An IoT platform is an integrated software development environment which connects the IoT hardware with its developer toolkit, cloud infrastructure, libraries and extensions, and other compatible devices. Some of the well-known IoT platforms have desired capabilities including multiple components support, proper documentation, sample code, and extensive use cases.
To understand the coolest offerings in this space, we have updated a list of the best IoT platforms to watch in 2021. Whether you’re an engineer, student, instructor, or maker, you will find one or more of these platforms suitable for your development needs.
From developing your first prototype to building a full-fledged IIoT-scale solution, ThingWorx by PTC is one of the most popular IoT platforms. Its biggest advantage is that all the hard work and programming is confined to the back-end: the front-end users needn’t bother about device connections or individual device status. A drag-and-drop editor alone creates your application interfaces. Supporting a low-code programming environment, ThingWorx contains a fairly large library of extensions and widgets with applications in multiple industries.
Just a couple of years ago, the platform supported only around 50 products in its marketplace. We had then correctly predicted that the company would exponentially grow: as of 2021, it has over 2000+ enterprise IoT customers. Despite being pricey, ThingWorx offers a free trial for developers who register. If you’re looking for more free options, there are many here and you might choose to ignore this.
With a promise to help you build your first IoT app in five minutes, Blynk is another extensive IoT platform supporting 400+ hardware devices. These include Arduino and all its shields, Espressif devices (ESP32 and ESP8266), Particle, MicroPython, and many single-board computers. Using this platform is that simple because you only need to download the Blynk app for Android or iOS, and add the Blynk library on your device hardware. They have hundreds of examples and tutorials for you to get up to speed. Developers can build prototypes for free for personal use only.
3. Tuya Smart
Tuya Smart is known for its huge marketplace of smart home devices. These include home security, smart sensors, smart lighting, AIoT offerings, and industrial applications. On the developer front, its superb platform supports iOS and Android native development, modular features, quick start integration with SDKs, and edge gateway device support. All the devices are connected via TuyaOS, its open source operating system which connects with major brands (such as Siemens) and other platforms such as Google Home and Alexa. Prototyping is free for the entire range of Tuya Smart platform offerings.
ThingSpeak is a 100% analytics platform which supports advanced developer applications in environmental monitoring, energy, and smart farming. All the analysis is done on Matlab, and you can utilize the data insights for really cool stuff. For example, connecting an IoT device to Twitter and sending alerts. The best part is that using data for a certain interval is free. Plus, the data can be tracked on devices using a variety of platform sensors. If your IoT project involves a lot of continuous data monitoring with remote edge applications, ThingSpeak will perfectly meet your requirements.
5. AWS IoT Core
AWS IoT Core is a behemoth in IoT platforms, and is the backbone of many fascinating projects such as Expedia, AirBnB, and CoinBase. With support for device software such as FreeRTOS and AWS IoT Greengrass, AWS IoT Core encompasses a vastly superior ecosystem of products allowing development in smart homes and industrial automation. All AWS data is visualized on an AWS IoT Things graph as shown below. Many IoT platforms in our list support Alexa and AWS integration.
6. Adafruit IO
Adafruit IO is an IoT platform offering from the same company which manufactures Adafruit Feather boards, one of its example applications which we covered is regards building web servers. The platform supports hardware of many makers including Raspberry Pi, ESP8266, BeagleBone, and is well-supported on Arduino IDE. On the developer end, all user interface actions are executed in its single API (shown below). It contains the client libraries, data, webhooks, triggers, users, and tokens. Adafruit IO is free to use for beginners and prototype developers with some limitations in data points, data storage, and triggers for a given time.
ThingsBoard is an open-source IoT platform which is often used on an industrial scale for complex applications such as smart farming, telemetry, fleet management, smart meters, smart energy, and building automation. Its features include granular data visualization across widgets and dashboards, API and widgets to push commands between devices and apps, and support for extensive hardware including Arduino, ESP32, and Raspberry Pi.
A key specialization of this platform is its support for complex rules chains, which means you can design a vast range of applications and use cases. ThingsBoard has a community edition which is absolutely free for developers.
UbiDots is a data simulation IoT platform with a focus on using powerful visualization and simulation to develop customer-specific applications. Its IoT ecosystem supports an extensive cloud of devices including Espressif, Microchip, Particle, Amplified Engineering, and other board makers. With an extensive range of tutorials, SDKs and libraries, on-boarding any device in the platform is an easy task. The only downside: there is no free edition for prototype developers.
9. Google Cloud IoT Core
Google Cloud IoT Core is another fully-managed IoT platform which runs on standard MQTT and HTTP protocols, as well as a serverless infrastructure. The biggest benefit of this platform is Google’s underlying infrastructure which supports low-latency communication, integration with Android and other Google services, and access to latest machine learning models which characterize Google offerings. Prototyping is mostly free.
10. Azure IoT Central
Azure IoT Central by Microsoft is another big IoT platform which can scale from developer-centric prototypes to large industrial scale applications. With quick cloud connectivity, centralized visualization, and a simple plug-and-play infrastructure, Azure IoT Central is a significant force to reckon with. We have tutorials of Azure IoT Edge for both Windows and Linux.
11. IBM Watson IoT
The veteran computer manufacturer makes a great debut in the IoT space, utilizing its much-vaunted AI technology to create a very robust platform.
Fully cloud-hosted and elegantly designed, development teams are taking it up in droves. It’s not cheap, but alongside the usual IoT platform tricks, you can use IBM’s AI technologies to develop a ‘brain’ of sorts, unifying your IoT devices.
It’s relatively easy to get up and running, offering real-time data exchange and a secure structure through which devices communicate with each other. It gets regular updates, too, having recently added a weather data service.
12. Eclipse IoT
Eclipse is one of the few examples of IoT platforms that’s open-source, and it’s genuinely impressive what its small community has achieved so far. Eclipse has over 40 open-source projects that are designed for the various IoT stacks.
This isn’t just independent developers, either. Big companies like Bosch, Red Hat and Eurotech, among others, contribute to Eclipse, giving the platform some serious gravitas. Eclipse already plays host to some complex IoT solutions for major companies, yet its open-source nature also gives it a flexibility and accessibility that you won’t easily find elsewhere.
13. Kaa Project
The Kaa Project (named after Jungle Book’s python) has been winning rave reviews for its superb ease of development. Moreover, it can integrate with devices in other platforms and has extensions and client APIs in its library.
Kaa also offers the option to manage multiple devices from one unit and uses open source protocols such as MQTT and CoAP. The ability to visualize data and over-the-air updates completes the picture. In fact, this is sometimes known as a “microservices” architecture.
Unlike the previous platform, Kaa already has many consumer applications including wearables, healthcare and consumer electronics.
The best features about Thinger.io are its open-source nature and a strong platform that supports multiple protocols, sensors and actuators. It is hardware agnostic and offers a highly interactive, rich interface for coding. Developers can connect up to two devices for free, and a basic subscription starts at only €3.95 per month. What’s more, you can download the Thinger.io infrastructure in AWS, Ubuntu and Raspberry Pi. Do refer our quick start guide on working with Thinger.io.
To work in IoT development especially for commercial offerings, learning about an IoT platform is a basic necessity. The above is our updated list of the most popular IoT platforms at the moment. You will learn more about them in our development tutorials.