A tale of two IoT platforms: Enabling faster prototyping of IoT and M2M solutions

By | 7 minute read | February 7, 2017


AT&T, a US based multinational communications company is connecting millions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Partnering with IBM, developers can deliver IoT innovation and insights on a hybrid cloud platform.

Taking the next step forward in a long-standing collaboration

AT&T and IBM have a long standing relationship which has deepened over the past twenty years as we have leveraged each other drive value to the market.  We are extending our collaboration to the Internet of Things where we are integrating our capabilities to make it easier for developers to create end-to-end IoT solutions and gain deeper insights from data collected from connected devices.

This partnership is a first-of-a-kind in the industry – providing one platform that scales from the device, through the network to powerful analytics to gain deep insights into IoT data.

Paving the way for new opportunities using deeper data insight

There is a strong industry and business need for developers who can create the next generation of innovative IoT solutions, so enterprises can benefit from the massive amounts of data to be generated by more than 29 billion devices IDC says will be connected by 2020.

According to the VisionMobile 2016 Internet of Things Megatrends report, nearly 10 million developers will be active in IoT by 2020, doubling from the estimated 5 million today. As businesses depend more on IoT solutions to succeed, they must invest in developers to stay competitive.

AT&T Flow Designer is now open for business

As of January 2017, AT&T Flow Designer, a graphical application development tool based on IBM’s Node-RED, is available on IBM Bluemix. Flow Designer, a unique, single platform for IoT DevOps, has been integrated with Watson APIs to enable developers to easily embed cognitive capabilities in their IoT solutions.

The solution integrates IBM® Watson® IoT™ cognitive capabilities and IBM Bluemix® cloud technology with AT&T Flow Designer to help companies transform their businesses. The new solution will enable developers to quickly gain deeper insights from data collected by connected devices, which has the potential to reveal new market opportunities and improve productivity. These open standards-based tools allow developers to improve their skills and avoid the churn of learning new tools, protecting investments made in IoT solution development.

Using the solution, Internet of Things (IoT) developers can realize faster time to value, enhanced levels of security and simple, one-stop shopping that can increase their productivity in building innovative applications.

Creating open standards-based tools to enable developers to build IoT solutions quickly

Combining the unique strengths in cognitive computing and global connectivity to create open standards-based tools on the IBM Cloud, the partnership between AT&T with IBM enables developers to quickly build and implement widely compatible IoT solutions. For example, Node-RED, an IBM-developed IoT tool now open source through the Linux Foundation, is embedded in AT&T’s Flow Designer. This allows developers to tap the Node-RED community’s hundreds of nodes to include new capabilities into their Flows.

With this enhanced ability to deploy apps on the IBM Cloud, developers will have more visibility and understanding into the “things” they connect. For example, imagine an asset tracking app that has the ability to not only show the location of an asset, but to couple that with weather data – businesses would then be able to predict delays in the supply chain and reroute deliveries due to bad weather. Adding the Watson Speech API would enable operators of these assets to use the ‘hands-free’ driving capability to monitor engine performance in real time to help avoid breakdowns.

A convenient one-stop shop for developers

The IBM and AT&T collaboration provides ‘one stop shop’ access to the tools and capabilities needed to create end-to-end IoT solutions – inclusive of device, global connectivity, platforms, applications and analytics. Developers can rapidly compose and deploy IoT analytics applications and industry focused solutions that provide data to generate new business models and insights.

IBM brings its Watson IoT Platform and strong analytics capabilities, which partners nicely with the global connectivity (cellular and satellite) and IoT services that have made AT&T a leader in connected devices. The solution makes it easier for developers and enterprises to create innovative IoT applications and gain deeper insights from connected devices.

Multiple Watson APIs available to use

Multiple Watson APIs and other IBM services, including visual recognition, personality insights, trade-off analytics and speech/translation, are available. Watson APIs can be used to break down barriers to analyzing unstructured data and provide access to powerful capabilities, including advanced cognitive computing, machine learning and deep learning approaches to help better understand and engage users and tackle the massive growth of data in multiple formats.

The full list of IBM APIs available in AT&T Flow Designer is:

  • Cloudant
  • IBM Push Notifications
  • Watson IoT Platform
  • OpenWhisk

IBM Watson

  • Alchemy Feature Extract
  • Alchemy Image Analysis
  • Watson Language Identification
  • Watson Language Translation
  • Watson Natural Language Classifier
  • Watson Personality Insights
  • Watson Relationship Extraction
  • Watson Speech-to-Text
  • Watson Text-to-Speech
  • Watson Tradeoff Analytics
  • Watson Visual Recognition

Exciting use cases continue to emerge

Internet of Things use cases have a common set of fundamental requirements, such as easily on-boarding any connected “thing”; creating a real-time communication channel with the “thing”; begin capturing data from the “thing” and store it in a historical database; providing access to the collected data; managing the “things” and the connectivity to them. In addition to these common elements, there are more complex use cases with extended requirements such as: providing a layer of analytics on the data in both real-time and on historical trend data; triggering events based on specific data conditions; interacting with the “thing” from business apps and/or from mobile devices.

For illustration purposes, here are two simple use case examples which utilize different APIs with Flow Designer and Watson IoT Platform:

Manage Fleets Using Watson Speech API

Businesses share data on their vehicles in near real-time using fleet management apps. Fleet operators can track a vehicle’s location, tap into Watson Speech API for ‘hands-free’ driving and help monitor engine performance to avoid breakdowns. The IBM Watson IoT Platform gives operators more detailed analytics.

Benefit: They’re then better prepared to face unexpected challenges. Fleets can become more efficient, profitable and deliver better customer service.

Maintain Tools Tapping Watson Tradeoff Analytics API:

A predictive maintenance and quality solution offers near real-time analytics to increase the lifetime of business assets tapping into Watson Tradeoff Analytics API. A farming company can determine which tractors are in the best condition, if proactive maintenance is required and make better decisions about which equipment to take out of service and when. The app uses current and historical data to recommend which to use and which to repair, which helps to minimize equipment downtime.

Benefit: The farm is more productive, saves costs, and their tractors perform better.

A global solution that addresses the prolific growth of IoT connectivity and data creation

The IoT landscape is becoming more mobile and more diverged as devices proliferate around the world. The integration of AT&T and IBM IoT platforms provides global device connectivity, ease of development, shortens the application development life cycle and provides faster time to benefit realization. AT&T and IBM’s commitment to open standards and industry standards bodies ensure that solutions are scalable and extensible across a wide variety of device types and platforms.

Enterprises that are global with footprints in multiple regions will find the technology especially valuable due to the combined global reach of IBM and AT&T. In fact, AT&T is connecting more IoT devices than any other provider in North America, with a global network that reaches over 200 countries and territories. IBM is an established leader in the IoT, with more than 4,000 IoT client engagements in 170 countries, 1,400 partners in its growing ecosystem and more than 750 IoT patents.

Here’s how to get started with AT&T Flow Designer on IBM Bluemix

Unlock the power of the Internet of Things by prototyping, building and hosting IoT applications with AT&T’s Flow Designer on Bluemix. AT&T Flow Designer is a robust web-based development environment where data driven applications can be designed and deployed with ease. Flow makes it easy to prototype IoT and M2M solutions. Flow nodes are Open Source and available via GitHub. The solution is available to the vast network of the AT&T and IBM developer communities.

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