So you want to design a brand new IoT product. You and everyone else. Organisations in multiple sectors have woken up to the fact that the IoT is a huge – and growing – market, and there are tidy profits to be made in designing and manufacturing connected devices.
If you’re already in the business of product design, it’s easy to think that designing a successful Internet of Things product is just more of the same. After all, it’s the same old design process, just with Internet connectivity built in, right?
Nevertheless, too many organisations still make the same mistakes when shifting into IoT product design. Here are our top tips for ensuring you don’t join them.
The Internet of Things has become such a technology ‘buzz phrase’ in recent years that countless product designers have tried to leap on the bandwagon without considering the most fundamental question of all – does this product actually need to be connected? It’s easy to think that, because it’s new and innovative and game-changing, that the IoT can have a positive impact on any product, but that’s really not the case. Are a significant, profit-generating number of customers really going to be interested in a connected pencil sharpener?
The same old principles of conducting thorough market research both before and during the design process must apply when developing an IoT product. Establish whether there is a healthy and realistic market before you begin. And continue returning to that market while you go through designs. Your connected product, like any other product, needs to meet a real need.
Anything that collects, transmits or stores digital information needs to have cyber security baked in from the start – and this can be particularly challenging if the product in question is small and simple. If your product is aimed at certain corporate or public sector environments, then it may also be subject to regulatory and compliance frameworks, which means it either needs to meet certain security standards in itself, or be compatible with specialist security hardware and software. It might need to undergo a series of regulatory tests, for example.
It’s far, far easier if you consider security and compliance as integral parts of your design process from the start – which may well mean hiring security specialists or consultants to join your team.
What hardware makes up your connected product? What manufacturing processes will put it together? The most successful connected products are cost-effective and simple to manufacture in large quantities – otherwise you simply don’t have a sustainable business model. Once again, it makes sense to consider the issue from the very beginning of your design process.
Perhaps this one sounds a little obvious. But, echoing back to our first tip, it’s important to remember that any connected device needs to serve a purpose – and that means that a person needs to be able to use it easily and intuitively. User interfaces and dashboards, whether integral to the product itself or part of a wider IoT management platform, needs to be simple and slick.
It’s also worth considering what happens when the Wifi network is down. Will your product be completely redundant, or will it still have some residual functionality? No prizes for guessing which option most users prefer.
InVMA has experience in delivering connected product projects for clients. Why not discuss your IoT project with the team? Start the conversation today.
In their second Harvard Business Review article, How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Companies, co-authors Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School and Jim Heppelmann, President and CEO of PTC, examine the impact of the Internet of Things on companies' operations and organisational structure.