[Thank you to article contributor, Particle CEO, Zach Supalla]\nImagine it\u2019s a Friday night and you decide to try out a fancy-looking new restaurant in town. You pull up to the front and are greeted by a white-gloved valet and a ma\u00eetre d\u2019 who addresses you by name. The ma\u00eetre ushers you inside and seats you at a white-table-clothed, candle-lit table, complete with gleaming cutlery and crystal glassware. You take in the elegant surroundings while your stomach rumbles at the promise of a decadent meal to come.\nBut when you ask your server for a menu, you get a puzzling response\u2014\n\u201cWe\u2019re actually what\u2019s known as a \u201cfood agnostic\u201d restaurant, which means you can eat whatever you want.\u201d\n\u201cReally? That\u2019s incredible! Well, in that case, I\u2019ll have a sirloin with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli.\u201d\nThe waiter smiles and shakes his head, \u201cOh, no I don\u2019t think you understand, sir. You can eat whatever you want, but we don\u2019t actually provide the food.\u201d\n\u201cWait, so I can\u2019t get anything to eat?\u201d\n\u201cOf course you can. You\u2019ll just have to take care of that part yourself. But, believe me, our service is excellent!\u201d\nWelcome to the world of IoT \u201csolutions\u201d without hardware. While a cloud platform and data storage are important parts of the IoT stack, they\u2019re worthless without hardware to actually provide connectivity and deliver data. IoT platforms that don\u2019t include hardware typically wave this away by telling their customers that they can develop their own hardware solutions. Many even try to sell their absence of hardware as a plus. They use the (admittedly clever) marketing term, \u201chardware agnostic\u201d, to suggest that the lack of hardware \u201cfrees\u201d their customers to use whatever hardware solutions they want.\nBut, this brings us back to the analogy of the \u201cfood agnostic\u201d restaurant. There, unless you\u2019re a trained chef, you\u2019ll almost certainly fail to cook a meal that lives up to expectations. And if you\u2019re anything like me, you\u2019ll probably set fire to the kitchen and have to pick up a pizza on your way home.\nIn the very same way, unless you have a highly-qualified team of IoT engineers at your disposal, designing, developing, and implementing an IoT product will be extremely difficult. What allows these \u201chardware-less\u201d IoT platforms to sell their services is the common misconception that making an IoT device is easy. Time and time again, I see businesses grossly underestimate the challenges involved in developing a connected device. Many companies assume they can simply \u201cadd connectivity\u201d to existing products as if it were a new coat of paint.\nIn reality, developing IoT hardware is exceedingly complex. From selecting the proper microcontroller, to sourcing adequate sensors, and all the way to navigating FCC certification, the path from prototype to production is arduous. What\u2019s more, simply creating a functioning piece of hardware is only the beginning.\nWhen portraying \u201chardware agnosticism\u201d as an asset, IoT companies also conveniently elide the value of deep integration. A well-functioning prototype might suddenly prove unusable when trying to integrate it with existing internal systems and whatever your \u201cvapory\u201d IoT platform of choice. On the other hand, when hardware, firmware, software, and service are all deeply integrated, time to market is infinitely faster, and overall performance is significantly better.\nIn the end, all these concerns can be summed up in three simple words \u2014 \u201cIoT is hard.\u201d So much so, that a whopping 75 percent of all IoT projects fail. In the survey that produced those findings, Cisco identified five central reasons that so many projects fail:\n\nLong completion times\nPoor quality of the data collected\nLack of internal expertise\nIoT integration\nBudget overruns\n\nIs the picture becoming clearer? IoT development is difficult, time consuming, and expensive; especially when working without a qualified team. And because IoT is still such a nascent field, very few businesses actually have such a team. As a result, these companies typically take one of two paths. They either attempt to develop their hardware solution in-house and fail; or they outsource the work to a third party. For those companies that take the second path, one has to wonder, what purpose is their \u201cIoT solution\u201d serving if a third party is needed to actually provide connectivity?\nThe excitement surrounding IoT has created a marketplace in which innumerable businesses are taking on the \u201cIoT\u201d moniker without truly delivering on its promises. This also comes with the unpleasant side effect of widespread confusion surrounding what exactly is IoT.\nIn the end, an IoT platform without hardware is little more than a regular old cloud service. And slapping \u201cIoT\u201d in front of it usually doesn\u2019t change anything but the price tag. If we hope to ever bring the sci-fi-sounding possibilities of IoT to fruition, we\u2019ll have to start by agreeing on what it is. And in my humble opinion, cloud platforms without any hardware solution most certainly aren\u2019t it.