Can we connect? A viewpoint on the IoT

This text is written by Anders Holmberg, IoT Product Manager at IAR Systems.

The Internet of Things is currently on the top of "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies" as defined by Gartner. Given Gartners definition of the hype cycle this means that we will now enter a period of falling expectations before IoT really begins to deliver on its promise. But IoT is not really the new kid on the block it is sometimes made out to be.

Granted, the full potential of internet enabled things, big data analytics and innovative business models might still be far off in the future; but the fundamental technology is already here and has been for many years. Companies working in industrial control, smart metering, MedTech and similar are quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, adding connectivity to enable new, flexible usage and deployment models to products that are already in mass production. The key word here is mass production (well, it's two words, but you get what I mean), where a product is optimized for a competitive price point while at the same time delivering just the right amount of functionality. For example, this might be sensor function or a highly advanced control algorithm, maybe coupled with end user interaction through an HMI.

Optimizing for production is something these companies excel in and the needed skills are truly all over the map including things like requirements gathering, process and life-cycle management, hardware design, software design, software tools selection and the selection of proper programming languages for the tasks at hand, etc. And then we're not even mentioning the legal and environmental aspects of bringing certain products to market.

Inside the hype

When consumer products become popular they are inevitably the target for "tear downs" where people take the things apart, document what they find and either post a video or a blog write-up of their conclusions. For some connected devices (a.k.a IoT devices) the lists of components inside make you think that the product is really an advanced mock-up or prototype to test the waters with. If you think your addressable market is small (given a suitable definition of "small") or not very price sensitive this is a perfectly fine approach. But if your idea is brilliant enough, you will sooner or later find yourself trying to fend off the competition. At that point, one of the key differentiators to lasting success is the ability to scale down the complexity in the production domain. This might of course come at the cost of higher development costs, but if you do it right you can reap the benefits in terms of both higher revenue and lower costs in total.