And the winner is … well, there is no ‘the best’ in the IoT AEP space

Jim Morrish headshot

By Jim Morrish, Founding Partner, Transforma Insights.

On the 11th November, Transforma Insights published its inaugural IoT Application Enablement Platform (AEP) Peer Benchmarking report, which examines the strategies of twelve leading vendors of IoT AEP capabilities. The companies covered are: Altair, AWS, Clearblade, Ericsson, Fujitsu, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, PTC, SAP, Siemens, and Software AG.

In this article I want to share some of the findings of the work. But first it is worth taking some time to frame the overall market, which is characterised by a range of different vendors seeking to differentiate their offerings in different ways and targeting different markets. Accordingly, there is no ‘the best’ IoT AEP provider, and the best (most suitable) platform for any particular end-user requirement can only be identified in the context of that specific requirement. The IoT platforms included in our benchmarking report specialise in diverse areas, ranging from enterprise application integration (and consistency) through to smart product design and enablement.

More than this though, we think that the AEP platform capabilities offered by vendors typically evolve to be a reflection of the overall strengths of that vendor’s wider business, and target markets. For instance, Altair specialises in providing solutions for computer-aided engineering, high-performance computing, and data analytics, enabling design and optimization for high performance, innovative, and sustainable products and processes. Altair’s IoT AEP (SmartWorks) thus has strengths in supporting connected devices in the field, and digital twins that include product design information. However, SmartWorks is not so well-suited to supporting certain other applications like, for example, supply chain management. A large-scale end user looking to develop a supply chain management solution would likely be better off talking to, for example, SAP or Oracle, which both focus on supply chain as an extension of their wider ERP focus.

Based on this overall philosophy, we have developed a framework for assisting end-users to select the most appropriate vendors for any IoT project needs. The framework is summarised in Figure 1, below.

Figure 1: Vendor Assessment Framework [Source: Transforma Insights, 2020]

Transforma Insight AEP vendor assesment platform

Accordingly, with our Peer Benchmarking Report we have sought to identify the differences between AEP providers, and the strengths and ‘sweet spots’ for each rather than seeking to identify ‘the best’ platforms.

OK, so who’s the best? Well, the ‘sweet spots’ for the vendors profiled could be summarised at a very high level as follows:

  • Altair: Support for development and operation of sophisticated and smart products. Infrastructure and asset monitoring. Digital twins, physics-based simulation and modelling.
  • AWS: Supporting platform solutions, including other AEPs. Analytics and the management of content and hyperscale capabilities
  • Clearblade: Edge solutions for complex industrial contexts and brownfield deployments. Situations where wide area connectivity is not reliable.
  • Ericsson (with Connected Vehicle Cloud): Vehicle OEMs selling connected vehicles and applications to support connected vehicles.
  • Fujitsu: Manufacturing production management and optimisation. Multi-site, mixed production. Digital transformation and change management for manufacturers.
  • IBM: Integration with AI, distributed ledger, digital twin, and other emerging technologies. Large and sophisticated end users. In-house consulting capability.
  • Microsoft: Very large end users. Systems integrator and telco resellers. Digital twins of manufacturing facilities.
  • Oracle: Smart manufacturing, logistics, worker safety, predictive maintenance and service monitoring. Larger and global enterprises. Users of Oracle enterprise software.
  • PTC: Manufacturers of industrial and engineering equipment. Integration of IoT with CAD/CAM information. AR enabled service and manufacturing. X-aaS capabilities.
  • SAP: Enterprise digital transformation. Existing SAP ERP clients. End users looking to deploy a range of ERP solutions.
  • Siemens: Industrial automation and control. Power grid and rail infrastructure monitoring and maintenance. Smart campus and smart city. Assets in the field and automotive fleet management (via partners).
  • Software AG: Water management and building management. Supporting the rapid development of IoT solutions with no lock-in to a specific vendor, hardware, or infrastructure.

As you’ll have realised by now, this Peer Benchmarking report adopts a somewhat unusual approach to benchmarking AEP capabilities in that it seeks to reflect the dynamics in the marketplace. The 2×2 matrix approach to identify a ‘best AEP’ (top right) has had its day.

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