Posts by Parag Sharma

Create IOT products and solutions – Part 2

In my last article, I have talked about the challenges and oppurtunities of IOT industry. Now let’s talk about building an IOT product and  benefits of it in the market.

xl-2016-internet-of-things-1

How about building an IOT device?

Now let me also talk a bit about the process of building an IOT product. If you are thinking of building an air purifier, or a thermostat, or some smart lighting solutions for home, you are very likely to hit the first stumbling block as to how to go about the whole process. How to get a 3D design for the device, where to go for a prototype design, and how to get the electronics (the PCB part) done, and how to make the device talk and interact with various other devices like your mobile phone, etc.
 What you need is professional expertise in not one particular field, but many diverse fields. If you are a software engineer with some experience with coding, you will know writing software is not that difficult as all you need is a computer, and you could create wonders just sitting in home or office. Building a real, physical thing can be really tough & challenging. Not only it requires varied set of skill set, but also can cost much more to prototype, and test it out.

Steps to follow before going ahead

For the benefit of newbies to the field, I have listed down the steps generally followed in any IOT product development process.

  • Market Research
  • Conceptualization/Ideation
  • Design
  • Prototype (Schematic Design, Layout)
  • PCB Manufacturing
  • Procuring components & assembly of electronic circuitry
  • 3D printing of casing & outer facade of the product
  • Field Trials
  • Redesign & trials if needed
  • Marketing & Mass manufacturing

Loads of data is generated, but what to do with it?

Due to the large number of IOT devices around, it is quite as well expected that they will generate a huge volume of data. Question is how to make best use of the data captured, or how to make your device react to events triggered by actions of other users, or may be from the device owner himself through a mobile application.

Standards like the MQTT, AMQP, etc are the general protocols used for an IOT device or the cloud to communicate with each other. Both of them work on basic principle of publish/subscribe. The two parties subscribe to events, and whenever there is an update, or an occurrence of the event, the subscribing parties are notified.

Providers like Microsoft Azure, ABM, and AWS have all come up with their IOT platforms making it easy to monitor and control remote devices from click of a button. Being on the cloud, it gives IOT the ability to scale. The data being captured in the cloud can be analysed, and trends studied using Machine Learning algorithms and Artificial Intelligence.

Today it is possible to auto update the firmware of an IOT device without requiring any intervention from the customer.

How IOT will drive benefits for users?

Data generated from IOT devices are being continuously analysed and machine learning models are built to help in predictive analytics. Earlier emphasis was on preventive maintenance in industries, and anywhere else where machines were deployed. We used to ensure regular and timely checkups to ensure our machines are always in healthy state. But now with advancements in technology, based on the data captured, our machine learning prediction models can warn us in advance of a possible impending breakdown. A corrective action can be immediately triggered, and the machine is restored to good health much before breakdown.

emergency-notification-iot

Today IOT driven processes paves the way for improvements in existing processes leading to higher customer satisfaction & safety leading to better profits for businesses. Customers delight and an increasing affiliation are invaluable assets to any business, and when IOT is able to help the business achieve that, its relevance will never be in doubt. No wonder Gartner Research predicts there will be more than 20 billion IOT devices by the year 2020.

Create IOT products and solutions – Part 1

It’s very interesting to see and understand how things are really working at the level of bytes and bits. In software, we rarely think about those details, as most of these things are abstracted so a software programmer can focus on just his piece while the hardware engineers and embedded programmers take care of making those intricate and complex circuit boards.

 

IMG_0335

Sometime back when we decided to do something in the space of IOT, we were complete newbies with absolutely no background, academic, or professional. But we learnt many things the hard way by trying, failing, and correcting. But perhaps as many people say, that may also be the best approach towards learning anything new.

Today with an experience of building an actual physical thing that listens, I feel more confident about the space, and our ability to replicate our success story for our clients as well. But what is that we build, and now a question of great debate, and subjectivity. I can perhaps think of some rules that an IOT product or initiative should bear in mind.

Before going forward, give it a thought

Does the device really help its customer? This is a very basic and moot question that every innovator and maker should ask themselves.

Does the product makes our life more safer, convenient, healthier, and happier? If the answer is yes for these questions, the product may find takers in the market.

A product must have a clear cut value proposition for its intended buyers. If the product is just a cool gadget, it will find utility only with a handful of users who will be very quick to move onto something more cooler as and when it’s available in market.

internet-of-things

Just having built something and pushing it off to the supply chain may not be of great help in building a sustainable business that will have a long term impact. One should think of constantly reinventing the product to make it better & more useful for its customers. Timely service, and a great customer support will go a long way in winning the confidence of the current active users, and the word of mouth publicity will help in winning more users till the product reaches a critical mass.

There are some challenges too

The challenge that we face today in IOT, especially industrial IOT is that existing chips that help the sensors transmit the data directly into cloud, consume a lot more power than what would be practical for widespread adoption in industries. But recent advancements in technology with the Qualcomm Cat M1 modules, and Verizon’s upgrading its infrastructure to allow ultra low band transmission at really affordable rates can be the right steps in the direction of making IOT really ubiquitous.

Security is another big challenge for mass adoption of IOT. Seeds of doubt about the device being sufficiently protected against hacking is one big reason why customers are still not able to fully give in to the idea of leaving their critical functions to a device. What if my smart locking system is hacked, and an intruder is able to hack his way inside my house?

An intrusion into house, or the smart lighting solution being hacked are still something not as much threatening as a possibility of a smart glucometer or a pacemaker being hacked. Risk of this nature can have life threatening consequences, and cannot be taken lightly.

These are valid questions which the IOT community will have to tackle head on. But I believe these questions or challenges are always there with any new technology. It takes time for ecosystem to mature to a level where issues of security are addressed, questions of viability, feasibility, and usability are addressed, and then mass adoption follows. The stage in which the current IOT development possibly is where developers and engineers worldwide are working in the direction of making IOT safer, and more useful for everyone. Soon it will be IOT for everyone.

Stay tuned for next article about some specific steps and questions to create an IOT Product.