3 Ways to Mitigate Risk In Designing IoT Devices
Smart devices and internet-connected solutions are at top of mind in nearly every industry, and as customer demand continues to grow, companies are struggling to meet it. According to Microsoft IoT Signals, a projected 94% of businesses will be utilizing IoT tech at some level by 2021. Ubiquitous is the word for it, and because it’s so widespread, it’s also incredibly important to get right.
Designing your IoT device successfully requires making a number of decisions correctly from the outset, in order to be sure you’re building something that lasts. Planning is the most important part of the process and the point at which you have the most control in eliminating risks, building in efficiencies, and pursuing the features and strategies that set your business apart.
There are lots of smart decisions you can make early on to minimize risk in developing for the IoT, but the following are three major considerations to undertake which can give you a head start, narrow your focus, and choose components that will meet expectations.
1: Identify the Ideal Cloud Provider for your IoT Device
Cloud storage and compute is the “I” in IoT – the internet home to bring in data, push down commands, and compute the information into new data and insights. There are a lot of options, as well. Most people are familiar with the two largest – Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The two enjoy a massive market share among cloud storage providers. However, there are many more, often with specific purposes and use cases in mind. Knowing them well can help you identify a cloud provider that exists to solve challenges like yours. In the best case, they may even have laid groundwork and provided tools to fast-track your development.
We’ll discuss these in terms of three categories: the big guys, the wireless specialty guys, and the speedy guys.
The Big Guys
As previously discussed, Amazon and Microsoft hardly require any introduction. By some estimates the two collectively share approximately 70% of market share for IoT storage, with global reach and a whole host of tools and features to help you design your IoT devices and applications.
However, with all of that comes an important distinction. Working with the largest cloud providers means you’re going to have to do that design work yourself, with few pre-built solutions to speed up your work. AWS and Azure are like a full and complete set of Legos – each and every part you can think of is there, but you’re going to need to invest in the engineering effort and time to build it yourself. If you’re prepared to do the bulk of that design work, these providers can provide the ability to scale globally.
The Wireless Specialty Guys
There are many cloud providers whose focus is slightly different, and while not necessarily providing the scale or the discount provided by larger providers, they can add value to your IoT design with their wireless expertise. This class of providers includes The Things Network, Hologram, Senet, and others whose services are tailored to some special applications and use cases. These can give you a head start on your development with pre-configured environments, tools, and handlers so you can hit the ground running.
However, unlike with AWS and Azure, a specialty provider may not have all of the features and functions that your business needs to operate. They may not provide the fully open and customizable architecture that your application requires. It’s important to consider exactly what the scope of your design is and whether your chosen provider can enable you to fulfill that design. However, by providing advanced tools to manage wireless devices globally, these providers may be the best bet for companies with some cloud development capability, but no wireless expertise.
The Speedy Guys
Some cloud providers’ primary focus is the fastest possible development time, to reduce your time to market. Often that comes in the form of mostly pre-built software and tools which you can rapidly deploy as designed, integrating into your existing designs. These include services like myDevices, IoT In a Box, and Thingworx.
There is an obvious advantage at working with a provider whose solutions are mostly already designed – if you don’t require complete and full design control, you can save the effort and time of IoT design by leveraging something that arrives already designed. But this can come at a cost, and while it’s the best option for those who don’t know how or don’t want to design an IoT application by themselves, it won’t be the cheapest option, and you’re reliant upon the provider for scalability, uptime, feature design, and more.
2: Lock Down an Airtight Business Case
While most or all businesses are racing towards ways to connect their products and services to the cloud, the advantage won’t necessarily go to the first people to get there. Internet connectivity provides a competitive advantage to manufacturers who deeply understand the value they provide to customers and how to maximize and capitalize on that value. For an example: it’s not strictly about connecting your home appliances to the internet. It’s about understanding how your customers use those appliances, what information you can gather to make them work better or prepare them for use at the right time, or how you can improve life in the home with the data available to you.
Companies that can lock down the best uses of that internet connectivity will be those who win out, so to minimize risk in your IoT design, focus on the data and the features with the most value to your customers. Prioritizing the areas where you have the capability to contribute the most value is more important than providing the most features in the shortest possible time. If the IoT is about enabling intelligence and control that drives customers’ goals, focus on those goals and the solutions you can provide to help fulfill them.
3: Know your Wireless Options and Choose Wisely
There are lots of wireless protocols suitable for IoT devices, and they all offer different advantages. While it can be tempting to solve every problem with a familiar technology, there are cost-saving and efficiency advantages to considering some alternative wireless technologies that are best suited for your use cases.
Case in point: it would be possible to design a wireless sensor that relies on Wi-Fi for all of its communications, and that sensor could adequately provide wireless coverage across an entire facility. But Wi-Fi uses much more power and may be much more resource intensive than a sensor employing Bluetooth, which can communicate infrequently and save power in the meantime. A LoRaWAN sensor can do something similar but communicate over many kilometers up to a central gateway. This system of lightweight sensors and one midweight gateway may allow you to deploy many more sensors with less power usage and at a much more competitive price point.
Maybe your wireless IoT device needs to cover a wider area. Cellular is a viable option for wide-reaching IoT applications, but that means paying for data usage over an existing cellular infrastructure. It may be necessary, but be certain that it is before locking your design into a long-term arrangement where you pay for the data you move around your network.
Looking carefully at what your design needs and selecting the wireless tech and modules that most efficiently address those needs can make your design vastly more appealing to the end customer. It can lead to a lower costing product with higher margins for your organization, or a better performing system that truly handles the demands you put on it. Know your wireless options and choose the ones that most perfectly suit your needs.
Laird Connectivity – A True Wireless Partner
For over 40 years, Laird Connectivity has been developing wireless technologies and systems that are among the best in the industry, with top notch support staff and services to match. From modules and antennas to full product design, we’re unmatched in our ability to bring your IoT devices to market.
We have an excellent track record of working with companies in developing successful products. Our success stories with ComplianceMate and Opkix are just a few of the examples of how working with our full-service team brings designs to life.