Building a connected product business is a journey with two distinct phases.
Phase 1 : Take a product line such as electric car charging station that you already have or planning to build, add secure wireless connectivity, launch the product to market. The over-riding goals in this phase : don’t brick the product, make sure its not hack-able, the product is usable and demonstrate modest amount of success — for ex. save 5–7% in support costs because the product is now fixable over the air. No truck rolls, no embarrassing cost outlays to your distribution network. You are not shouting from the rooftops at this point. Maybe you tell your spouse and she asks you go throw the trash out at the end of that conversation. At least you can go to bed not worrying about outages.
Phase 2 : You’ve had the product in market for a quarter. It is sending highly valuable product use data to a cloud. You can automate decisions on controlling the product and maybe even create efficient workflows. You feel kinda good. One day you give a presentation to your entire company on how best to put IoT to use across your entire product portfolio. And you really talk about these high-end outcomes : predictive maintenance, machine learning driven decisions, deep insights into customer behavior that allowed you take quickly. Some high fives are in order, there are people from other departments milling around you to get your thoughts on how they can do what you did. And then you get promoted. Bam!
This is overly simplistic, but the reason I split this into two distinct phases is because today’s IoT vendor landscape is selling you the magic of Phase 2 ( I call it the ‘Field of Dreams’ phase). But the biggest risk is in Phase 1 — where a fully functioning product line needs to continue functioning with the same reliability, be usable and fulfill an understated yet critical need for your bottom line.
The three basic elements you need as the product owner or the VP/GM of that business are
- A powerful, secure, hardware abstracting embedded software layer that can securely connect the product to the cloud AND run nearly as-is on not just one product but on multiple product lines
- A mobile app software development kit (SDK) that encompasses all the elements that are needed to securely connect, setup, manage and control the device
- A fleet management service that can authenticate, authorize products in the field as well securely upgrade the product
You will notice that I did not mention the need for a data cloud at this stage in your IoT project. This is a calculated omission. If you pick the right platform for the Phase 1 of your project, one the table stakes is the platform allowing you to connect the fleet to the cloud service of your corporate IT department’s choice. As the person accountable for the product P&L, you should not be in the awkward position of recommending a data cloud to the team that lives and breathes cloud service due diligence. The choice of the data cloud that drives value added elements such as analytics, human intervention free field service, etc., is a distinct Phase 2.
If I wasn’t clear, you have to survive Phase 1 to reach Phase 2. If you believe in that premise, start with a platform like Zentri which does those 3 elements for Phase 1 success to perfection. We don’t sell you the field of dreams story — we become part of your connected product success lifecycle when your first connected product ‘wakes up’ to when your fleet of connected products starts to form the basis of a new business model. When the product fleet is successfully performing in market, you can add the data cloud from Zentri, connect to the analytics/workflow cloud of your choice and the journey shall be spectacular.