4 Barriers to Building an IoT Solution – and How to Overcome Them!

IoT (internet of things) devices are everywhere…and the number just keeps rising. By 2020, there are expected to be 50 million IoT devices in the world, worth an incredible $19 trillion!

However, despite this tremendous growth, in the present day, only 0.06% of all devices that could potentially leverage IoT are actually doing so (leaving 99.94% of devices available for optimization!) That’s a huge growth opportunity for businesses who are ready to leap into this new, connected world first.

But optimizing a device for IoT, or building an IoT solution from scratch, is considered by many to be difficult. This could be why, at the moment, the biggest players in the IoT game are giant businesses, like Google (Nest) and Amazon (Alexa).

60%

of companies substantially underestimate the complexities of building an IoT service

75%

of self-initiated IoT projects were considered a failure (Cisco, 2017)

However, you don’t need to have massive amounts of revenue or resources to invest in such endeavours–you just need some know-how. And we’re going to help you! In this article, we’re going to take a look at 4 of the biggest, most common barriers to building an IoT solution–and how to overcome them.

1. Lack of Support

It’s complicated to connect products that have never been connected to the internet before. It’s even more complicated to do it at scale and in a way that can keep up with the fast pace of the tech industry, especially with the amount of data that IoT products generate. To highlight this fact, according to the IDC (International Data Corporation), by 2020 one tenth of the world’s data will be produced by machines. The organisation also forecast that in five years time IoT devices alone will generate 10% of the world’s data!

According to a recent survey about businesses that haven’t yet embraced IoT, 26% of participants answered that current workflows are not well defined–meaning companies are unsure on the best way to adapt their work processes (particularly data integration) for the internet of things.  

The problem is, these businesses have grown accustomed to leaving all of the finer details to the factories that make their devices. But the IoT is such a young industry that most factories don’t yet have the expertise to define these workflows.

Solution: Find the right manufacturing experts.

To make a successful IoT device, or to connect your existing product to the internet, you need to work with a factory that has expertise in embedded firmware and electrical engineering.

Embedded firmware engineers know how to develop and implement the reprogrammable content that runs on electronic devices, so they are the best people to talk to when it comes to connecting your product or device to the internet.

Additionally, while it is not always possible to work with a local factory, it helps if you have one that you can visit on occasion. By being present on the factory floor you can increase your knowledge of the process.

2. Finding the Right Connectivity Option

There are many different ways that you can connect your device to the internet. Most will be recognisable to you–WiFi, Bluetooth etc. But there are others you may not have heard of that could be better suited to your product. How do you find the perfect connectivity option for your business?

Solution: Compare and decide.

The solution is easy for this one. All you need to do is compare each connectivity option and then make a decision based on the capabilities you require for your product. We’re going to make it even easier, too! Take a look at the table below:

Name
Overview
Frequency
Range
Data Rates
Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a well-known short range communications technology. It’s perfect for personal devices, but not really designed for file transfers or heaps of data.

2.4 GHz
50-150 m
1 Mbps

Zigbee

Zigbee, like Bluetooth, is best used to create personal area networks. It’s a low power, close proximity wireless network.

2.4 GHz
10-100 m
250 kbps

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a low-power RF communications technology that is optimized for reliable and low-latency communication. It supports full mesh networks without the need for a coordinator node and is very scalable, enabling control of up to 232 devices.

900 MHz
30 m
9.6/40/100 kbit/s
LoRaWAN
LoRaWAN targets wide-area network (WAN) applications, and is optimized for low-power consumption and supporting large networks with millions of devices.
Various
2-5 km (urban environment),
15 km (suburban environment)
0.3-50 kbps
WiFi
WiFi connectivity is often an obvious choice for many developers. After all, it is already readily available within many homes and businesses. Plus, it boasts fast data transfer and the ability to handle high quantities of data.
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
50 m
600 Mbps maximum, but 150-200 Mbps is more typical
Cellular
IoT applications that require operation over longer distances can take advantage of cellular communication capabilities. It’s ideal for sensor-based low-bandwidth-data projects that send very low amounts of data over the Internet.
900/1800/1900/2100 MHz
35 km max for GSM; 
200 km max for HSPA
35-170 kps (GPRS), 
120-384 kbps (EDGE),
384 Kbps-2 Mbps (UMTS),
600 kbps-10 Mbps (HSPA), 
3-10 Mbps (LTE)
NFC
NFC enables simple and safe two-way interactions between electronic devices, especially smartphones, allowing consumers to perform contactless payment transactions, access digital content, and connect electronic devices.
13.56 MHz
10 cm
100–420 kbps
Sigfox
Sigfox is an alternative wide-range technology. It offers a robust, power-efficient and scalable network that can communicate with millions of battery-operated devices across areas of several square kilometres.
900 MHz
30-50 km (rural environments), 3-10 km (urban environments)
10-1000 bps
Neul

Similar in concept to Sigfox, Neul leverages very small slices of the TV White Space spectrum to deliver high scalability, high coverage, low power and low-cost wireless networks.

900 MHz (ISM),
458 MHz (UK),
470-790 MHz (White Space)
10 km
Few bps up to 100 kbps

Information gathered from here.

3. Building a Com​​​​panion App

When building an IoT solution, it is only logical to build a companion app alongside it. But this, too, has many barriers for you to overcome. For example, the average cost to build an app for one platform is around $25,000. That’s a hefty investment!

But that still doesn’t change the fact that your IoT product does need a user-friendly companion app to help your customers understand and benefit from the data your product/device produces. And, seeing as you need an app for your IoT product, you’d better make sure your investment successfully returns the results you need.

Solution: Work with a developer.

Working with a freelance app developer could save you time and will also give you the opportunity to oversee the development more closely than if you worked with an agency. App developers aren’t that difficult to find either. They can be found on typical freelance websites, such as Upwork and People Per Hour.

It’s worth noting that you can save even more time and money when building your app if you already have something tangible to discuss with your developer. You can do this by working with UX and UI designers first.

A UX designer will define your needs, often conducting user research, such as interviews with potential users. Then, a UI designer can draw mockups that really show the look and feel of your app.

Sometimes, offshore development companies will conduct all of the UX, UI, and coding. But it is much better to have someone doing the UX either in-house or independent from the development company.

To further increase your chance of success, roll your app out to beta testers before making it available for the public. This way you can eliminate any bugs or glitches and ensure that your app is at its very best and ready to WOW your customers when the time comes.

4. The Expense!

Everything we’ve mentioned so far costs money–and a lot of it. It also takes up a lot of time, which can be difficult when you’re trying to juggle all of the other aspects of your business. 

As Homer Simpson once famously said: “Can’t someone else do it?

Solution: An end-to-end platform.

The answer is yes, someone else can do it. By opting for an end-to-end solution instead of taking care of everything yourself, you can instantly remove all of the barriers that were previously holding you back.

At Foobot, we can take on all engineering aspects, including modifying equipment, installing sensors, visiting factories, and helping you to develop your own companion app. The best news is that most of this can be done remotely (aside with factory visiting, that we personally handle!), allowing us to help companies all over the world!

Final Thoughts

There is a well-known saying: “Success is no accident.”

This can be applied to building an IoT solution. The only way to build a perfect connected device (or retrofit your existing one) is through hard work and perseverance. It is also important that you don’t misjudge the complexities of the operation.

According to a Cisco survey (2017), over 60% of respondents admitted that they substantially underestimated the complexities of managing their own IoT initiatives. With this article as your guide, you should be able to confidently remove the barriers preventing you from building your own IoT solution.

For more on how to build faster connected devices, take a look at our technology page.

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