You are ready to make the jump. You have recognized a process in your business that can be improved with IoT solutions. It could be anything from transitioning from digitizing asset management, smart farming, or automating facility management.
Perhaps your organization is looking into incorporating machine learning in your maintenance plan. Predicting when machines need maintenance and reducing unplanned downtime savings a huge amount of money for your organizations. You’re ready for that promotion upon completion of the project.
You have been tasked to look into the necessary IoT solutions but you’re not sure where to start. In this blog, we’re listing 10 things to consider so that your first conversation with your hardware vendors more productive.
1. Features meet business outcome needs
This seems like an obvious task that does not deserve a mention. Except, I have witnessed it happens on more than one occasion. Writing down your requirement forces you to think about all the considerations for your business outcome needs. It also helps in discussion with your team members and your third-party partners. Write out your requirements, perform preliminary cost-benefit analysis, and make a checklist.
This is an important feature and should not be left as an afterthought. Security needs to be end to end. How does your IoT platform authenticate your device? Can the certificate be copied onto another device? How is it encrypted? A good place to start is your IoT platform provider security page. Many times, they include a software development kit (SDK) that can help you secure your devices.
3. Connectivity requirements
There is no perfect connectivity, but there is one that balances the trade-offs that fits your application best. Low power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies are built for small data. You make trade-offs for power consumption, range, cost, and penetration but it is not suitable for high bandwidth application. Within LPWAN, you have a choice between a licensed band and an unlicensed band. We compared LPWAN in a previous blog here. When selecting the unlicensed band, make sure you are within the authorized frequency of regulatory (e.g. MCMC/FCC) and operate within the allowed boundaries.
Mesh networks allow one node to pass messages to another. The data hops from one node to the next until it reaches its intended destination. Within the mesh network technologies, you have different choices of protocols. Work with your device providers to pick one that fits your scale, performance, and cost of deployment.
4. Sensor selection and Control
Consider not only parameters you need to sense but also the accuracy and the sampling rate. Are you interfacing with a legacy system? Some sensors have a limited lifetime, is it easily field replaceable?
If you are automating a device make sure your IoT devices have enough current source to drive the relay, solenoid or contactor.
5. Edge Computing Power
Some processing tasks are better suited to be performed closer to the source. Video inferencing or data-heavy computational tasks might be better served to be processed at the edge because of the latency and bandwidth costs. Instead of transmitting live footage, the edge device can process and only send pertinent data.
6. Environmental and Ingress protection
The environment where the device is installed will affect the lifetime of the device. Does the device need to be ruggedized? Is it mounted on a lorry where it will experience harsh temperature and vibrations? Or does it sit outside? Can it withstand flood? Your device should be designed for the appropriate environmental considerations.
This might not be applicable for all applications, but in general, you want a device that is future proof. Vectolabs learned an expensive mistake early in its inception of not having a method to update the firmware in the field. All units had to be shipped back for a simple firmware upgrade. This is a painful lesson that I hope you do not repeat.
8. RF quality/RSSI
This is especially important and often neglected. The performance of your device will be largely attributed to its RF efficiency. Unless you have access to anechoic chambers, the best way to test the effectiveness of a device is to actually test and compare. Measure the RSSI from gateway to device and device to gateway
9. Compatibility with Platform
Make sure you loop in your IT team in this conversation. I am sure there has been a lot of discussion on IoT platforms in this group. They may have already decided for you which IoT platform the company is going to support. Make sure your device can be used with the selected platform.
10. Post-sales support
There’s an easy test for this. If you can’t speak with an engineer to get support on your devices, you should keep looking. Things happen in the real world. You might need a firmware update, your device failed, and you need help debugging. Find your friendly IoT device partners.