5 Approaches to Piloting IoT Solutions for your Company


 blog image

Insights | Sep 20, 2018


An IoT pilot project is a small scale implementation of hardware and software that is conducted before the large scale deployment of an IoT system. A pilot project is often a critical step in proving out the business case and practical feasibility of IoT-oriented business idea. Its success (or failure) can help you determine whether a large-scale deployment makes sense – and ought to be funded. Piloting is also important in IoT due to the relative technical complexity of integrating hardware, communications and software applications in most IoT systems. One of the challenges to getting started is that the business case (including the financial return on investment) behind many IoT use cases are not yet widely proven. Plus, a common horizontal use case such as field service automation may deliver a huge payoff for one business, but not the next one, based on the underlying economics of their individual operations. In such varied environments, it’s advisable to start with small IoT use case projects. Start small, test hypotheses and then expand in the areas you discover work well technically and are compelling financially. Here are a few possible organizational approaches for embarking on IoT pilot projects: part-time project team, dedicated project team, innovation lab, vendor lab, and independent lab.

Part-time project team

This approach is recommended as a “pilot to your pilot” to gather data and justify a larger commitment of time and resources

You can build out an internal, part-time team by allocating a small percentage of time from people within your organization. This may require team members with flexible skill sets and the ability to work independently as they find the time in their schedule to build IoT expertise while creating a prototype. If you do have a little wiggle room in your budget, you can supplement the team with external consultants. This can help address constraints around capabilities or timing, and may also add critical subject matter expertise (SME) to the team.

Dedicated project team

This approach is recommended for an organization that has timelines in place, along with support from management, an approved budget, and allocated people resources.

The dedicated project team approach has internal resources who are dedicated full-time to the IoT pilot project. They should have some expertise in IoT and possibly some previous experience running pilots for your specific use case. The team may also be supplemented with external consultants as SMEs or to address timing constraints.

Innovation lab for IoT

This approach is recommended for an organization that already has an established R&D or innovation lab, and executive sponsorship to prioritize IoT

If you are finding that IoT is critical to the future of your business, carving out an IoT team within your existing innovation lab should help you prepare to tackle multiple IoT projects across a variety of use cases. In this approach, a dedicated team would be created to specifically focus on and pursue IoT projects on a wider scale. This team could support multiple projects across the enterprise, and develop subject matter expertise to share across other teams.

Vendor IoT Lab

This approach is recommended for an organization that may have some resources for a part-time or dedicated team, but broadly lacks critical expertise, equipment, or capacity to make it happen on their own

A Vendor IoT Lab can help you build out use cases by providing an environment with equipment, processes and expertise. Companies such as Microsoft, Siemens and GE offer these services, but you may end up locked into their platform, technology solutions and partners when it comes time to scale up beyond pilots.

Independent IoT Lab

This approach is similar to a Vendor IoT lab – it is recommended for an organization that may have some resources for a part-time or dedicated team, but lacks critical expertise, equipment, or capacity to make it happen on their own. But it also allows flexibility for utilizing industry-specific expertise, vendors, or solution models that work best with your project or for your business.

An Independent IoT Lab can help you build out use cases by providing an environment with equipment, processes and expertise. They likely will offer a variety of platform, vendor, and hardware options to customize a solution that is the best fit for your particular use case. In other words, an independent IoT Lab can create a more best of breed pilot solution for you.

How do I choose my approach?

Based on the details above, you can identify the best approach by asking yourself a few questions

  1. Do we have management and/or executive support?
  2. What are the people resources available to us?
  3. Do we currently have expertise building IoT pilots, and integrating the required building blocks?
  4. Do we have a budget?
  5. What is our timeline?

Those answers should help guide you to the best decision for your organization.