Enterprises across many if not all industry segments are recognizing the critical importance of an IoT platform to efficiently, securely, and economically support their IoT applications and strategies. IoT platforms provide the fundamental capabilities for businesses to grow and innovate and to generate new revenue streams. The biggest decision however is not the strategy, the application or go-to-market plan, it is deciding which technology building blocks to develop in-house, which to buy from an established vendor and do they have the resources and expertise to pull it off? Knowing your options will mean the difference between success or failure, time to market and the overall cost of the program. So let's discuss the four critical interconnections of an IoT solution.
If you are a business leader designing and developing IoT products you will encounter a complex environment, one that is populated by hundreds of vendors, each claiming they can deliver on the promise of design, connectivity, management and data. To navigate this terrain, leaders must rely on experienced partners that truly understand what it takes to win in the complex world of IoT and learn from direct awareness of common pitfalls and challenges. Determining the right IoT approach—whether multi-partner or end-to-end—is essential to successfully bringing your smart product to market.
1. Smart Product.
What is the product you are building? Industrial (e.g. machine or HVAC system), Consumer (e.g. Fridge or Thermostat), Medical (e.g. blood pressure cuff or weight scale), Vehicle (e.g. Heavy Construction Equipment or passenger car)? For every IoT solution we start with a product, commonly a traditional 'dumb' product that we must make smart and connected. This involves expertise in firmware/embedded software, device security and radio management to name a few and will likely require mechanical and electrical design and engineering resources.
A few considerations at this stage:
- What design and engineering resources do I need?
- Should I work with a contract manufacturing partner at this stage?
- What off-the-shelf devices already exist?
- Are there partners with product enablement platforms to accelerate development?
2. Connectivity and Communication
How will the product connect and what is it connected too? Products may connect to gateways via one communication protocol before a secondary communication back to a cloud platform. For example, a water meter may connect to a LoRa gateway within a mile radius (many to one) before the gateway communicates to the cloud via cellular or wifi. This could be the same of heavy construction equipment on a construction site or mine. Likewise smart home solutions typically involve Wifi, BLE or Zigbee protocols to a gateway. The alternative to this is cellular with each individual product/device having an embedded SIM and data plan. Ideal for vehicle fleets, road construction sites, medical devices/gateways, security systems etc.
A few considerations at this stage:
- What are the best communication protocols for my solution?
- How and who will cover the costs of on-going cellular communications?
- What are they security implications of these protocols?
- Will I need multiple protocols for different markets (e.g. Europe vs. USA?)
3. Cloud Management Platform
You now have a smart product with embedded software/firmware, chip level security and communication protocols ready to go. Now your platform must deliver all the necessary functions and micro services at an affordable price to do over-the-air software updates, security monitoring and proactive resolutions, which can be bucketed into device management functions. You will need to consider user and data management, platform operations and dev ops in order to continuously support all products/devices managed on your platform.
A few considerations at this stage:
- Do I build, buy or partner to achieve this?
- Which is best, Amazon Web Services (AWS), use Microsoft Azure IoT, IBM or Samsung?
- Should this be an IT department responsibility?
- Are we now in the software business if we build in-house? What are the risks?
4. Product Administration and Applications
You will need to know which devices are offline or online. How many devices are provisioned but not connected. Which devices need troubleshooting. The data maybe used by different user personas such as a technician or end consumer and accessed via mobile device or web application. You will need to know what version of firmware all devices are running and troubleshoot if they are not updating over-the-air. There are many considerations when we are managing smart and connected IoT products and these can differ slightly based on the use case of your IoT solution. For example, are you monitoring the health data of a congestive heart failure patient or the location of a tool box on a job site. Is the product powered, have a fixed location, exposed to extreme environmental conditions? How often should it call home or provide last known location? A full BRD will give you clear path to making decisions around the administration of devices and application requirements.
Some other considerations at this stage:
- Who will manage and monitor connected devices and what is the device management user interface?
- Do we have expertise in designing and developing applications?
- What is our API strategy for connecting 3rd party applications?
- What decisions is my solution supporting and who is the end user of the data?
Launching an IoT initiative is complex. It is a resource-intensive process that stretches the most experienced of organizations. Internal team members can become distracted and lose focus on core responsibilities, and it’s often difficult to source resources to bridge experience gaps. But the good news is that many people have failed and succeeded in the IoT and they can help you avoid many of the pitfalls, manage costs, minimize potential failures and mitigate risk.
DWG has participated in a host of IoT projects and delivered against all four interconnections. Partnering with DWG is a viable alternative to working with a piecemeal mix of supporting vendors. Our single-partner-experience model allows for one commercial agreement between our organizations and enables our team to bring the best resources to your program. Devices, connectivity, management, applications, are all part of any IoT solution and we can deliver on all of these interconnections. DWG will deliver all the services provided by platform providers, system integrators, cloud vendors, business intelligence vendors, specialist agencies, service providers, consultants and analytics firms—with none of the drawbacks. With the DWG single-partner-experience model you will have access to everything you need to turn an IoT idea into globally distributed solution.
Strategy: A strategic roadmap from idea through implementation—with central program oversight.
Security: A security and risk audit to protect against privacy invasion and other threats while maintaining data integrity.
Configuration: With the many IoT solutions developed to date much of what is needed is becoming commoditized. Much of what an organization needs is configurable for unique requirements, so you are not always starting from scratch.
Efficiency: Our team will create economies of scale by managing the physical device and digital experience simultaneously so overall product development time is significantly streamlined.
Speed-to-Market: Our goal is simple. To bring your solution to market on-time and on-budget and to do so leveraging every ounce of experience we have learned across multiple industries.