When brands embark on their IoT journey to develop a smart and connected product, they can often underestimate the complexity of the end-to-end process and either look for one partner to provide the entire service or too many partners that results in delays, budgets ballooning and vender finger pointing. There is a proven model however with a "single-partner-experience" that will take you from 'concept' to 'life beyond the loading dock'.
1. Sketch the IoT Landscape
There are four key elements to your smart and connected product. Firstly the physical product which requires design and engineering services. This will include electrical and mechanical engineering resources, CAD designs, form factor considerations, radio management, security and firmware. And then you will need a manufacturing partner to build the product at volume and velocity. Secondly, communication protocols from BLE to LoRa, Cellular and Wifi. Thirdly, what will serve as your backend? Meaning cloud management. Are you building, buying or partnering for your cloud management capabilities? And lastly, you'll need applications, both web and mobile, integration to other backend enterprise systems and analytics to derive value from user and device data.
2. Break Down the Landscape into 3 Core Components
a) Design & Engineering
There are many design companies you can work with directly to take you idea through concept and feasibility studies and product demonstrations, to prototyping and minimal viable product (MVP). Ideally work with a partner that has experience in core elements of your product or a partner that can source subject matter experts to supplement their team. For example, is the product a water flow meter requiring ultrasonic expertise, or a Telehealth product requiring HIPPA compliance.
Find out if your EMS/CM partner provided design services or who they partner with. Their recommendations are of huge value and most will offer the opportunity of using their own in-house teams or direct access to their partner portfolio.
b) Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) or Contract Manufacturing (CM)
Unless you are uniquely positioned and have your own manufacturing capabilities you will need to find a manufacturing partner. These companies come in many shapes and forms and your size and scale can often dictate who you will work with. Flex, Foxconn and Jabil are examples of leading EMS providers that are typically setup to provide services at scale, building millions of devices at volume and velocity and services to ship direct to store or home on your behalf. It is more common for them to work with larger, more established brands but some have programs designed for early stage companies.
Whether working with a large multi-national EMS provider or a local contract manufacturer, their responsibility is to the take your MVP and optimize it for manufacturing and your market, buying chips and components from preferred and best priced suppliers, tooling sites and taking the product through NPI (new product introduction) routines. From here the product is ready for market. Your EMS or CM partner is procuring components, planning supply against demand and leveraging all their resources throughout their global supply chain.
c) IoT Integrator Services
This very much depends on your build, buy or partner model, but with the maturing of IoT services many companies are realizing the most optimal model for their IoT capabilities is to partner with an integrator to deliver a fine tuned solution, or buy an off-the-shelf product.
The key difference to consider with your IoT integration service partner is that they must be engaged from concept through to device management and beyond. This is the partner that ensures your product has "life beyond the loading dock".
Given that any IoT product has a digital twin (user application) the design process of both the physical device and digital device should not be run in silo's. They do require different skill sets to deliver, but when designing and concepting an IoT product the engineering teams should work together and build a single PRD (product requirements document) that covers all physical and digital elements.
The diagram above is one heck of an eye chart, but is a clear representation running left to right of what to consider in your IoT product. From the initial concept 1.0 to your reengineered product and digital tool sets based on device and user insights for 2.0.
Your IoT integrator should be providing connectivity, security, cloud management, device management, mobile and web applications and integration services for enterprise systems and analytics.
3. Establish a "Single-Partner-Experience"
The most optimal IoT program is one that has a single core partner working with your best interests in mind and that takes you from ideation, strategy, design and prototyping through systems integration, cloud management and platform delivery with digital applications, and that can also leverage their manufacturing, supply chain and integration experience and partnerships.
DWG is uniquely positioned to provide an end-to-end model and single-partner-experience because our leadership team have worked in industry for Flex, and have built complex IoT solutions for companies in the renewable energy, medical, industrial, fleet management, and consumer industries and utilities. The DWG team will help establish and maintain relationships with EMS/CM partners and design partners. We see it as our responsibility to lead right from the start, steering your program on the right path and ensuring we are there to give your products and services "life beyond the loading dock" with OTA updates, security, insights and characteristic improvements as needs change.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and discuss your IoT program.