest in can be exploited in the marketplace, and used to leapfrog over their competitors.

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Rick O'Brien
Rick O'Brien is the CEO and Founder of Sempercon. Sempercon develops custom mobile, web and IoT apps for businesses of all industries and sizes. SemperCon specializes in building high quality, cost effective app innovations.