IoT Platform Dominance

May 13, 2016

There’s a lot of talk about the IoT platform, what that is exactly and what companies will end up winning. Well, I think it snuck up on us without us realizing it. There are really two levels of IoT devices.

  1. Super low-powered - These are typically powered by a coin cell battery and run code on bare-metal.
  2. Higher powered - These are typically plugged in or Li-Ion powered and run Linux.

The development kits and ecosystems around each of these device types are the platforms.

What Platforms Are Winning?

Both of these device types already have dominant players, at least in-terms of prototyping. Arduino is the leader amongst the low-powered devices while Raspberry Pi leads in the higher powered area.

Picture of Arduino Uno “A hand-soldered Arduino” by Matt Biddulph is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Why Are These Winning?

I think the reasons that these platforms lead are pretty simple.

First, I can buy them on Amazon. Easy access to these devices make them a great choice for prototyping. You don’t have to call a sales rep or navigate some vendor’s horrible estore to get them.

Second, most of the code I need is already available. The communities for both the Pi and Arduino are massive. There are tons of howtos and tutorials with code included that do everything from talk using Bluetooth from a Phone to adding a touch screen. The mind share around this stuff is really insane.

Finally, the hardware is open-ish. One of the things to consider when choosing a prototyping platform is how easily can you move to production. Arduino is legitimately open hardware, so I can take a duct-taped prototype to a PCB shop and they can quickly and easily give me a custom PCB based on the prototype. Most PCB shops have done Arduino-based boards before so it’s like a walk in the park. Although the Raspberry Pi isn’t open hardware they are moving in that direction. Also, there are shops that specialize in taking Pi prototypes to production.

Picture of Raspberry Pi “Raspberry Pi” by cowjuice is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

What Companies Win Here?

Broadcom makes the SoC on the Raspberry Pi and Atmel makes the micro controller on the Arduino so I think those guys have an advantage in the market moving forward. Of course all this depends on my assumption that easy prototyping translates into massive chip sales in the long run. What do you think?