3 Don’ts of IoT Design

internet of things

We all know that the Internet of Things (IoT) is coming. But judging from the plethora of dumb “smart products” that are still being created, it’s fair to say that many manufacturers are struggling to make the IoT design transition.

IoT ideas are complicated. They incorporate hardware, software, data and services. And thus, the processes and skills required to be successful are different than manufacturers are used to. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In the midst of the dizzying complexity that is IoT design, development and innovation, it can be helpful to have core guidelines on which to fall back. We offer three key pitfalls to avoid:

Number 1: Don’t Just Call it an “IoT Initiative”

Here’s the thing: the only people who care that you are now “doing IoT” are inside your company (and maybe a few analysts). Transitioning to IoT may be something you are doing to improve your business, but your customers only care that you deliver something meaningful and valuable to them. If your IoT product doesn’t do that, it will surely fail, no matter how cool you think the technology is. To symbolize the importance of customer value creation to your project, you should incorporate that value into the project name. For example, in the kitchen appliance space, customers might actually care about IoT if it made healthy meal preparation more convenient, or if it allowed people to feel more creative or expressive in the kitchen. A good initiative name would be something like, “IoT Initiative: Bringing Creative Expression to the Home Baking Experience.” In the industrial IoT space, it could be something like, “IoT Initiative: Helping Our Customers Achieve 100% Uptime.”

Number 2: Don’t Skimp on Research

If the experiences of many of our clients are any indication, you will have great difficulty following the advice in point Number 1. Most product companies have been so focused on making blenders, or lawnmowers, or furniture, or televisions, or industrial equipment that they forget why their customers really value those products in the first place, much less what new value an IoT offering should deliver. But by getting into IoT design, you aren’t just building products any more. You’ll be offering services and experiences that improve people’s lives (sometimes called product-as-a-service).  Deep, qualitative, ethnographic research is the key to figuring out how. It will allow you to stand in your customers’ shoes and build the empathy so key to successful innovation and design. When we created Stem, the Connected Cocktail System, we didn’t start by asking, “How can we make an IoT liquor bottle?” We started by asking, “How can we make it easier to bring the magic of the cocktail experience—discovery and connection—into the home?” We were only able to ask that question because we had deeply researched cocktail drinkers and their existing experiences.

Number 3: Don’t Play By Your Company’s Rules

The structures, systems and incentives in your company today are not set up to make IoT design and development a success. What makes normal product development successful—the metrics, the skills, the processes—will not make IoT products successful. So it’s critical your initiative is set up in a new way. Your team needs to be outside, but still connected to, normal business operations. You need to use more agile, and less stage gate, design and development processes. You will need to be more human, and less technology, centric. And you will have to be measured, at least initially, by how much you learn and how much evidence you gather, not by the standard financial metrics governing mature product businesses.

IoT design and smart, connected products will allow manufacturing companies to develop entirely new business models and create enormous new value. But only if they approach the design and development of these products and businesses in new ways. The challenge is real, but by staying focused on your customer and setting up your initiative for success, you can meet it head on.

I invite you to download my new IoT paper SMART. CONNECTED. How You Can Design a Truly Meaningful IoT Product Offering.

Dan Ostrower

Posted By: 

Dan Ostrower