The interest in creating new and different types of IoT devices and services is increasing at a rapid pace and the number of Internet connected things all over the world continues to climb. In order to keep up with demand, setting and meeting realistic product deadlines has become critical for businesses and entrepreneurs alike. When it comes to meeting deadlines, there are many high consequence decisions which can really impact timing and results. If you are tasked with creating a new IoT device or service, here are just a few quick tips to help you meet your deadline.
Consumer versus commercial hardware
IoT devices are typically a combination of sensing, processing and connectivity that incorporate software/firmware and hardware. To expedite early prototypes, some developers will use hobbyist-grade boards. However, often these proofs of concept end up being tossed aside once it’s time to move to pilot stage, because the device is not appropriate, commercial/industrial grade or could not be made into a production scalable solution. Then, the engineering process basically starts over. This wastes time. Whenever possible, use commercially-viable components from day one that are already proven in scaled production deployments elsewhere in your market. Try to leverage off-the-shelf boards whenever possible. The slightly higher costs versus consumer maker ‘toys’ is a small price to pay for not having to start over. After your pilot is successful and your IoT business case has proven itself out, you can always design a custom board later to reduce BOM (Bill of Materials).
Take advantage of pre-certified modules
Related to the first tip, choosing off-the-shelf embedded modules that are pre-certified for wireless connectivity is another great way to reduce technical risk and save time. Why not take advantage of pre-integrated modules that combine processing and connectivity and are pre-certified? This can help you quickly bring a pilot to market. When it’s successful and your volumes go up, you can look at the business case (and payback period) for investing in a more custom “chip down” design that can reduce BOM costs.
Choose the right Connectivity Option
Many if not most IoT devices now employ well known RF technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi to communicate. However, your options are growing and we now live in a “protocol soup” of wireless IoT standards. Do your homework and choose carefully – the entire system can fail if the wrong RF technology is chosen. Understand the environment conditions, the power requirements, the bandwidth requirements, and the frequencies your solution must operate in. Don’t ignore the economics, either. Some of the fastest growing wireless options didn’t even exist a decade ago, like BLE Mesh, cellular LTE Cat M, NB-IoT and LoRa. Do your homework!
Don’t forget about use cases
Where many great IoT timelines fall apart is during the testing phase. Spend time up front defining as complete as possible the number and types of possible use cases. Anticipate that your product will need to pass rigorous user testing. If you create a strong test plan up front, it can help you immensely during the final testing and Q&A period and provide greater confidence that the product will perform in the field without compromising user experience.