The conversation about the Internet of Things (IoT) tends to focus on the most impressive numbers. Gartner made splashy headlines towards the beginning of 2017 when it projected that the number of IoT devices would in that very year exceed the number of people on the planet, and grow to over 11 billion this year. Not to be outdone, certain other commentators were by the beginning of 2018 projecting that the world would see 31 billion connected devices this year.
The validity of these speculations aside, the sheer number of IoT devices isn't nearly as important as you might think, for the same reason the number of brake pads and spark plugs car companies make every year doesn't tell the whole story about automotive innovation.
That's because at the end of the day, if you want to drive somewhere, being given a high-performance engine and a precision-tuned transmission doesn't help you. These items are just so much engineering until they're connected, not just to each other but to thousands of other components. An automobile is a platform that turns car components into a car. And a car is the thing you really care about, because it's the thing that actually gets you where you want to go.
Likewise, an IoT platform is the digital plumbing or middleware that connects edge devices, like smart LED light points and environmental sensors, with data-driven applications for end users — getting you where you want to go, so to speak. IoT platforms create value out of thousands of embedded, all-but-invisible devices and help you innovate at much more than a single-component level.