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13th March 2023

How to develop a robust IoT product – Part Two

Welcome back to our short blog series, that reviews the key areas of product development you should be considering, when designing and manufacturing any IoT product.

In part one we covered off

  • Robust research and data collection
  • Choosing the right platform for mass production
  • Getting the relevant regional regulations right

If you missed them first time round you can recap everything here.
Now, if everyone is back up to speed, let’s crack on…


4. Security from the start

Security needs to be built into your IoT product design process, not added on as an afterthought.

It’s a must-have, not simply a nice-to-have.

The number of connected devices these days is astounding and increasing at an massive rate. Some reports believe there to me more connected devices than people on the planet, some 50 billion connected devices, outnumbering people by more than 6 to 1. The potential for a breach should never be underestimated, because the results for your customers (and your reputation) could be devastating.

Criminals often scan for poor or misconfigured security, so consider end-to-end security mechanisms, end-to-end data encryption, access and authorization control and activity auditing. After all, a security chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Low end and poorly protected IoT end points are a frequent point-of-entry for attacks when they are not carefully and intentionally secured – make sure yours isn’t one of them.


5. Design for life not for convenience

While many businesses spend a lot of time researching the contract electronic manufacturers (CEMs) they would like to work with, they don’t do think enough about their product designer.

While choosing the right CEM is of course an important decision, don’t fall into the trap of thinking all electronic design engineering services are equal. Far from it.

Sometimes, a CEM will include the skills of their on-staff design engineers at very low or subsidised costs to your business. CEM’s will sometimes do this to lock in the manufacturing rights to your product.

While on the surface this can be an attractive proposition (especially for a start-up), you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of building a relationship with a specialist.

Generally speaking, an independent engineering company has access to a much more extensive toolbox and will likely to have a much wider range of experience when it comes to design. All of which means, that they will collaboratively design in a way that’s what’s best for your product, rather than jamming together components to fit a pre-existing tools kit.

Additionally, unless you are a tech giant willing to place initial orders for 100Ks of units, do not expect to get a high-quality engineering CEM team responding to your needs, like an independent partner will.

Nothing burns through a budget (and time) as quickly as having to redesign a product that doesn’t meet the required functionality, uses the wrong or outdated technology or worse yet, gets deployed with poor quality.

Such problems can kill a project before it’s even been released.


6. Offline is the new online

You may be surprised to hear this, but a lot of product designers don’t consider what happens when there’s no online connection. The person using the device, directing its activity and controls its accepted, whether the device is connected to other devices via the internet, often is not.

While it’s rare these days, there are areas without connectivity. So, it makes sense for a product to have some functionality even when it isn’t able to connect to other systems or devices.

By making the device usable when disconnected, you’ve created a product in which the user is in control and can remain productive even in areas of poor connectivity.

The user experience is crucial for your product, especially in a crowded marketplace. It’s also important for some customers who may be uneasy with all the connectivity inherent in IoT products.

Whatever you do, don’t believe the cellular operator’s hype, connectivity will be an issue and cannot be guaranteed.


To sum up…

While the progress of complex IoT devices is exciting, it’s important to remember the basics as well. You need a sound business case, as with any investment. Solid project management is just as important, as avoiding the above mistakes when shepherding a leading-edge technology device, from inception to the manufacturing floor.

Selecting the right engineers for the design team, who have domain knowledge for the solution, technical skills in the key technologies being used, as well as good collaborative communications skills, is critical to success.