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The Top 6 Problems When IoT Products Hit the Real World

For many IoT (Internet of Things) projects, just getting off the ground is the hard part. A full 60 percent of IoT initiatives stall before they leave the proof of concept stage.

However, that doesn’t mean that you’re out of the woods once IoT development is complete. There are plenty of new problems and issues once IoT products hit the real world that may be just as challenging as the development-if not more so. In this article, we’ll discuss the top 6 IoT challenges you might face when launching a product.

What are the Top IoT Challenges Once a Product is Released?

The biggest IoT issues tend to occur during and immediately after the product’s release. However, IoT challenges may appear at any point throughout the lifetime of the product.

1. Connectivity issues

Hardware and software both contribute to whether an IoT device can establish and maintain a network connection long enough to do anything meaningful, especially download an over-the-air (OTA) firmware update to fix issues or add functionality. Network connectivity is foundational for IoT devices, if your product’s connectivity isn’t functioning correctly, then no other progress can be made until this is fixed.

Running into connectivity issues is less common and less of a problem when it is due to faulty hardware. It is typically an isolated incident if a component degrades or a device gets knocked around too much. Hardware issues that would impact a fleet are much more commonly found during testing prior to mass deploy.

Bricking a fleet of devices with a bad firmware update is much more possible, and a drastically worse situation to find yourself in. The best means of avoiding this is facilitating a device’s ability to rollback an update if certain conditions aren’t met after it boots up on the new firmware. For example:

  • Device is on firmware A
  • Device downloads firmware B
  • Device boots to firmware B
  • After some determined amount of time, the device still has not been able to establish network connectivity
  • The device automatically rolls back to firmware A which it still has locally

2. Security

Potential IoT security issues should be top of mind, both during and after product development. New IoT devices may be secure when they hit the shelves, but they need regular updates in order to remain secure in an ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.

While some consequences of IoT attacks are relatively benign, others are potentially dangerous or even life-threatening. The IoT devices that have already been proven vulnerable to hacks include:

  • Baby monitors
  • Smart refrigerators
  • Smart thermostats
  • Drug infusion pumps
  • Security cameras

Once a vulnerability is discovered, whether by security researchers or malicious actors, it usually doesn’t remain quiet for long. The task then becomes a race against the clock as you fight to patch the issue before it becomes a widespread exploit.

To avoid these complications and give your developers some peace of mind, the solution to most IoT security issues is to implement OTA firmware updates. You can release new updates remotely, without requiring much technical savvy from your customers.

3. Consumer challenges

Your customers’ demands and requirements may change constantly, and it can take an incredible amount of time, energy, and manpower to keep up with them. Customers may use your IoT product in ways that you didn’t even expect, creating issues that you hadn’t anticipated.

The solution here is to make your IoT hardware as modular, flexible, and extensible as possible. This issue also highlights the importance of enabling OTA updates for your IoT device.

4. Maintenance

An IoT product is only as valuable as the company that created it. Many IoT vendors have already gone out of business, leaving devices possibly full of bugs that no one will ever fix. Unless the product has some useful offline capabilities, it becomes obsolescent.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix to the maintenance issue in the current IoT landscape. In the future, a larger administrative body could possibly move IoT into a realm where products are more configurable, open, and standardized. This could help others continue to maintain IoT devices if the original creator ends their support.

5. Scalability

When you’ve deployed roughly 5,000 IoT devices, further scaling becomes almost impossible without a series investment in IoT enablement technology. Your networks and systems should be able to expand automatically and easily, or else you risk hitting a breaking point that will cause your services to slow down or crash.

The solution here is to architect your IoT product for scalability from the very beginning. Use tools and services that can scale easily, e.g. public clouds like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Storing your data in the cloud will not only protect it from disaster but will also greatly enhance scalability when you run out of space.

You also need to consider the question of physical scalability, in the event that you experience unexpected spikes in customer demand. Look for a manufacturer you can trust who can help you take advantage of these increases with economies of scale. The best IoT development partners have the knowledge and experience to help point you in the right direction.

6. Performance tracking and monitoring

IoT devices will be subject to real-world conditions that are unlike those in the lab—and perhaps unlike those you anticipated. This can cause unexpected errors and failures, as well as a greater need for support and maintenance.

To model the conditions that your product will be in, you can use digital twin technology. A digital twin is a virtual replica of an object that simulates its appearance and behavior in the real world in order to identify any discrepancies.

In general, think ahead of time about the environments that your IoT device may encounter. If you have a narrow use case for your product, such as outdoors or underwater, you can narrow this down to perform more targeted research.

Not Just About Getting Out The Door

Don’t wait until your product is in customers’ hands to test the device in the real world. As the IoT product market becomes more mature, it’s no longer enough simply to get your device out the door and on shelves.

Its important to work with an experienced IoT partner — like Very—to navigate the development process and prepare for the challenges ahead. Reach out today, and let us know about your next IoT product.