IoT Soup: Four ingredients for a successful smart product

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One of the most intriguing reality television shows today is Chopped" on the Food Network. "Chopped" challenges four chefs to take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn them into a dish that demonstrates their creativity. The ingredients often border on the bizarre. For example, a recent episode featured tilapia fillets, plantains, crispy fruit cereal, and pink grapefruit jam. The chef who figures out the common thread of all these ingredients often comes up with a wonderful dish and leaves the show $ 10,000 richer.

Success in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry is similar. Product development must work with a basket of ingredients to create a product that appeals to consumers. The IoT basket includes components, services, products, and engineering, and there are a lot of variations in these ingredients.


Selecting the right components for a smart product is crucial to its success and reliability. In addition to sensors, components can include other embedded hardware design, like wireless chips and other processors. Look for vendors and suppliers with a good reputation and a proven history of providing quality components. If you're considering using a component provider from overseas, look for a company with locally based representatives who can provide support and handle inquiries, removing the language and time barriers that can sour a relationship. As with any product, component quality and price are issues. Always tilt the balance toward quality. Read more about Prototype Development

Consider the power source required for the smart product and select components that meet your needs. If the device needs to be "on" constantly, a traditional battery won't work because it will drain quickly. Many connected products, such as motion sensors, are able to sleep and wake, reducing power consumption and enabling the device to be battery powered. Also consider where the product will be
used and if untethering it from wall power makes the product more useful.


IoT services include data storage and communications. Consider where the device's data will be stored, how data will trigger an alert, and what kind of analytics is needed. When selecting a cloud provider, look for a company that is reliable and scalable, and has the features your product needs. Also consider the cost and select the platform that is correctly sized for your product and offers the control to customize it. Finally, make sure the cloud platform has sufficient data redundancy and an excellent record of service uptime.


When designing smart products, first consider whether the product should be smart. Adding connectivity to products creates risks (is a smart oven a good idea?) and adds cost to the product. The added cost for a low budget item may not be worth it to consumers. For example, adding wireless connectivity to a $20 or $30 toaster could add $10 to $15 to the cost. Will customers be willing to pay a 50 percent premium for the convenience?

Determine if the device will be a stand-alone product or will integrate with other smart devices. If your  product will integrate with others, make sure it uses the same connectivity standard and user interface. Finally, products need to be user friendly if we expect people to use them. If a smart product doesn't make users' lives easier, they will have little reason to buy it. Read more about Wireless Design


IoT devices technical components include hardware elements, like sensors and chips, as well as software and security. A recent Hewlett Packard study showed that over 70 percent of connected devices have serious vulnerabilities, including encryption, password, cross-site scripting, user access, and permission. This is a concern for IoT devices, which share information and create alerts.

Make sure the cloud solution and connectivity standard have strong security protocols to protect the sensitive information that these devices transmit. For example, medical devices can monitor and transmit patient health information to the hospital or doctor's office, Home thermostats provide clues about when a home owner is away at work, and today's cars are equipped with connected devices that, if hacked, could create a dangerous situation. It's important to understand how data can be compromised and what the potential outcome is if data is breached.

When designing smart products, also consider how to engineer the device so it can be customized to meet future needs. For example, can you easily add a new feature or expand the product line using the same design platform? Will this product be inter-operable?

Considering these important ingredients when designing a connected product will ensure that your device isn't the next one to get chopped.

Posted from: ECN magazine, October 2014 edition

Author: Adam Justice

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