Smart technology has been around for almost two decades now. Over the years, it has been massively adopted and widely applied throughout the various industries and business environments, having made itself a prominent place in the consciousness of societies, businesses and individuals. Consequently, there should be no doubts as to the fact that the Internet of Things is the place where businesses can grow to unprecedented heights.
With 30 billion IoT-enabled devices projected to be present in the worldwide net by 2020, the Internet of Things can by no means be deemed a new phenomenon by the wider public. Nevertheless, there still seems to be an aura of mystery and sophistication lingering over the whole of the so-called Industry 4.0, which may foster some confusion and doubts in the decision-making processes concerning its adoption.
Of course, this is all for a certain reason, as practically any IoT-based deployment will prove to be more complex than a standard solution developed using the traditional methods and technologies. However, the learning curve is not as steep as it is commonly assumed to be, and the potential benefits grow exponentially and in direct proportion to the risks taken. Here are five major smart strategies to help you out taking decisions and making your IoT project successful.
Don’t forget that smart technology should never be an end in itself. Those who relax on their efforts after a successful adoption of smart tech into their enterprises and stay content with the mere fact of efficient data collection tend to be the first to fail in the next stages of the project. In other words, the mere act of connecting the devices and collecting the data, however efficiently deployed the system may be, is not enough. There are many factors to be taken into account when planning an IoT project success, but two of them are especially worth the mention.
The first one to consider is the question of getting to know how to derive tangible business value from your IoT-connected assets. As already mentioned, gathering up a big pile of data is not the best guarantee of success, to say the least. Data collection must be intentional, well-organised and driven by real business needs. In order to produce valuable insights, your data streams should be directed to the right data centres for intelligent analysis.
Not less importantly, the other aspect is concerned with what happens to the devices throughout their lifecycle. Connecting you or your customers’ assets and leaving them to their fate with no practical management possibilities is asking for trouble not only in terms of project economy, but also security vulnerabilities. In comprehensive device management solutions, features like Firmware over the Air (FOTA) and Software over the Air (SOTA) have become standards that ensure proper handling of large fleets of sensors or connected devices on all stages of project development. Therefore, it is recommended to stick to market-proven standards-based solutions to avoid unnecessary risks.
The next step on the way towards making your IoT project success is finding the right balance between what you can offer and what your clients or stakeholders expect from your solution. Thus, it is crucial to diagnose what their requirements are and to keep track of them at every stage of the project. Otherwise, the mismatch between the product vision and actual expectations and outcomes (that were initially perfectly in line with each other) may pose a serious challenge to overcome by all the parties involved.
On the one hand, it is quite obvious that any project must provide answers to contract stipulations; after all, customer satisfaction is probably the best driver for revenue and customer growth. But all of this should be weighed against the potential profits and risks involved in the introduction of any improvements or additional features to your project. In the vast IoT world of possibilities, customer requirements may sometimes become vague or unrealistic; then, they should be investigated, clarified, refined and redefined in order to avoid major complications.
On the other hand, there is the common sense of making the highest business value while involving the least effort and own risk, which tends to be an efficient strategy, but only to some extent and under certain conditions. Generally, to make your customers happy while keeping your revenue growing, stay away from makeshift budget solutions that help for a short period of time, and become a dead weight once they are proven to be insufficient for the ever-growing customer expectations.
In the harsh business reality, short-sighted planning never pays. The same goes for the Internet of Things: a well-thought-out, comprehensive and far reaching strategy is something you cannot really do without. What’s more, it must be kept in mind that smart technology is a disruptive and dynamic force that is still fraught with a certain unpredictability. A solution that is good enough today, may well be out of date by tomorrow. Thinking ahead and keeping track of the twists and turns of the tech industry will help you stay prepared for the unexpected and react timely and appropriately to the changing business environment.
Moreover, being aware of the importance of developing a far-sighted strategy will keep you impervious to passing trends and ephemeral innovation fads surely to appear along the way. Inconsistency and instability are not the best match for a project involving hundreds of thousands of Internet-enabled devices. Some level of flexibility might also be needed in specific aspects, but on the whole, assuming that your smart things will grow right from the start is the safer option – it’s simply better to be able to adapt the solutions you have chosen to your needs than to curb your project possibilities according to existing infrastructural limitations.
Nobody likes to be thrown in at the deep end and left in the lurch. Surely, it is eventually up to you to navigate through the vast sea of IoT possibilities and find your safe harbour, but this doesn’t mean you should not look for expert guidance and advice.
What is essential, then, at this stage of IoT project development is to gather the right people and expertise by your side to guide you through the complexities and help avoid technological pitfalls.
Be sure to watch out for possible technological lock-ins (proprietary technologies or protocols that make you dependent on a vendor while being costly to escape). They don’t seem to be a nuisance at first sight, but in the long run they may prove to be huge obstacles standing in the way of your expansion in terms of scale and range. While researching and analyzing the offers of solution providers available in the market, be sure to pay special attention to such aspects as scalability, cross-platform integration possibilities, overall provider trustworthiness (this one may be tricky, though: one suggested evaluation method is talking to particular providers and asking about their existing deployments of use cases that are similar to yours) and, importantly, the technical support options that each of them offers.
Once you have decided on a specific provider, it is a good practice to stick to them for as long as it is technologically reasonable and economically justified. Why so? Simply enough, surrounding yourself with people that share your long-term vision is profitable for both sides of the deal. Moreover, you’ll be able to avoid drastic provider changes that may leave your fleet of devices unmanageable and largely out of control.
Here, again, we go back to the question of device management. By developing an exact idea of what is to be done within your IoT project, you can look for inspirations around you and enquire about solutions already developed for the sake of similar existing deployments. Taking a powerful device management solution as the basis of your whole concept is a good idea as it provides you with a stable, strong and customizable platform on which to build and expand your product’s possibilities.
It is also true for the IoT industry that a great idea is half the battle won. In order to complete the picture and win the other one, your smart concept must be put into a reasonable and profit-driven framework that will strike a balance between customer needs and economic viability. Also, don’t forget to make the effort and go the extra mile to learn about your customers and stakeholders’ exact requirements to avoid costly misunderstandings along the way. Strategic thinking and developing a far-sighted vision for your product is also part and parcel of making your IoT project a success, as it helps you counteract unpredictability that occasionally haunts the industry. Armed with knowledge and experience offered by device manufacturers and trustworthy service providers, you’ll finally be able to provide continuous and lasting business value to your company and customers.
As the Internet of Things is an extremely heterogeneous and wide-ranging environment, IoT projects success stories come in different colours and flavours, so at the end of the day it is on you to decide and pick the best one from all the solutions available out there. So if you’re determined to embark on your IoT journey but still don’t have a clue about where to start, you may want to have a look at the AVSystem’s LwM2M server, LwM2M client or IoT data orchestration solutions or get in touch directly with our specialists to receive support and guidance.