Six companies’ experiences scaling their products

By Pilgrim - March 28, 2018

This blog was originally delivered as a talk at Smart IoT 2018, based on interviews with DevicePilot friends and customers.

For full future events’ details, click here.


 

When asking our friends and customers what it is their company simply does, it became clear that one of the defining features of IoT is how incredibly diverse it is. Many applications seem to be going good and/or making more efficient use of something like energy, time or food, with maximum disruption to industry but minimal disruption to existing customers.

But how are IoT companies finding their experiences of growing and scaling? Taking a look at the current industry focus on simply deploying devices, DevicePilot decided to go one step further and asked a series of questions to investigate how the next step in IoT is being received.


How have you found your hardware and software development in initial stages?

The majority of companies interviewed found the process harder than expected, especially with the difficulties of weaving together a coherent product out of different technologies. IoT involves a lot of moving parts, including navigating the interaction between hardware and software, plus all the variables outside of control once hardware is deployed in the field, out in the real world.


Did your proposition change during field trials?

Again, the majority of companies agreed on ‘yes’ – a combination of the market maturing and so keeping up with this evolution, or changing in response to a better understanding of customers.


Were there any surprises along the way?

This was hands down the most varied-answered question. Turns out there are lot of surprises in scaling in IoT!

Some of these include:

  • Hardware and software: everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, connectivity is surprisingly hard, components for
  • People problems: shifting sales’ teams focuses from selling products to selling solutions, it’s hard saying no to customers asking for impossible things, simple tasks become unmanageable when repeated a thousand times
  • General business issues: IoT maintenance overheads and costs, the ease of doing global business

Again, this all comes down to the amount of moving parts in IoT projects. They may feel easy to manage when you’re at trials, playing with a smaller amount of devices, but this becomes more and more messy – something we talk about but are still surprised by when we hit them.


What are the big ‘macro’ trends in the market and how is IoT connected with those trends?

It may seem obvious but a big one here was the increasing shift to relying primarily on our smartphones and the broad acceptance of IoT solutions and how this equals enablement of IoT applications. With thanks to this, the connected home is now a very real and ongoing concept.

Another focus point here was the way IoT is damaging old-school revenue streams, as the commoditisation of hardware, the increasing obligation on customers to invest, and the minimisation of service costs is rapidly changing how a company sees its ROI.

 

What changes in technology over the last three years have been helpful to you?

The ability to buy services ‘pay as you go’ (like Azure and DevicePilot) were found to be vastly freeing because they allow companies to trial new process with low commitment and low risk.

Tech has also seen a reduction in costs, including M2M data costs component manufacturers producing low cost IoT-specific devices.

Finally, a major helpful change is the shift to serverless as it reduces the amount of time spent on DevOps – giving companies more time to focus on delivering their business proposition, plus allowing more elasticity in scaling.

 

What further helpful technology changes are you still waiting for?

Many focussed on the pricing of piecing together an IoT prohects, like the cost of connectivity solutions, NB IoT and similar chips.

Some answers are obvious, for example Moore’s Law, the need for a more mature rollout of technologies like NB-IoT and Smart meter SMETS 2, and the unsurprising acknowledgement that battery life remains an common Achilles heel.

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