IBM, AT&T Combine IoT Tools To Help Partners, Developers Create Full IoT Solutions

Telecommunications provider AT&T and IT giant IBM are teaming up to help developers create fully baked Internet of Things solutions using a common set of tools. The collaboration, announced Wednesday, includes IBM's developer tools and cloud and analytics services, along with AT&T's IoT platforms and global network.

AT&T has been on the IoT warpath recently. The service provider launched Control Center in March, a cloud-based platform that developers and channel partners use to build and launch IoT applications. The carrier also has a cloud-based development tool called Flow Designer that lets developers quickly build IoT applications. IBM has its open-source Node-RED tool that developers use to wire together hardware devices, APIs and online services for IoT use cases.

Both AT&T and IBM have a shared focus on IoT, and both companies have made a commitment to open-source tooling, Bret Greenstein, vice president of IBM's Watson IoT business unit, told CRN.

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"We got together and discussed how we can help the IoT industry and developers as a whole, and we expanded [AT&T's] tooling to work with our IoT services ... Developers can learn the right tool to build incredible things," Greenstein said.

The tools, including IBM's Watson IoT platform and Node-Red, and AT&T's Flow Designer and Control Center, will be hosted on IBM's BlueMix cloud platform. Any developer or partner using Flow Designer today, for example, will immediately have access to Watson services from IBM.

Because the tools are based on open standards, developers familiar with IBM's and AT&T's IoT platforms won't have to invest in or learn new tools, Greenstein said.

"We are each promoting this as an extension of what our tools already do, so developers don't have to learn anything new or go to a special portal or new architecture to find out about this -- it's an upgrade to the tools they are already using," he said.

Solution providers building IoT solutions using AT&T or IBM platforms can continue to build offerings in the same fashion, but with access to more developer tools, Greenstein said.

The newly-integrated tools will let developers, as well as channel partners for both companies, gain insight into data being generated from connected devices. The combination will also help partners interested in IoT move beyond just connecting devices and collecting data.

"To be able to use the deep set of cognitive capabilities and insights we are providing is new, and the fact they can do that through [AT&T's or IBM's] common tools is powerful," Greenstein said.

While the initial focus will be on integrating the two sets of tools from each company, Greenstein said that down the road, AT&T and IBM will be looking to go to market together with joint IoT solutions.

’Over time, you’ll see both of our partners and developers creating deeper solutions – particularly vertical solutions – that leverage the full stack. The more we do that through our partners and services team, you’ll see solutions we can bring together to the market,’ he said.

The latest partnership isn't the first collaboration between the two companies. AT&T sold off its managed application and hosting services unit to IBM in December 2015, which included the carrier's large data center footprint that had been valued at nearly $2 billion.

The AT&T/IBM IoT announcement comes on the heels of CenturyLink and Cisco's joint location-based analytics system for IoT use cases that was revealed on Monday at Cisco Live.