Ninety percent of companies that took part in the 2021 Microsoft IoT Signals survey have already adopted the Internet of Things solutions to reduce operating costs,Guest Posting unlock additional revenue streams, and gain a competitive edge.
Yet, 35% of IoT projects stall at the proof-of-concept (POC) stage, while 75% of all IoT initiatives never materialize into market-ready products.
Companies that struggle with IoT product development typically cite high scalability costs, technical challenges, and vague ROI perspectives as the key reasons for IoT project failure.
As a startup looking to create an IoT solution, you could avoid most of these challenges by carefully planning your IoT pilot in advance.
Here’s where our guide to IoT solution development comes in useful.
Understanding IoT Product Development
To help you build an IoT device and the accompanying software ecosystem in a risk-free way, we’re starting an article series that dives into the Internet of Things technologies and IoT product development best practices.
This time, we’ll focus on the Internet of Things definition, architecture, and stages your connected product goes through before hitting the shelves.
What Is an IoT Product Exactly?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects connected to the Internet and/or each other over a wired or wireless network.
The “things” term may apply to both electronic devices, such as fitness trackers, and non-electronic objects enhanced with sensors and lightweight control gadgets (think smart curtains operated via a relay and mobile app).
There are two types of IoT solutions you could create:
Sensing devices, which measure information on the surrounding environment and convert it into digital signals
Actuating devices, which receive digital signals from the network and act upon them
These devices can talk to the nodes within an IoT ecosystem (i.e., peer-to-peer communication), connect to the network via a gateway, or establish gateway-less connections.
What Does an IoT Solution Architecture Look Like?
To create an IoT device or non-electronic gadget scavenging and acting on environmental data, it is essential to understand how connected solutions function under the hood.
The Internet of Things architecture comprises four levels:
Application layer. This layer features embedded software — i.e., firmware or proper operating systems — that runs on sensing and actuating devices. It may also include mobile, web, and desktop applications helping users interpret sensor data and manage gadgets. So if you’re looking to create an IoT app, we’ve got bad news for you: applications are just the tip of the IoT iceberg.
Service and application support layer. Essentially, this is the IoT infrastructure layer where data aggregation, storage, and processing operations take place. To save costs and ensure uninterrupted device/service performance, IoT startups often choose to set up this infrastructure in the cloud (as opposed to on-premises servers).
Network layer. On the network level, IoT engineers can implement cellular, Wi-Fi, and wired connectivity technologies to interface the components of an IoT ecosystem — i.e., “things,” back-end infrastructure, and user applications.
Device layer. We could segment the functionality enabled by the device layer into:
Gateway capabilities. IoT gateways support devices connected through wired and wireless technology, such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and LPWANs and perform protocol conversions, enabling devices with different connectivity tech stacks to communicate.
Regular device capabilities. IoT nodes typically collect and share data. But they can also construct networks on the fly to accommodate new nodes or replace an existing malfunctioning device. Also, some IoT devices can display limited data processing functionality (i.e., edge IoT deployments) and switch between sleep and awake modes to save energy.
The Internet of Things architecture also incorporates device management and security components.
The former helps resolve traffic congestion issues, monitor IoT product performance, roll out software updates, and track device activation and deactivation.
The latter ensures privacy protection and data confidentiality and supports application-specific requirements, like facilitating secure mobile payments.
Commonly, this functionality is baked into popular IoT platforms, such as Google Cloud IoT, AWS IoT Core, and ThingWorx.
What Stages Does the IoT Product Development Lifecycle Span?
Prominent IoT infrastructure vendors like Microsoft and Google distinguish four stages of the IoT development process:
Trial/proof of concept
Here at Expanice, we prefer a slightly different mvp strategy classification, which, in our humble opinion, better aligns with the IoT product development stages startups go through:
IoT product idea validation
IoT product discovery
Minimum viable product (MVP) development
Market launch and MVP scaling
Let’s inspect the activities undertaken during these phases of the IoT product development lifecycle.
IoT Product Idea Validation
By 2025, the Internet of Things could become a $11.1 trillion market with a whopping 41 billion connected devices deployed globally.
To develop a product with strong commercial appeal, your startup should start your IoT product development journey with thorough market research. Its elements include: