Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) could play an increasing role in the management of Internet of Things (IoT) apps and devices according to Rich Mendis, co-founder of AnyPresence, an MBaaS platform provider. His company has been working with their customers to use their platform to manage IoT ecosystems.
Three ways MBaaS can help IoT
Mendis explained that there are three areas where the AnyPresence MBaaS platform is helping manage and cultivate IoT:
- Help customers build apps on their IoT devices. Take, for example, a smart appliance manufacturer with a line of connected appliances. Once the manufacturer solves the connectivity issue, MBaaS can help the manufacturer building compelling apps that you can connect to other data sources. A high-end consumer appliance brand could use MBaaS-enabled IoT apps to enable customers to contact them and log a service ticket when and if something fails on their appliance. There's also the potential for integrating the high-end appliance with SAP or other backend applications
- Help IoT manufacturers expose an application programming interface (API) and software development kits that can mean branded developer portals with generated sample applications with non-proprietary source code.
- Create an API builder that can run on IoT microcomputers (think Raspberry Pi) by downloading an executable and copying it to your IoT device. You can build APIs and you can serve them up as an API gateway.
While Mendis calls these points differentiators, I see a roadmap for the future of MBaaS running as the backend for a large IoT ecosystem. AnyPresence is out with this approach first, but I expect further exploration of MBaaS for IoT management as enterprises and large manufacturers seek new and innovative solutions for managing and securing IoT.
MBaaS, IoT, and standards
"The challenge on standardization today is primarily on the connectivity layer," Mendis said. "It's the physical bridge, so there are competing standards like ZigBee and Z-Wave for example. They are competing standards groups like AllSeen Alliance and Open Interconnect Consortium and stuff like that, so they're all duking it out for who's going to have the most widely-adopted for physically connecting the devices."
Mendis explained that since AnyPresence isn't in the hardware space, they take a hardware agnostic approach and view and to help you IoT bridge across different components.
He said an example of this would be an AnyPresence customer with a Wi-Fi component manufactured in China based on one standard. They have another line of appliances where they've outsource the Wi-Fi component based on another standard. Mendis said, "We will be the bridge if you will that sits across both of them and help them build a single app consumers can use regardless of their connectivity standard."
"I think it's going to be like that for some time because you have Apple and Google and some fairly big players entering this market," Mendis said.
IoT developer ecosystem best practices
IoT vendors are going to have to press hard with launching developer programs around their platform.
"The good news is there are a lot of best practices for application architectures in the enterprise today that can be applied to IOT," Mendis said.
Because security remains one of the big concerns around IoT, Mendis thinks borrowing from the enterprise and what it has learned about creating PCI and HIPAA compliant apps can be a starting point.
Mendis shared details on this architecture breakdown for IoT apps and MBaaS:
- Presentation layer (UI test kits)
- Client-side modeling (smart SDKs) that include a client-side data model, custom object classes, connectivity to APIs, local caching, test scripts, and documentation
- Application services (MBaaS) that include app services and business logic, role-based access, enterprise integration; and device and user registration
- Web services gateway with custom API definition; proxy to source APIs and device hubs; business workflow; and simulate device control APIs
AnyPresence also has a product called AppLaunchpad (a customizable IoT developer portal) for creating IoT apps from templates. The portal works with existing portals and API management solution that includes:
- Customizable apps with UI Kits, SDKs, and Backend Server
- Non-proprietary, editable source code
- Instant Cloud Sandbox Environments
- Pre-built connectivity to real or simulated device APIs and data
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.