The global pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation efforts. At the same time, we are grappling with high inflation rates, supply chain shortages, and market volatility. With the 2022 IPO market reportedly down 46% and the prospect of raising cash at reduced valuations, many companies are laser focused on conservation of cash.
Now, more than ever, it makes sense to take the time to evaluate options for launching your IoT connected products, and design prototypes with sustainable cost and resource models. By making careful decisions you can easily save at least $250,000 in hard costs and even more in opportunity cost, all while reducing time to market and risk.
During my nearly two decades working with connected products, I have been committed to helping others innovate, manage digital transitions, and turn their technology into a key business advantage. I will be attending IoT Tech Expo North America, October 5-6 in Santa Clara, and would like to discuss your strategy for navigating digital transformation efforts.
Start the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn.
About IoT Expo
IoT Tech Expo North America is a two-day conference for enterprise technology professionals, business leadership, and government officials in Santa Clara, CA, October 5-6, 2022. The event offers content, demonstrations, and discussions around the IoT ecosystem and business strategy implementation. Relevant industries include manufacturing, transport, supply chain, government, energy, utilities, insurance, healthcare, and retail.
Key topics examined include: Digital Transformation – Data Analytics – IIoT & Smart Manufacturing Connected Environments – Developing for the IoT – Sensor Deployment – Connectivity Considerations – 5G & Future Connectivity – Cloud Computing – Autonomous Transportation – Device & Asset Management – Connected Fleets & Smart Logistics – R&D – Smart Energy – and more!
Reducing Risk with LTE
So, you are designing a connected product and have made the decision to connect your product via LTE because the mobile network operators (MNOs) have spent billions to create a pervasive, secure, and reliable network. That’s an excellent choice for many companies! But there are still critical considerations to determine the best cellular connectivity hardware.
A chipset design solution (such as Qualcomm ) is almost certainly beyond the capabilities of your engineering team, requires certification that can be in excess of $500,000, and is extremely risky. Unless you are planning to build millions of devices, have deep cellular technical expertise, and can afford a long development cycle, you will quickly conclude that a module design makes more sense.
The most common approach that I have observed over the past 5 years has been to “roll your own”, based upon a variety of LTE modules. In my view, there are two primary reasons companies have chosen to go down this DIY path starting with a certified module:
- It is perceived to be lower cost than using something that is more highly integrated and “off the shelf”.
- There were few if any alternative solutions to provide cellular connectivity that fit between the design based upon the module and the more expensive, less flexible socket modem, USB dongle, or cellular enabled router.
Managing Cost & Risk with Product Design
Planning your project for success begins at design, and includes everything from connectivity hardware to antenna placement. Digging a bit deeper into a module-based design, here some considerations that are commonly overlooked:
- Risk: Yes, you still are required to do end-product certification, and the odds of passing first time around are not in your favor. A majority of newly designed cellular devices fail certification in the first round of testing and certification. The impact of a redesign and multiple rounds of certification testing can add 3-9 months of delay.
- Engineering and certification costs: The costs vary, especially when considering multiple attempts at passing certification, and possibly board respins. It would be hard to find a case where this is not at least a 6-figure budget item.
- Time to market: The majority of market share and highest total gross margin is usually obtained by the first mover in any market. There are exceptions, but especially in tech, the first on the market with a solid product usually captures an unfair advantage over the “also rans”.
- Sustainability: I am not talking about carbon neutrality here, rather the cost and resources required to implement the design and firmware updates that are inherent in a module-level design. If the module vendor has a firmware revision, not only do you need to be able to roll it out to your devices, but you might need to change your device firmware.
Next Steps for Project Sustainability and Scalability
Commercial IoT is similar to many enterprise business solutions: If the product requires rework and hand-off to a different set of professionals to be rewritten prior to full deployment, the risk and cost will consume the project, and it will likely never ship. It’s important to get the design right at the proof-of-concept stage, or the product will die on the vine. Challenge your internal teams to ensure that whatever path you choose, you end up with a secure, scalable, and sustainable connected product.
I’m looking forward to connecting with you on LinkedIn and at the IoT Tech Conference in Santa Clara.