5 Ways to Prevent IoT Project Pitfalls

July 1, 2020 - 10 minutes read

Companies who want to implement the Internet of Things (IoT) in their business often stop short of the full execution. The size or budget of the company has little to no bearing on this success rate; in a 2019 study by Microsoft of 3,000 IoT project teams, 30% of the projects stopped progressing at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage.

Of the projects that pass the PoC stage, 75% still do not yield the results that were expected from implementing the IoT system. If your IoT project is faltering or not going as expected, then this article is for you!

Chris Howard is the Founder and CEO of Houston-based full-stack development company Softeq. He knows quite a bit about IoT implementation! Howard’s main advice is to take action early and know what you’re working towards. Of course, this is easier said than done, so we’ve compiled his top five tips to help you successfully launch your IoT project.

Tip #1: Determine any tech roadblocks sooner rather than later

According to the Microsoft report, 38% of those surveyed said technical challenges were their biggest barrier when adopting an IoT system for their business. This ties directly into the other problems the respondents cited: lack of technical talent, unclear bottom-line benefits, and limited budgets.

First, start off your project on the right foot by implementing a Discovery Phase and PoC Phase. This helps nail down your goals, validate your ideas, plan out the non-functional and functional requirements, and pinpoint if there will be any technological pitfalls before you sink time into IoT development. It also lets you figure out a realistic budget to set and if you need to hire any more technical employees to help with the implementation.

Because IoT systems include a multitude of technologies working together, like devices, sensors, cloud services, connectivity protocols, embedded software, and applications, it’s important to figure out how everything will work together for your specific needs and business goals. Based on this roadmap, your company can then identify workflows and which IT infrastructures will be necessary to build or upgrade.

Softeq consulted with a fitness jewelry brand to develop a luxury bracelet to monitor the user’s physical activity. The concept involved the device communicating with the mobile app using Bluetooth. But it turns out that the device was encased in a metal that prevented Bluetooth signals from leaving the device. The Softeq team boosted the Bluetooth signal by 500% by modifying the radio chip.

Tip #2: Prioritize scalability

Scalability isn’t a problem unique to the IoT world. Many companies struggle with scaling their revenues, marketing, analysis, and much more. So it’s no surprise that 32% of the companies surveyed by Microsoft say they struggle to scale their IoT solutions. This 32% of companies abandoned their project after successfully hurdling over the PoC phase.

Plan the IT and IoT system architecture concurrently. Choose the technology platform that fits your current and future vision the best. Make sure it can accommodate the load your business plans to send through the IoT system, like the number of connected devices and users. It isn’t cheap, but hiring an experienced business analyst to help every step of the way can save money in the long run.

A US telecom company needed Softeq’s help to optimize the performance of a digital sign’s media streaming solution. The IoT system involved allowing custom devices to stream content from advertisers while collecting ad data. The initial set-up utilized the MongoDB Aggregation Pipeline to collect reporting data.

But when the database scaled up to house 20 million records, the IoT system became overwhelmed. With the shift from MongoDB to Amazon Web Services, the new system processed data and analyzed it 36 times faster.

Tip #3: Design your IoT system with security in mind

Security should be discussed early on and often throughout the IoT development process. IoT systems are a hotbed for hackers; they utilize many unsecured devices and sensors, and small IoT budgets mean security is haphazardly cobbled together. Often, even large IoT systems are running on outdated operating systems.

The cybersecurity division of Palo Alto Networks, Unit 42, found through a research study that 98% of all IoT traffic is unencrypted. What’s worrisome is that 46% of US companies with IoT systems have already been hacked at least once already.

To avoid becoming one of these statistics, stick to the “security by design” principle. Encrypt the data that’s stored locally and sent to the cloud. Firewall all of the IT infrastructure your business uses, and implement IoT-specific security monitoring software. Lastly, reinforce security on the device level and regularly deploy an over-the-air firmware update to update all devices at once.

Tip #4: Nail down your scope from the start

Scope creep is a consequence of not thoroughly analyzing your project before starting it. The Project Management Institute took a survey, and the top three factors that result in an IT project’s failure are a shift in company priorities, an erroneous gathering of requirements, and a change in project goals.

Research also shows that the more complex a project, the more likely that scope creep will occur. It’s important to circumvent these possibilities by beginning with a minimum viable product (MVP). It’s an IoT development best practice, and it serves many non-IoT industries very well. After the MVP is approved by the C-level executives and customers, your business can continue development, add more functionality, and improve user experience.

Softeq consulted a startup building a connected dog collar. The company wanted to utilize a GPS tracker, microphone, speaker, and accelerometer to help dog owners keep their pets nearby while ensuring the pet gets enough exercise and outdoor time by connecting the device to the owner’s mobile phone.

Additionally, the dog collar was to use batteries, stream high-quality video over 2G connectivity, and incorporate five different radio technologies. Because of the complexity and multitude of features in this project, the company struggled with scope creep and project duration. Eventually, the product was developed and shipped much later than originally projected.

Tip #5: Get comfortable with multi-team project management

IoT projects are multi-layered and thus involve many teams working together to create a single system. These teams may include embedded systems engineers, IT analysts, web and mobile developers, and hardware manufacturers. The members of these teams may be scattered all over the world, prefer working with different technology stacks, and have varying levels of IoT knowledge and experience.

Figure out what skills your in-house IT department is lacking compared to what you’re going to need. Appoint a product owner that is the single source of truth, and make sure they have already launched several successful IoT projects.

IoT’s benefits outweigh the work

Implementing the first IoT system is always the most difficult, so consider building an MVP IoT system. And don’t forget to prioritize your system’s security, or you’ll end up paying much more for your custom IoT solution than you originally budgeted for!

As with everything in business, planning early and accounting for scalability, budget expansions, and unforeseen roadblocks is key to long-term success. If you adhere to the tips listed in this article, you’ll be well on your way towards an IoT system that unlocks numerous benefits for your business. So stay the course and soldier on — the future comes faster to those who persevere.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,