SMEs Strategy to Develop IoT Hardware

SMEs Strategy to Develop IoT Hardware

If your business wants to develop IoT hardware device or adapt one of your existing product for IoT, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Matthew Ryan of HWTrek talks us through some pointers in our latest post.

Most small business owners are hearing the buzz surrounding the nascent Internet of Things (IoT). Unfortunately, in many cases they are either not really sure of the relationship to their existing business or worried about how to make the first step into this new world.

Developing an IoT hardware device or adapting an existing product for IoT is not so difficult, as long as you have a clear strategy and good supply chain partners. There are many clear cases of traditional businesses that have nothing to do with consumer electronics adopting IoT technology in a way that benefits both their customers and their bottom line.

Any strategy for developing an IoT device, should be focused on the following areas:

Define IoT

IoT comes packaged with a plethora of jargon that is often confusing. Crucially, IoT is simply connected devices. These devices create data. With the addition of data, we can improve the functionality of a product. For hardware projects, it’s important for us to define what data we want to use and how will it benefit this device.

The crux here is always service value. There needs to be deep consideration of the value that the device offers to the user’s life. There should always be a problem or pain point that can be alleviated through the use of the data set. Many projects fail when they focus only on making a product ‘rather’ than considering real value it offers. Adding some sensors and making an app, does not a smart device make. Through defining the type and source of data you wish to use, you set the course for the whole project.

Define Your Product

After deciding the data resources that you plan to utilise, you can then think about the product itself. It’s important to consider where you see a gap in the market for your connected product and how you imagine that your connected product can benefit the lives of consumers.

Things to consider at this stage include:

  • What is the purpose of your product?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What is the benefit of your product (a.k.a. life having your product vs. life without the product)?
  • What is the primary function?
  • What could be other additional features?
  • Who is the target audience?

For IoT products, creators need to think about the device in terms of the value of the service it offers, rather than the hardware itself. It is really difficult to differentiate yourself by the hardware alone, the value of the product of is derived from its amalgamation with the data used. This means that many small business owners are often presented with the challenge of having to change their thinking to be more in-line with that of a software developer. The most successful IoT products are those are truly service-oriented, not the most feature-packed.

Evaluate and Select Supply Chain Partners

When you have considered the above two points, you are then at the stage to reach out and contact supply chain partners who help you through the process of delivering a product that is ready for market. This stage is really the most crucial and where many projects breakdown. Those without backgrounds in electronics may not know that there are often direct ODM solutions for your specific project, meaning that you don’t really need to reinvent the wheel. Look for:

  • Related Experience – Look for supply chain partners who have a solid, certifiable background in projects similar to yours.
  • Capacity – You need to find partners who can match the scope and size of your project, otherwise you can either be put on the back burner or find that they cannot match your requirements.
  • Communication – Any experienced head will stress the importance of selecting partners who you can have smooth and clear communication with. There is a large chance that you could be working with companies in Asia so it’s vital to make sure that your contact window has sufficient language skills, otherwise you might find yourself shouting down the phone if things don’t go to plan.

With these considerations in mind, there is a good chance that your first port of call will be to visit a design house with a background in your chosen area. The design house or a prototyping company should be able to develop a working prototype that you will be able to take to a contract manufacturer.

The partnership with a contract manufacturer will be the most crucial element of your project and it’s something that you need to spend time nurturing. You need to speak to them in detail and make sure that they really understand your demands, budget and schedule. From manufacturing you would move into testing, before being ready to deliver your product to market.

Develop IoT HardwareIt’s also important to think about the estimated time required for developing an IoT hardware device. As you can see from the diagram above, even going from the tooling stage to delivering the product into mass production can take up to 24 weeks.

By following these steps it’s possible to enter the IoT space and create products that are beneficial to both your bottom line and your consumers. At HWTrek, we help to matchmake IoT hardware innovators with the right supply chain partners.

Working with the wrong partners is often time-consuming, frustrating and can in many cases destroy a project. We have worked as a launch partner with Startupbootcamp for the last few years to help numerous UK-based IoT startups circumvent these pitfalls. For example, we matched the team at Trackener, a brilliant horse monitoring wearable device, find a partner in Japan who could help them develop a very specific heart tracking module for their project. Only by really understanding the demands of the Trackener team, we were able to match them with a partner who was on the same page.

HWTrek is a platform that helps innovators and small businesses find supply chain partners for their IoT hardware projects. We are also an official launch partner for Startupbootcamp in the UK.


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Matthew Ryan
mr@digicatapult.org.uk
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