The Internet is expanding, and it now seems inevitable that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be huge. Like the PC and mobile markets before it, the IoT has all the right technologies in place to emerge as the next massive market worldwide.

To predict where the IoT is headed, it’s helpful to look to past trends, to see how other markets “crossed the chasm”—in author and marketing consultant Geoffrey Moore’s terms—from early adoption to more mainstream acceptance.

The trend usually happens like this:

  • A new market begins to evolve because technology exists to support it.
  • Geeks, technology enthusiasts, and visionaries begin to adopt the technology. Usability and quality generally suck, but these early adopters suffer through.
  • A few market participants begin to solve the chaos and make the technology easier to use and more accessible, which enables adoption to grow.
  • Early market participants that can’t solve the usability and quality issues begin to falter and eventually die.
  • Quality and usability take center stage among the primary characteristics that determine winning platforms and broad adoption.

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Is there any reason to believe this trajectory will be different as the Internet expands to encompass "things"? Probably not. In fact, the Internet of Things actually begs for better quality and usability than previous markets. That’s because there is so much fragmentation among the "things" compared to the PC and mobile markets.

This fragmentation, and all the variables involved, makes the ultimate goals of quality and usability absolutely brutal for the IoT. Think of it this way: Imagine the challenge of launching a platform that has to work on Windows, Mac, iOS and various Android variants... then multiply that complexity by 1 billion.

So do we throw in the towel? No. We can learn from past decisions among today's leaders to aim higher. Specifically, take the example of the iOS and how Apple’s rigorous attention to detail and quality has affected the user experience and quality for Apple users. Look at their brand perception and market value. Android is great, but nearly everyone will agree that Android quality and usability are not at the same level as Apple’s iOS.

Even Google learned this lesson, and the proof is Chromebook. Much more uniformity results in a more consistent experience, as well as higher quality. Actually, doesn’t this also sound a lot like McDonalds’ view of the world?

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So what does this mean for companies that are beginning to connect their things in the IoT? Here are some ideas:

  1. Testing isn’t sexy, but given all the moving parts of the IoT, it’s an absolute necessity. We recommend a robust regression testing process that covers not only a connected product, but also its interaction with the cloud and with the mobile apps controlling it.
  2. This one’s so important it merits another reminder: Make sure you test at all the levels involved in the IoT. This includes the device level, cloud level (e.g., performance, reliability, scalability, security, data governance, and data privacy testing), and mobile app level (e.g., backward compatibility, lifecycle, CRUD [create, read, update, delete]), as well as thorough end-to-end testing.
  3. Stick with standards. No matter what whiz-bang features a proprietary solution might offer, it’s not worth the headache of trying to ensure that proprietary approaches will interoperate at all the levels needed for IoT product performance, reliability, or security.
  4. Don’t forget about the data. The real gold of the IoT lies in harnessing the data generated by connected products. Make sure you think through—and test—where the data goes, who has access to it, how it moves around, and how it’s controlled for every level of operation of a connected product.
  5. Evaluate all the pros and cons of the build versus buy decision for your IoT platform. Here’s a hint: Unless your company already has huge teams of IT experts familiar with every aspect of the IoT, you’ll almost certainly be better off buying a specialized, ready-made IoT platform.

It's a brave new world. The companies that succeed in the IoT will be those that can cross the chasm toward mainstream acceptance through rigorous attention to quality and usability. Don't launch without a plan to build those characteristics, and back it up through testing, and retesting, and testing again. Any other approach will kill you just as you get successful.