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7 IoT product design best practices

Regardless of the hyperbole constantly hammered home by marketing departments, IoT as a tangible entity is embryonic. We’re at the very early stages of the IoT learning curve, so it should be no surprise that the success rate for IoT adopters has been in the low double digits. Nor should it be surprising that projects have cost far more and taken far longer than expected, delays have been incurred for lack of answers to a question, and lack of upfront planning have caused some programs to be abandoned. Fortunately, the experiences of these early adopters have led to some commonly-cited rules of thumb.

Know what you expect to achieve

No one enters into enterprise IoT without expectations of being able to achieve benefits, whether financial, customer-related, marketing insights, and many other goals that vary with the organization. However, make sure you truly understand how you’re going to achieve them and that if you do, you’ll be satisfied with the results. If you’re not convinced at the outset, you’re likely to be disappointed regardless of how successful you are.

Have a comprehensive plan

Having an implementation plan any project is obvious, and for IoT, this is not a two-page, single-spaced document, nor one that can be implemented by a small, cloistered group responsibly only to itself. Rather, it should involve people at almost every level, first because every department will be affected, and second because most people throughout the company will ultimately have to deal with the results.

In fact, strategic planning is arguably the most important element of any IoT program, as it is where goals and budgets are established, teams are selected, technologies are studied, business cases are evaluated, and many other things. Time spent gathering information and planning will reduce some (but, obviously,  not all) surprises and allow teams to amass considerable knowledge well before implementation begins.

Chill out. It’s a long process

Creating an effective, productive, IoT platform is not a project but a long-term commitment that will be achieved not all at once but in stages. It may well take several years before the first results bear fruit and failure to recognize this is frustrating and can doom even the most well-thought-out IoT plan. One of the most common mistakes is allocating financial resources based on assumptions that later turn out to be misconceptions. IoT is so broad and deep that costs will more than likely be more than expected, so it’s important to realize this in the beginning.

IoT security is crucial

The IoT environment is a greenfield for miscreants, a new market for those whose life’s goal is stealing information, disrupting activities, and a growing number of other creative endeavors. As an IoT network inherently creates hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of points of vulnerability, maintaining security seamlessly throughout the network is enormously important. It’s a continuous process that requires that a team be created whose responsibility is to keep abreast of new threats and how to address them.

Get a handle on connectivity

Wired and especially wireless connectivity is the heart of every enterprise IoT platform beginning at the edge and extending to the Internet, cloud-based data centers, and locations where the data is analyzed. IoT connectivity typically requires resources beyond those existing at most companies, including multiple short-range wireless solutions vying for supremacy, none of which will be the single solution throughout the enterprise. Power over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and precise synchronization of all nodes in the network is challenging but mandatory.

The payback is the analysis

When its time to “flip the switch”, you’ll need software tools that make deployment and ongoing management simple, efficient, and scalable, while monitoring and autonomously optimizing performance over a wide range of networked devices. You’ll also need software tools that provide the actionable information that lets you make prudent decisions. Fortunately, all this is available from multiple vendors.

Reach out and ask someone

The natural inclination for organizations with formidable technical expertise is to “go it alone”. However, the results of some early IoT programs show that this is almost always a poor choice: Few organizations of any size have all the knowledge required in every area. This is not to say that handing over an entire project to outside sources is the best choice but rather that cloud-service providers, analytics vendors, equipment manufacturers, and specialists in security, communications, and other areas are valuable resources. This is even more important for organizations with few if any technical resources for whom relying on specialists is essential.

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