Dealing with IoT products on the long run

The famous hype cycle from Gartner (2015)

Not a single month passes without an IoT related scandal. Recently simple toys have been banned from Germany. The problem? These dolls, equipped with camera, microphones and speakers, could be spying on you. Right, but did anybody hack them? Not yet, but a similar product sufferred a breach letting 2 millions of private messages available for virtually anyone.

So, are we doomed?

The rate of IoT scandal is so crazy that, yes, it looks like the whole thing is doomed.

But it’s not. 90’s news were all about hackers playing with companies that were just trying to take advantage of the recently born Internet, but still, Internet is alive just like IoT is here to stay.

We simply need to figure a very simple thing:

Hardware is just a conduit for the embedded software

Software brings all the value to your IoT product. It is deployed on your backend (or in the cloud) and on your devices.

It’s the mix of the two that gives your product all of its features.

It’s the mix of the two that makes IoT so valuable when compared to previous innovations.

Exactly like you do for your backend, the embedded software that runs on your IoT product needs constant improvement and maintenance.

There will always be features to add or improve, bugs to fix, security breaches to patch, malfunctions to remove, and other type of work to be done, and it’s very ok if you have a proper dedicated maintenance team working on it and trying its best to keep your product running.

Constant improvement is a Product Lifecycle Management requirement

Once you have shipped your IoT product to clients, whether you’re in the B2C or B2B field, it is not the end of the story. It’s actually just the start of it.

A proper Product Lifecycle Management includes 4 stages in the product lifecycle:

  • Introduction: Welcome to your first sales and first features refinement and bug fixes
  • Growth: building fame around the product is not just a marketing thing. It’s all about your features matching your customer’s expectations
  • Maturity: this is when you defend the fort while competition reacts but this is also a momentum that you want to keep for as long as you can. All the constant improvement and maintenance you do on your IoT product serve this particular goal
  • Decline: harvesting the product by reducing costs while finding new uses and segments will need some work but can keep your product alive for many years

If you’re familiar with the notion of PLM, you already know that sales, marketing and pricing will evolve as the product goes from a lifecycle stage to another. But the feature scope also changes!

Your IoT product needs to have its features adapted to competition and refined to gain wider uses from your customers. This means that you need to continuously ship new version of your embedded software once your device is in the field.

This is why you and your team needs a Device (and maybe Application) Management solution for your IoT product.

Get the right tools so that Constant Improvement becomes easy

A Device Management solution allows you to stay in control of your fleet at anytime by providing all or most of the following features:

  • enrolling & provisionning new devices
  • real time monitoring with meaningful metrics
  • ability to update the firmware
  • ability to add new features or data packages
  • ability to differenciate devices based on your business rules (premium clients vs. regulars, country-based segmentation, etc.)

It gives youy company the power to make the most of your product by reacting to competitors, keeping clients happy, and generaly speakig making the longest maturity period possible.

Like most tools, all Device Management solutions are not equal so you have to keep in mind what is your goal: ship your device early, update its features fast and often.

No tools should slow you down for that so go for a lightweight but valuable solution.

Should you buy or build your Device Management solution?

Build vs. Buy is a classic and reccuring question yet it needs to be rephrased to be closer to reality. The question is never “Build vs. Buy”. It’s always “Build and Maintain vs. Buy.

Build (and maintain) gives you full control of what (and how) you’re doing with your devices, can be incremental (therefore not so expensive at start) and highly customisable. Moreover, you don’t have to rely on an other company agenda.

Buying gives you a better Time-To-Market and is production-quality from day 1.

It’s not so easy to make a clear call on any of the two solutions, however, some patterns should lead you to a Buy decision:

  1. The features you’re developping don’t deliver any visible value to your users
  2. The problem it solves is nothing but unique to your situation
  3. You are not willing to assign one developper and the associated costs to the maintenance
  4. Starting the developememt of the solution prevents you to work on the actual product

When it comes to IoT, things can get extraordinary complex in a small amount of time: adapting to local regulations, building a custom feature for a B2B2C segment, be able to add a new connectivity module, etc. Over the time you’ll find yourself refining and maintaining a lot of features from your Device Management solution such as segmentation for example.

Buying a Device Management solution gives you a better Time-To-Market and should be favored at least for the begginning. Nothing will prevent you to build your own after some time anyway.

This is why we created Barracks

Barracks is a comprehensive IoT solution for Device and Application Management allowing you to automate most of your improvement and maintenance operations and letting you focus on the real work to keep adding value on your product.