IoT joins AI and blockchain as one of the most exciting technologies of the last twenty years. Add this to the buzz around 5G and it’s looking like IoT is about to experience a surge in practicality and popularity. As a result, more and more companies are rushing their IoT products to market, eager to ride the wave without necessarily putting that much care into their IoT product development. No matter what area of IoT you’re looking at, here are a few general Do’s and Don’ts to guide your product development process.
The IoT development process is vital to the success of any good IoT product. Here are 6 dos and don'ts for developing successful IoT products.
Don’t: Fixate on cost
Expenses are an important factor in any development scenario, especially as far as managers and stakeholders are concerned, so it’s only natural for it to form part of your decision-making process. However, fixating too much on the cost of your system and optimizing too early can distract you from the actual work of product development and delay construction. Over 50% of IoT projects actually fail at this conceptual stage, according to AVSystem.
Do: Push for prototypes
One way to satisfy cost-conscious management but not sacrifice your development time is to focus on releasing prototypes early on. Developing minimum viable models of your intended products helps you forecast the future of their development much better. A working prototype will tell you what’s easy or difficult to build and how much actual production might cost, plus you can show it to customers for early-stage feedback that can really help your development process.
Oren Ezra of Seebo writes, “Prototypes can be used to test behaviors, software and firmware interactions in advance, that will affect the final smart product. For example, they can help to identify possible conflict areas of the product related to the operation of a microphone, speaker, and location of the Bluetooth antenna.”
Do: Use a platform
IoT platforms give you a head start in building an IoT system, but if you’re serious about your products you will probably need to write your own system software. There’s nothing inherently wrong with IoT platforms, they are great for solving particular problems and giving guidance and a framework for your products.
But, like any off-the-shelf software, they are limited in their broadness. An IoT system that can exist happily on an existing IoT platform is could be too basic and not innovative enough to make waves in the market for some businesses. Writing your own platform allows you to be truly creative with how you set up your IoT system.
If your business is much too busy to develop its own platform, make sure you know what you’re looking for in a platform you purchase. Some are scalable, whereas others are more customizable, or secure.
Don’t: Underestimate manufacturing
Often IoT developers get so wrapped up in the intellectual and theoretical part of product design they forget to give proper thought to the actual manufacturing process. Designing and making products that physically work takes trial and error and particular expertise and may require special certifications, all of which often costs time and money. You need to consider manufacturing alongside your development and customer testing stage.
If possible, get into contact with the manufacturers during your product’s development. Ask them about the specifications they recommend for such a product, and whether some features would be feasible.
Do: Use cellular technologies for connectivity
This one is actually a Don’t disguised as a Do: Don’t use Wifi. It’s a simple factor of knowing your audience. While many of your customers will likely expect to be able to connect to your products via WiFi, most companies are not friendly to unknown IoT devices connecting to their networks. As a result, you’re much better off looking at cellular connective technologies like LPWA or LTE-M1, which are low cost and work well with battery-powered devices.
Cellular technologies tend to use less energy, and have already been used for years in the market research shopping scanner devices of companies like Kantar.
Don’t: Assume you know everything
No matter how large your team, no matter how experienced they are, don’t fall into the trap that you don’t have anything to learn. IoT is a complex and ever-evolving field with strands of expertise that spread from marketing to manufacturing and a hundred places in between. In short: it’s very difficult for a team to be consistent IoT experts, and almost impossible for one individual to be. Remember to be humble enough to accept you could learn more. Actively seek out areas you and your team are not confident in and look for training to improve.
However, don’t let this dishearten you. While you may not be experts in IoT, you are all experts on your own company and products. When it comes to development that’s what really matters, both during product creation and marketing. Focus on how your vision and mission are embodied in your products and the details will fall naturally into place.