The Internet of Things: What Comes First

When considering a topic as far-reaching as the Internet of Things (IoT), you have to ask yourself: where do I want my company to stand: as an early adapter or a latecomer? The fact is, whether you want to or not, everyone has to get involved with IoT design, implementation or use.

Needless to say, it is better to be a creator that will benefit from this growing trend, than a mere user. But don’t worry, it is not as difficult as it sounds coming up with your own IoT solution.

With over 10 billion IoT devices, it stands to reason that surely not every one of those designers has the technical know-how to pull it off. All you need is an idea that can then be created by an external team per your demands.

To come up with a killer IoT design, here are the four things you need to consider: Intelligence, Architecture and Complexity, Scale, and Security.

Intelligence

The first IoT device lacked any inherent intelligence. RFID tags were placed on cargo to track their locations. This is a significant growth in intelligence over the past couple of decades.

Your product’s intelligence can lie anywhere on that scale. Autonomous intelligence is harder to execute, more expensive and not necessary for everything. A washing machine that automatically detects when the loader is full and can determine the type of clothes inside is pretty astounding. But you may not want your laundry to be done without your permission, just in case you forgot some loose change in your jeans pockets.

When it comes to automation therefore, you must first decide what needs to be automated and if your clients will actually use it. There are many instances of products that are automated without justification and some that should be. Street lights that run on sensors for example, save electricity but actually defeat the aim of brightening up streets and actually discourage drivers from a distance. Then you have traffic lights that stay red for minutes even when no one is coming the other way.

Not everything needs to be automated, as there are other intelligent work-arounds that can be enforced. It is also worth considering that autonomous intelligence comes with some serious security implications. Once these can be monitored effectively and applied appropriately, you can then move on to the next core concept.

Architecture and Complexity

Once you know what you want your product to do, you have to plan how you want it to do it. Is it going to be operated via an app on a user’s phone? Will it be on a closed network or on the cloud? The architecture affects the ease of creation and use.

There are pros and cons to each setup. Major considerations are privacy, control and security. Factors such as intelligence and scale affect the architecture.

The debate between closed loops and full open loops continues. More complex structures will be able to interact with diverse actors and integrate them into its network automatically. Complicated architectures (particularly cloud-based options) are expensive, even though they can provide ease of use for consumers and make it easier to scale.

Scale

How many devices do you want connected? What’s the range of your operations? Will there be room for growth? How large will it be and how many locations will fall under it?

As this remains a tricky concept, companies prefer to start small and scale up over time. The auto industry is one that has gradually adopted IoT in different parts of cars, gradually building up to autonomous driving. While safety is one consideration, another is profitability. How many people would fully embrace self-driving vehicles and when? This number is considerably smaller than the number of people who would prefer to lock and unlock their cars or put the air conditioning system on before they get in.

Location is another important part of a scale. A global delivery service or a smartwatch sold worldwide is on a different scale from streetlights in a local community. But if you want a company in Missouri to be able to control the streetlights in New Delhi, why not? But that system has to be secure.

Security

As alluded to throughout this article, security is arguably the most important part of any IoT device. Without security, you don’t have a product. If it can be hijacked by anyone on your shared Wi-Fi network or external users, it is a disaster and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Security is probably the most difficult thing to get right. Connecting devices to the internet using sensors is a lot easier and cheaper than it was twenty years ago when the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ was coined by Kevin Ashton. But keeping that connection secure is critical and often complicated.

Keeping a laptop safe from hackers is difficult alone. But with IoT, serious damage can be caused to physical objects such as homes, offices, and freightliners. Fortunately, there are companies that focus on providing cybersecurity to IoT providers. This is a recommended option if you can’t do the policing yourself.

Conclusion

The fast-growing world of IoT is very charming albeit alarming. There is a lot to consider when making your own devices besides what was mentioned above, such as cost implications, competition, and confusion – too many devices using different remotes can prove counterproductive.

For a company to be able to navigate all the difficulties and deliver an outstanding product, you need a qualified team of experts behind you. Luckily, we know just where to start.