Starting and Implementing IoT Projects the Right Way – IOX Expert Interview

IoT projects continue to gain momentum. A study conducted by IDG, found that 51 percent of the companies surveyed had already implemented IoT projects. The majority are satisfied to very satisfied with the results, because they benefit from the advantages of IoT projects.

Nevertheless, many companies are hesitant when it comes to implementing IoT projects. We spoke to one of our project managers Mike Steinbis about possible reasons and tips on how to proceed. In our interview, he tells us how IoT projects are implemented at IOX and how an iterative process succeeds.

Many companies are hesitant to implement IoT projects, what are the reasons for this?

Mike: Generally speaking, IoT is nothing new. Nevertheless, many companies are still hesitant because oftentimes they don’t want to allocate sufficient resources. And I don’t just mean resources like staff and budget. IoT projects require a special infrastructure and setting this up is often more extensive than many people realise at the beginning. In addition, it is crucial that companies prioritise IoT projects.

Another reason is that many companies find it difficult to set up a corresponding department within the company. Moreover, many companies don’t know what with regarding IoT.

All these reasons lead to IoT projects being pushed back. The consequence is often the loss of market positions, because all currently leading companies are already investing in IoT.

What do you advise these companies to do? How should you go about planning and implementing IoT projects?

Mike: There are two things I would definitely advise companies to do: One is to start early and not procrastinate. IoT projects are a learning-by-doing process. No finished IoT project has fallen from the sky yet.

Secondly, I recommend seeking advice. We see many companies currently interested in IoT. Often they know what they want to do, but not how. Or they know that they want to do something, but not what. In each case different advice is needed. This distinction is crucial to allow for the development of a functioning business model.

Additionally, one should have a basic understanding of what is achievable through IoT and why you need it implemented in your company. For example, it makes sense to have problems and processes ready that you want to improve in your company.

How does IOX approach IoT projects?

Mike: As a rule, all IoT projects at our company start with a workshop. 

At the ideation workshop, IoT is introduced in general terms, what benefits it has and how it works. At the same time, we talk about the personas and the business model of the company, in order to then find reference points or connections to IoT quite quickly. At the end of the workshop, several potential business models will have emerged, each with varying degrees of practicality. At that point, the foundations have been laid to advance to the next step in the IoT process. 

The rapid prototyping workshop then deals with concrete planning of the implementation. Here we define the goal of the IoT project and what it ultimately provides the end customer.

During the workshop, IoT integration is discussed in several phases. We first assess the personas and create a user story map that illustrates the process and handling of the product. In doing so it becomes clear what conditions the IoT project must fulfill. Based on this, we create a system footprint and analyse the necessary technologies. After that, we move on to prototyping relatively quickly. The aim is to have an idea of where the journey is going and how much effort is required for the entire project.

What exactly is a system footprint in the context of IoT projects?

Mike: The system footprint defines which technologies are used. This also includes the choice of connectivity and the platform on which the data is to be presented.

Let’s take an example: We want to transfer data from A to B. What options do we have? We could transmit data via LoRaWan, Bluetooth, NB-IoT. Here we have to consider which technology makes the most sense for the planned application. If a lot of data has to be transmitted, then LoRa might not be so good. If little energy is to be consumed, then LoRa is worth considering.

After the planning phase, it’s time for prototyping. What does that look like?

Mike: Prototyping is an iterative process. This means that it is normal that you repeadetly encounter problems as you develop the first requirements and functions of the prototype. These problems have to be clarified in an iterative process with the developers and the customers.

Prototypes are essential in helping companies go to market later on. Prototype development and product development are two different pairs of shoes. One builds on the other. I can’t develop a product without first having a functioning prototype.

However, there are many intermediate steps that you may not be aware of beforehand. It makes sense to first draw up a rollout plan on how to transition from prototype to product. Among other things, material costs have to be reduced and a supplier for casing has to be found.

How does an iterative process work in practice?

Mike: We work with agile methods. IoT projects with an agile project process are often divided into sprints. These last for a fortnight. And within these two weeks, milestones of the IoT project are developed. At the end of the two weeks, we do a review: What have we achieved? What cool progress or problems have we encountered? Did we manage to solve them or do we know how we will solve them in the next sprint?

This method makes it possible to work in an agile way. Consultation with the customer and the development team is possible at any time because you always know what stage the IoT project is at. Progress can be seen quickly.

Agile Development at IOX: How we develop IoT projects
Agile Development at IOX

Another big advantage is that changes and optimisations can be incorporated into the project’s plan. Often, the initial idea is tweaked extensively as most alterations take place during the development phase. Although more time has to be invested in this than was planned at the beginning, the end result is usually a higher-quality product. This extra time is generally established from the outset.

Is it possible to predict what technologies will still be relevant in 5 years’ time during the development phase?

Mike: In the prototyping and product development of IoT projects, care is taken to ensure that it is future-proof. Components are typically up to date for 5-10 years. Software can be updated well. With many devices, it is also possible to implement over-the-air updates. Updates can then be implemented on the backend or the firmware without having to collect the devices.

Nevertheless, technologies and connectivities change. Therefore, prototypes are generally set up in such a way that they can be expanded or replaced without much effort. With circuit and schematic diagrams serving as the basic structure, changing components individually is much less time-consuming.

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Robert Jänisch,

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