The IoT Application Technology Stack

Hey Losant Community!

@Aidan_Zebertavage here, Technical Evangelist for Losant checking in. I’m here to help our community along their IoT journey - a journey that I just started myself.

Inspired after watching @anaptfox latest Deeper Dive on Learning IoT & Losant, I would like to start thinking about the IoT stack at a high level. I’m interested in hearing from the community in what components make up an IoT application? What are all the different technologies that must come together and function to create a viable, usable, reliable, and robust IoT application?

Here at Losant we think of the IoT stack as consisting of:

So what do you think Losant Community, are we missing anything?

Nice. I can tell the story of how this stack came to be. It started with the question of: “What does an IoT Engineer need to know?”

After discussing with one of the teachers at Butler Tech, they came up with this diagram:

I loved it. I thought, “These are the layers of an IoT application.” IoT is a different view of the technology stack. IoT is what happens when you’re solving a problem that incorporates these layers. Though, today, I don’t think that the “IoT Engineer” exists. One person never covers all layers. However, these layers are typically augmented by people, technology, and ecosystem.

However, after re-evaluating, I do think that “Cloud” deserves its own layer in the stack (maybe between security and Web Applications). IoT’s value is in the data. Today, data is processed in the cloud (or within services that leverage cloud-based infrastructure).

This is very accurate for the development of an IoT product, but many companies underestimate the post-production requirements as well.

What happens when it breaks? Who do your customers call? How does your organization support this product?

This is especially important for companies that may not be used to offering SaaS products. The support model can be very different when compared to physical goods.

So perhaps at the very top of the stack, above “Web Applications”, there could be an entry for “Support and Maintenance”.

I think you bring up a really good point @Brandon_Cannaday, that the execution and long term viability of an IoT application absolutely depends on ongoing Support and Maintenance. I believe there’s an even broader, higher level thought to consider alongside this, which is the 'Human Element".

I think enterprise and devs have a good understanding, of what the technical stack is to create an IoT application, yet maybe lack knowledge of the resources available outside the technical line of business to achieve success. So in my mind the stack can never be just about technology, as the human element, thinking marketing, IT support, etc might be the causes of stalled or failed opportunities and needs to be considered.

It’s one thing to create an IoT application, and an entirely other challenge to get it out into the market and have it be successful . So maybe the the tech stack gets wrapped up visually in a ‘Human Element’ level that would include Support?

This is a great discussion, and am definitely on board with the definition of the IoT stack that @Aidan_Zebertavage gave. Thinking and discussing this at a high level is great, but when we get down to brass tacks, someone has to build this application. Being an expert in all levels of that IoT stack seems to me like a daunting task - is there even such a thing as a “full stack” IoT Engineer? Is it more likely to be a team?

I think relating this IoT stack to full-stack web development makes sense. Sure, there are developers who are experts in executing both clean frontend work and making an efficient backend, but those developers are few and far between. I think that correlates nicely to the Full Stack IoT Engineer - they probably exist, but are rare, and you’re more likely to find a team of engineers performing specific levels of the stack.

I think security can be a connector between each layer in the pyramid

1 Like

@Lars_Andersson - Great point! I think recognizing that security needs to be considered between each layer of the stack and not just at a single point is right on.

@Heath - You’re right about the IoT engineer is likely not a single individual. There may be that unicorn who is a true expert in everything from hardware, protocols and networking through full front end web development - but I think likely this is a team approach at the enterprise level. And when we think about the human element as Brandon and I mentioned above with Support and Maintenance, you start to really appreciate the value in having those dedicated expert come together to work as a team to realize the full potential of the application.

I would include the word/layer ‘Connectivity’ right smack at the bottom - that’s what :red_circle: advocates most, and we’re not the only ones doing it; here’s a slide from one of our recent presentations highligthing how the ‘connectivity element’ is not ‘always understood’ in Beecham Research’s 'Why IoT Projects Fail" :

Whether is wired, wireless, whatever technology or protocol, as Alistair Fulton, Vice President and General Manager of Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group puts it : "Without connectivity there is no data, and without data there is no cloud solution”. :red_circle:


Thanks, @Jose_Cruz! I think establishing connectivity as a key component of the technology stack is a great addition.

I truly appreciate the engagement on this discussion topic - as engineers, I think it’s always helpful to think a bit more broadly about the industries we are in. And certainly, we here at Losant are always excited to hear directly from our users, so thanks again @Lars_Andersson and @Jose_Cruz for your thoughts!

I wanted to make sure that we ended up with output to this discussion, so in taking in your comments and feedback, I’d like to share a new version of the IoT tech stack:

I’ve worked to include the feedback from each of the posts, as well as to provide a bit more context on the broader institutional support that’s necessary for a successful IoT product ('Enterprise Resources"). We are all well aware of how dynamic this industry is, with technology introduction and adoption occurring frequently, so this is a living document and one that will be interesting to see if we all agree on a year from now - who knows what expertise is going to be required in the IoT space in 12 months?

Even just today I stumbled across the following article on common pitfalls to deploying an IoT project, with number one being Expertise and Resources:

Let me know your thoughts on the new graphic!

I’ll be hosting another forum discussion here in the coming weeks so please keep an eye out for that!

Thanks Losant Community!

1 Like

@Aidan_Zebertavage Looks very good! :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: !

1 Like