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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.

Integrating security

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.

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Nitin Tappe

After successful stint in a corporate role, Nitin is back to what he enjoys most – conceptualizing new software solutions to solve business problems. Nitin is a postgraduate from IIT, Mumbai, India and in his 24 years of career, has played key roles in building a desktop as well as enterprise solutions right from idealization to launch which are adopted by many Fortune 500 companies. As a Founder member of Pratiti Technologies, he is committed to applying his management learning as well as the passion for building new solutions to realize your innovation with certainty.

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