By now we all know that the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized our day-to-day lives and will continue to evolve and expand. From our fitness trackers and other health-monitoring devices, to smart homes, to connected cars—the industry seems to have unlimited boundaries. Lay people from all walks of life, as well as established businesses, are conceiving the next big thing daily. So how do we actually bring an IOT device to life?
Hopefully we start with a concept that solves a problem or meets a need (whether known or soon to be a perceived necessity). Without getting into the business side of things, such as creating a business plan, securing funding, and developing a go-to-market strategy, the product engineering and manufacturing are fairly straightforward. The process will include the following steps:
- Hardware Development (Electrical and Mechanical)
- Software Development
- Prototype Manufacturing
- Design Validation Test (DVT) and Field Test
- Regulatory Considerations
Hardware Development (Electrical and Mechanical Design)
One thing is certain when creating an IOT device—engineers from multiple disciplines will need to work together for a successful product launch. Electrical and mechanical engineers will need to work closely with each other and the software engineers from the beginning to be in sync on functionality, size and interconnectivity.
Functionally speaking the electrical and mechanical design will need to address where the product will “live”. Is it on a bathroom floor sensing a leak? Is it a wearable that monitors heart rate? Is it an in-flight device that helps engineers predict maintenance needs?
Environmental considerations to be made include ruggedness, waterproofing, and temperature, and vibration.
Battery life/charging and product size are other characteristics that are usually very important in IoT devices.
During the software development phase, there are numerous decisions to be made. Following is a sample:
- Interoperability—what platform(s)/protocols will be utilized? In other words, how will your device talk to the Internet? Will it be AMQP, Bluetooth, Cellular, DDS, MQTT, WiFi or Z-Wave, for example?
- Use Cases – Functionally, what will the device do?
- User Experience (UX)—this would include ease of use, installation, app development, etc.
- Security—does the data being transmitted need to be protected frombeing hacked or available?
Documentation will be essential with the launch of the IOT device. From DIYers to professional installation companies, a complete set of how to install and operate the device is key. You will also need to take into account translation if the device will be available outside the U.S.
Be sure to partner with a reliable electronics manufacturing services partner that will help you get the best value for your IOT device. The procurement process is heavily tied to the next step—prototype manufacturing. Partnering with the right IOT device manufacturer will allow them to get involved in the early stages of procurement which will add value through the early stages of prototype manufacturing and production runs.
As mentioned in the procurement section, the electronics manufacturing services firm you choose should offer not only prototype manufacturing, but also services that test design for manufacturability (DFM) and design for assembly (DFA). These services can help save money and time on product development.
Design Validation Test (DVT) and Field Test
IOT devices are expected to be easy to use, interoperable, and reliable. DVT is important to make sure the IoT device is reliable and performs as expected. Field tests are a crucial part of the IoT development to make sure the UX will create buzz in the market.
IOT devices are subjected to regulatory restrictions and compliance similar to most electronic devices. This will include, but not limited to, FCC, CE, UL, etc.
If you made it to this stage, congratulations! You are ready to bring your product to the masses. As with procurement and prototyping work with an experienced electronics manufacturing services partner that understands the process of bringing an IOT device to market.