The expectation around the Internet of Things is truly amazing. The interconnectedness of the devices and services will, eventually, change the way we live and work. With estimates by IDC that we will generate 40 zettabytes of data by 2020, the question is whether there will be IoT devices there to service this data.
What many in the industry do not discuss is the time that it takes a typical IoT device to market. Long testing and development cycles make quick turnaround almost impossible. However, the technology exists to shorten the development cycle. This concept of “Internet of Things in a Box,” has the potential to bring these devices to market more quickly.
When thinking and talking about IoT devices, much of the focus is on the design. Take consumer health devices: devices that track blood sugar levels in adults with type-2 diabetes, smart appliances that gather data for insurance companies, wearables that track metabolic rates are all promising devices. However, a typical medical device can spend two years in development with a team of 15+ engineers before it moves to FDA review, says Baoguo Wei, founder and CEO of Blink’r.
A IoT application typically has a hardware piece connected to a cloud backend and an interface to people and possibly people to people connection. The reason why IoT development takes very long is because of its complexity. The development typically has a large team with usability, industry design, mechanic, hardware, manufacturing, embedded software, backend end, App and test engineers.
Hardware development typical needs a few cycles from concept to production, since hardware, internet connection, backend, APPs are closely connected, any change in any of these components will have ripple effect on other components, one change in one component may lead to changes in another components and keep going. Also the interconnection of machine to machine, machine people connection and people to people connection add another layer of complexity and make development time longer.
The reality is that this development time and large team do not need to exist if we have a “IoT in a Box” tool set defined as:
- has connectivity such as Wi-Fi, Cellular, USB, Bluetooth to enable cloud backend connection;
- has a cloud backend deployed at public cloud or private cloud to facility machine to machine communication, machine people connection and people to people connection on top of typical data storage, device management and user management stuff;
- has peripheral such as I2C, SPI, GPIOs, GPS, ADC, PWM to interact with physical world;
- Display and touch panel interface, camera interface, speaker and mic interface for human interaction;
- Powerful processor to do edge computing;
- Development environment and SDK or templates for using all peripherals of IoT box, use cloud backend.
- Various development kits for rapid prototyping. Various components in this “IoT in a Box” tool set will first make prototyping take months to days, also it will significantly cut the complexity of IoT development to empower IoT App to be done by a small team and very short period of time.
The problems with IoT device design come with the different aspects that it takes to get a device market-ready. Right now, a design goes from design to prototype for development. Before you go to a prototyping environment, you need learn the technologies and tool sets, which adds to the development time. The most important elements – the signaling technology and connections to applications, the cloud and other back end systems – often come in at end, which adds to the development time.
The reality is that this development time does not need to exist. Using smaller, known signaling and other protocols as well as enabling the concurrent testing will shorten the development time. Similarly, building in the controls with the cloud in mind will shorten the development time. Without the cloud, there is no IoT.
The author of this blog is Baoguo Wei, founder and CEO of Blink’r