IoT has transformed the tech market and added new value to business development, with more and more companies and startups getting the ball rolling in this sphere. IoT improves productivity and tech operations, providing rapid access to specific data and facilitating human-machine interaction. The just-in-time availability of critical information grants a significant advantage for businesses, allowing them to progress faster through their process efficiencies.
However, despite the successful outcome of numerous IoT projects, the high number of failed ones should not be ignored. These defeats have forced many companies and startups to evaluate what missteps they allowed to damage the whole development process, and more importantly, to consider what measures they can take in the future to ensure their IoT projects are successful.
In this article, Andrew Mospan, LS Business Development Manager, lists and discusses common causes behind failed IoT projects. After reading, you will be more prepared to launch your IoT project and make it a success.
Due to the pandemic causing a prolonged downtime, a large number of factories are still catching up with heavy demand. Additionally, more and more businesses plan to start new IoT projects.
This results in longer lead times, and the majority of manufacturers estimate some of their components will be ready no sooner than 2023, with other record-breaking lead times stretching into 2025. Although this problem of delays existed for tech companies and startups in the past, it usually amounted to only a month or so. Now, while businesses are getting back on track, the stagnation of their component production continues, with some profiteers having substantially increased prices.
In such a chaotic and unsure time, what can you do to develop your IoT project?
Your main task is to conduct market research and receive an expert opinion. For example, you’ve decided which IoT device you want to create, and you even chose all the components that should be included therein. When requesting third-party help, you should be ready to hear the bitter truth — some components you require aren’t available on the market.
Or, you already have a PCB design and running firmware, but you’ve changed your mind about a specific unit. Changing one component means reworking the electrical circuit, PCB design, and even firmware, which can be expensive and prevent you from adhering to your specified time frame. In this case, it’s better to be more flexible and trust an expert to resolve these issues for you. Read how we helped Rhino to renovate their device despite widespread component shortages on the market.
Being an ST authorized partner, Lemberg Solutions has access to their advanced products and is of higher priority when requesting these components. We can speed up the creation of your device. Even then, however, component supply won’t be as fast as before the chip shortage crisis. So, I recommend approaching the question of deadlines based on the current situation with components, not from past pre-shortage estimates.
Since components and prototypes are delivered from abroad, another point to consider is the possibility of delays due to specific problems at customs. When dealing with clearance, make sure you have accurate knowledge of which documents to sign and issue, as well as which offices to deal with. Most countries will require a certificate issued by a trade board, proving that the product you transport isn’t a dual-use technology. Almost all radio-electronic goods can potentially be used with criminal intentions. For this reason it’s necessary to ensure a proper description is included for customs and clearance purposes.
Note that the approval process can take a month or even longer, because not only are components affected, but also PCBs, as they can already be programmed for different purposes and incorporated into devices.
If you partner with Lemberg Solutions, dealing with customs won’t be your problem. We cooperate with a customs broker who helps with the clearance of packages from abroad, ensuring the process is rapid and hassle-free.
I own a DJI drone, and when I discovered its use had been prohibited in the USA because it originated from a Chinese company, I wasn’t surprised. Depending on the political climate, the components you counted on might be banned in specific countries. I advise you to monitor such news to understand which political regulations can impede your IoT project development. In case of sudden changes, you will know how to replace the components you had originally planned to use.
If you’re a medical startup planning to make a device that will be used in hospitals, you will require medical certification. And it may happen that your prototype doesn’t pass a specific test that's part of the certification process, even though it may have worked perfectly. Consequently, doctors won’t be able to use your product — even if it’s otherwise completely market-ready. The problem is, no one can predict the outcome of the certification process.
Once, I worked on a project where the client asked to integrate a PCB with sensors into a watch strap. During testing, engineers discovered that when a user buckled on the strap and the PCB bent, all the connections broke down. The reality was that the PCB wasn’t as flexible as it needed to be.
Unfortunately, such things are impossible to predict, and first prototypes tend to reveal the weaknesses of each particular device. Even if your prognosis about the components' communication was accurate, you never know if the manufacturer can provide it with the exact same accuracy. Often, the most critical bugs are revealed after a prototype is fully developed. Your IoT device will interact with the unpredictable physical world, influenced by temperature changes, vibrations, humidity, and so on.
Since an IoT project is often an uncertain matter in terms of its feasibility, you should consider R&D and rapid prototyping, because doing so will ensure your device will deliver as promised. The first prototype may be quite far from what you expected, but you will confirm that the concept is viable. Further, you will get a running device that can be presented to investors, so you can receive the necessary funding for developing a market-ready product.
A tech partner of your choice should have R&D and prototyping services; for example, Lemberg Solutions has an embedded development lab equipped for such purposes. Many companies can develop a PCB design and a circuit, but hand over your prototype creation to another company, which may result in it being delivered late, with the added uncertainty it may also not operate correctly. This vexing problem comes down to expertise; your third party should communicate their doubts about the feasibility of your device right away — before you lose money. There are numerous startups that never launched because the discovery phase had shown the unsoundness of their product.
An ever-growing number of businesses invest in IoT development because innovation ensures a competitive advantage. That’s why you should know which mistakes to avoid making with your IoT project work. Here are my recommendations on this matter:
- Consider the long waiting lists for components and plan your deadlines accordingly.
- Ensure accurate descriptions of your devices for customs to allow for easy transportation.
- Check whether the components you chose are not banned in the countries where you or your target audience lives.
- If you want to develop an IoT device that requires certification (be it healthcare or automotive industries), make certain you will be able to obtain certification beforehand.
- All serious bugs will be revealed after prototype development. Bear in mind that your device will interact with the natural conditions of the physical world.
- It’s critical that you sustain R&D and rapid prototyping to make sure that your device will work correctly.
Bearing in mind the recommendations and warnings I’ve summarized, you can map out a better way for your IoT project moving forward. With proper risk management and expert help, you increase your chances of making it a successful endeavor.
A minority of companies have enough expertise to create a complete IoT system under one roof. For this reason, businesses outsource device development to different parties. It's therefore important to choose a tech partner that is experienced in IoT systems development, and the LS embedded team stands ready to take on even the most challenging projects. Get in touch with me via LinkedIn or use the contact form on our website to discuss how we can help you.