Today’s appliance and light commercial goods manufacturers are finding that the Internet of Things (IoT) is pushing them into uncharted territory. The IoT is even changing their definitions of product and testing, whether they like it or not—and in ways they probably haven’t even begun to consider.
Most of Ayla’s customers are traditional manufacturers of appliances and other products for the home and office, and they are really good at what they do. They’re often the leaders of their market categories, and quite a few have been successfully designing and manufacturing products for decades.
So what is changing? In the IoT, a “product” is no longer a discrete, manageable unit. Instead, it’s an entire system spanning device, cloud, and mobile app and the interconnections among all three. This system is intrinsically far more complex than what manufacturers have had to deal with until now.
Take product testing as an example. Until recently, product testing might have consisted of taking some samples of a product and putting them through testing under controlled conditions, often a lab, to mimic the product’s eventual real-world environment. The number of variables to be tested was definable and could be managed with the knowledge and resources at hand.
Now, enter the IoT. For a connected product, all of a sudden the variables of the real-world environment explode. All these variables affect how manufacturers must conceive, design, and update their products—and how they test them.
For example, here are some parameters that must be included in testing for connected products:
- The different networks and protocols out there
- Network security, device authentication, and data privacy
- Interactions with clouds that might, in turn, need to interact with other clouds
- Control by a variety of mobile device and app types
- The networks, mobile devices, electrical plugs, regulations, and other conditions of any countries or geographic regions where the products might operate
- How issues of security, data privacy, and access will be handled if users transfer ownership, such as when current users sell their house filled with smart, connected products
If you’re a manufacturer with a connected product for the IoT, you need to field test both the product and mobile application, to account for as many of these variables as possible. Get feedback from both friendly (e.g., employee) and other testers to understand how real users will use your product.
You’ll need to set aside much more time, budget and resources for testing IoT products than traditional products. Plan your trials carefully. Where will you hold them, and with whom? How long will they last? How will you collect and process the results?
Redefining Products to Include Ongoing Services
Another set of testing variables must include handling the data generated by installed connected products about their performance and how users are interacting with them. The real “gold” of the IoT lies in the data, but only if it can be captured, organized, analyzed, and turned into business intelligence for the manufacturer.
The data generated by connected devices also leads to another significant way that manufacturers need to rethink their connected products. IoT data allows manufacturers to gain direct feedback from, and interact directly with, their customers long after a sale is completed. For durable goods with decades of usable life, this shift means that manufacturers now need to factor into their product definitions the idea of sustained, long-term interactions with their customers.
From Ayla’s perspective, given our deep experience with all aspects of the IoT, we see the shift in manufacturers’ relationships with their customers as one of the most significant revolutions of the IoT. It will open up new avenues of revenue for manufacturers through add-on services and product enhancements that continue through the lifetime of the connected product. It will change the responsibilities of both manufacturers and their customers as they enter into a long-term, ongoing relationship. And it will no doubt lead to shifts that none of us can yet anticipate.
The flood of unknowns that accompany the design and deployment of an IoT connected product can trip up even the most savvy traditional manufacturer. Easing manufacturers through the transition to the IoT, and lessening the number of unknowns, is why we founded Ayla Networks.
We aren’t experts in manufacturing or in any particular vertical markets. Instead, Ayla is devoted to mastering the totality of what it takes to turn a traditional product into an IoT connected product. Then, we offer our software and expertise to manufacturers so they can make that transition without having to invest in becoming experts in networking security, cloud computing, data privacy, mobile app user experience design, and everything else it takes to create secure, stable, scalable IoT products.