Introduction to Common IoT Cloud Platforms

IoT cloud platform is an all-in-one platform which integrates functions such as device management, data security communication, and notification management. According to their target group and accessibility, IoT cloud platforms can be divided into public IoT cloud platforms (hereinafter referred to as “public cloud”) and private IoT cloud platforms (hereinafter referred to as “private cloud”).

Public cloud usually indicates shared IoT cloud platforms for enterprises or individuals, operated and maintained by platform providers, and shared through the Internet. It can be free or low-cost, and provides services throughout the open public network, such as Alibaba Cloud, Tencent Cloud, Baidu Cloud, AWS IoT, Google IoT, etc. As a supporting platform, public cloud can integrate upstream service providers and downstream end users to create a new value chain and ecosystem.

Private cloud is built for enterprise use only, thus guaranteeing the best control over data, security, and service quality. Its services and infrastructure are maintained separately by enterprises, and the supporting hardware and software are also dedicated to specific users. Enterprises can customise cloud services to meet the needs of their business. At present, some smart home manufacturers have already got private IoT cloud platforms and developed smart home applications based on them.

Public cloud and private cloud have their own advantages, which will be explained later.

To achieve communication connectivity, it is necessary to complete at least embedded development on the device side, alongwith business servers, IoT cloud platforms, and smartphone apps. Facing such a huge project, public cloud normally provides software development kits for device-side and smartphone apps to speed up the process. Both public and private cloud provide services including device access, device management, device shadow, and operation and maintenance.

Device access

IoT cloud platforms need to provide not only interfaces for device access using protocols such as MQTT, CoAP, HTTPS, and WebSocket, but also the function of device security authentication to block forged and illegal devices, effectively reducing the risk of being compromised. Such authentication usually supports different mechanisms, so when devices are mass-produced, it is necessary to pre-assign the device certificate according to the selected authentication mechanism and burn it into the devices.

Device management

The device management function provided by IoT cloud platforms can not only help manufacturers monitor the activation status and online status of their devices in real time, but also allows options such as adding / removing devices, retrieving, adding / deleting groups, firmware upgrade, and version management.

Device shadow

IoT cloud platforms can create a persistent virtual version (device shadow) for each device, and the status of the device shadow can be synchronised and obtained by smartphone app or other devices through Internet transmission protocols. Device shadow stores the latest reported status and expected status of each device, and even if the device is offline, it can still obtain the status by calling APIs. Device shadow provides always-on APIs, which makes it easier to build smartphone apps that interact with devices.

Operation and maintenance (O&M)

The O&M function includes three aspects:

  • Demonstrating statistical information about IoT devices and notifications.
  • Log management allows information retrieval about device behavior, up / down message flow, and message content.
  • Device debugging supports command delivery, configuration update, and checking the interaction between IoT cloud platforms and device messages.