Worldwide spending on IoT is growing rapidly and is projected to surpass $1 trillion in 2022, according to IDC. This represents a field of opportunity and innovation for startups and other companies that offer robots, drones, smart automotive devices, sensors for analytics and all the other things that make up the IoT landscape.
However, new IoT businesses are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to get off the ground. Apart from the usual challenges that every emerging technology company faces, those in the IoT market must address unique obstacles in getting devices to market and maintaining them for longer than normal periods of time.
Companies with an IoT device offering will likely fail no matter how innovative and useful their product might be unless they tackle these common issues well before they ship their product. Companies must ask themselves three principal questions and have a rock-solid strategy for answering prior to greenlighting their products for the market.
1. How long will it take to bring my first device to market?
Time to market is obviously very important in a hot and ever-changing market such as IoT. But the need for speed shouldn’t obscure crucial considerations that go beyond design and development, such as how to manage devices once they’re out in the field.
These considerations include a device’s expected longevity, performance and reliability metrics, as well as a long-term plan for updating the software when bugs or security vulnerabilities arise. And in the open-source world we live in, the consideration of whether the device ecosystem should be closed or open to third-party contributions is pivotal. All of these things must be considered and planned for before going to market.
It’s understandable that these factors can seem secondary to an IoT device enterprise when its team is just trying to get its first product out the door, especially given the various IoT hurdles: integrating software stacks with diverse, dependent, and emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and cloud. Nevertheless, IoT businesses must have a strong “Day 100” story before release. Otherwise, they’ll appear unprepared and open themselves up to big problems and unhappy customers in the future.
2. How do I manage software and security updates for all my devices?
Regardless of what type of device companies are producing, such as robots, edge gateways or drones, all IoT companies are presented with an identical necessity: They must be able to monitor their devices and provide the appropriate software and security updates as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. This applies both to the operating system and the device software applications.
It’s not practical to have field engineers travel around doing that work manually. It’s too slow a process, too costly and it threatens to disrupt the flow of data when devices are out of commission. Ultimately, it just doesn’t scale for large IoT ecosystems distributed over a large area.
If an enterprise doesn’t plan sufficiently, it’s easy to end up with inconsistently managed devices running various different versions of software with different performance levels and security statuses. This might work for a short period of time but is not sustainable. Good luck to any IoT business currently dealing with that mess.
Device companies must plan ahead and automate these processes to the fullest possible extent. In IoT, device management and automation doesn’t just mean greater efficiency; it means more confidence that everything is working as designed and with top-notch security in place.
3. How do I integrate my hardware and software without causing fragmentation?
Fragmentation happens when the same IoT devices are running different versions of software or several connected devices don’t share a centralized platform. This can adversely affect performance, increase risk and ruin business opportunities, especially if a customer is relying on the IoT device to advance or differentiate their business
Therefore, device makers must understand how accessible devices are in the field for updating. Do they have to recall devices when there’s a new software release, or does hardware simply become obsolete with sub-optimal performance? Automated ways to integrate hardware and software is a key issue that needs to be worked out well before devices are shipped.
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