“Box” vs. “platform” IoT solutions: which is better?

Many companies around the world are waking up to the reality that the internet of things (IoT) is rapidly becoming a necessary component to have for any business that wants to grow. However, many don’t know how to get started. While a create-it-yourself IoT solution is possible, it is likely to result in a wasted budget, mass frustration and no workable solution. Instead, there are “box” and “platform” solutions. “Box” solutions are ready-made solutions that just need to be installed, while “platform” solutions allow users to use already-developed infrastructure to create personalized IoT solutions. But which is the best way to proceed? There are five key considerations:

  • Scalability – “box” solutions are usually designed with a certain scale in mind and sometimes don’t work as well with other scales, especially larger ones. On the other hand, “platform” solutions can be easily-scaled up or down to fit the needs of the moment and the future.
  • Sustainability – a “box” solution is a single system written as a monolithic application, so a failure in one component can break everything else. With “platform” solutions, there are modules that are capable of continuing to operate even if one fails.
  • Integration – “box” solutions can have a hard time integrating to the specifics of each business as they are designed to be more “universal” (i.e. generic). “Platform” solutions, however, are organically-designed to the unique situations of each business and can be redesigned to adapt to future changes as well.
  • Simplicity – “Box” solutions are relatively simple and easy-to-understand. “Platform” solutions generally require more time to adjust to, requiring users to learn to “walk before running”.
  • Mobility and flexibility – “Box” solutions are completely inflexible, making any change difficult. “Platform” solutions, however, are designed to work with different types of hardware and protocols, meaning that pieces of the solution can be more-easily changed or altered to fit business needs.

The “platform” solution is clearly the more ideal solution. Even if a “box” solution is cheaper initially, its lack of overall flexibility means that, in the long run, it will only be more costly and cause more headaches for both the business and its customers.