As organizations seek to become digitally savvy, Internet of Things (IoT) has emerged as a key technology enabler for Digital Transformation.
Through efficient analysis of real-time data, IoT is assisting enterprises with better decision-making, efficiency, and productivity, while proving to be exceptional drivers of growth across industries.
For organizations that get IoT right, the benefits are abundant. However, IoT product development is extremely challenging; a lot goes into making IoT products work. And although the basic process of development is similar to software product development, there’s a lot more that goes into IoT product development.
So, what’s so different about IoT product development? Let’s dive right in!
The complexity of prototyping
The prototyping process is critical for any product development as it allows teams to demonstrate – via mockups and wireframes, in the case of software products – what the final product will look like, ensure its performance, and determine if improvements are needed. However, IoT prototyping is a lot more complex than software prototyping.
In IoT product development, because of the absence of pre-existing architectures and libraries, you will have to build your own components and create your own path. Assuming most users aren’t familiar with IoT, you will have to provide detailed setup and use instructions and ship physical devices to beta users to get feedback. Such an elaborate process would automatically impact your feedback time and testing cycles and make your prototyping far more complex as compared to traditional software products.
Choosing the right platform
Unlike in software development, where choosing a platform depended on what tasks the software is intended to perform, in IoT product development, you need to choose a platform which manages the device as well as performs advanced data storage and processing tasks with the required systems within the ecosystem. The platform should also be capable of providing APIs that will allow apps to communicate with the IoT device.
You need to consider a variety of factors while choosing the right platform: the number of devices the IoT solution will support, the volume and velocity of data that the product would be required to process, UI capabilities, integration with APIs, data sources, and proprietary systems, as well as how the platform will be implemented and maintained.
Making the IoT product scalable
In software development, scalability concerns are typically addressed by adding more servers or increasing cloud capacity. But because IoT products are part of a large network of connected objects, sharing and exchanging data continuously via the Internet, as technology advances, they need to evolve from performing simple analysis tasks to more complex functions, such as power grid optimization, production control, and more.
This continuous shift demands that IoT products are highly scalable – not just to accommodate an increasing number of connected objects, but also to carry out more complex tasks with time. For making IoT products scalable, you will have to use the web and mobile interfaces that scale, web workers, asynchronous communication paths, edge computing, among others.
While security is a critical part of software product development as well, what makes it different for IoT products is the ecosystem in which they belong. The continuous digital connectivity IoT products have with one another presents higher security vulnerabilities and loopholes. Any small breach or hacking can result in unauthorized access to critical data, and it can bring the entire ecosystem down.
It is important to integrate data security into the development process from the word go: from basic authentication to the most advanced levels of platform security, hardware security modules, end-to-end encryption, API security, cloud security and more.
Data storage and analytics
When it comes to data storage and analytics, most software products are expected to unearth insight about user behavior and performance issues. However, IoT products generate a high volume of data, all of which has to be efficiently stored in storage systems with various retention policies. In addition, the data has to be continuously analyzed to allow users to gain actionable insights and drive higher throughput.
IoT product development requires you to invest in advanced data storage systems, as well as in compelling analytics software with data visualization capabilities that make it easy to spot trends and take action. Choosing the right analytics platform can not only help in predicting results based on the data captured by the device, but also in detecting deviations from known usage patterns, and enabling users to take appropriate action.
Connectivity and communication
In the classic software world, connectivity is limited to physical servers and the cloud. However, given the extended scope of IoT products, the network gets extended to hardware devices as well. Each IoT device will have to be developed using a different connectivity mechanism and communication protocol – depending on what functions the product is expected to perform. From RFID and NFC to ZigBee Bluetooth and more.
One needs to use the right communication protocols that accurately determine the source of data, understand the type, and send it to the data processing engine. It also needs to be ensured that the protocols are configured such that they can support a substantial volume, velocity, and variety of data from different devices, and offer an adequate level of fault tolerance.
Build cutting-edge IoT products
With more and more devices getting connected to the Internet, the IoT market is bursting at the seams. As 31 billion connected devices become available in 2020, there is an IoT revolution taking place.
And although IoT is arguably one of the most impressive evolutions in recent technology history, IoT product development is not without challenges. The complexity of prototyping, choosing the right platform, making products scalable, integrating security, enabling data storage and analytics, and building the right connectivity and communication – it is the right amalgamation of all these aspects that allow you to build cutting-edge IoT products, and change the way the world operates and communicates.
Prashant loves technology. While this passion helped him top his Masters class at IIT, he wanted to ensure his contribution remains “applied” rather than “theoretical”. So after working on a few patented technologies, he got an MBA and took up a Practice Head role. This allowed him to leverage technology and expertise, to craft and deliver award-winning software products and solutions. His key areas of interest are analytics and software engineering. He is very excited by the convergence of technologies such as social, mobile, and IoT, and how they are allowing us to redefine the way business is done.