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Four Fundamental Strategies for Building an IoT System

How can companies ensure that their Internet of Things technologies are sustainable and effective, work seamlessly, and create a return on investment?
By Joe Conway
Jan 21, 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no foreign topic to CIOs, IT professionals and developers in the software world. Gartner research has reported that more than 6.4 billion devices are currently connected, and according to our 2017 "Technology and the Human Condition" survey report, 72 percent of respondents believe all electronics will have an IP address by 2050. The IoT is quickly gaining widespread adoption due to its power to help businesses become more efficient, solve tough internal challenges and reduce labor costs by thousands of dollars.

In our experience analyzing, consulting and building IoT infrastructure, we've uncovered a few things that contribute to a more successful product that saves time, costs and support headaches. Here are four strategies companies should implement to ensure that their IoT systems are sustainable and effective, work seamlessly, and create an ROI.

Combine Teams Early and Often
There are several components of an IoT system, and each requires a different set of skills and teams. These teams are often divided into three buckets—software, hardware and product—and each usually works in its own way. For example, it's common for a software team to work in an agile environment, but less so for a hardware team. To have a successful product, it's important that all three teams work together from planning through testing and execution.

If the three teams are not on the same page from the beginning, features that one team must implement that depend on features from another team can become difficult, have suboptimal solutions or be impossible to execute. In order to avoid this, each team must be mindful of the other team's process and constraints. The project needs strong technical leadership that understands how teams can successfully work together to build an efficient product.

Push, Don't Pull
Connected devices have less computational power than servers, so it's often easier to move most logic off the connected devices and onto the server. This approach comes with a challenge, though: it's costly to get information out of a connected device, and that cost increases significantly with more connected devices. For example, if we want to find out how a value on a connected device changes over time, we could have the server poll the connected device at a certain interval.

However, if the value has not changed, we've wasted precious CPU cycles and network bandwidth. These wasted resources add up to a significant amount as the number of devices increases. One way to solve this is to move some of the logic onto the connected device to free up considerable resources at the point at which they are the most constrained. This increases the speed of the overall system without bogging it down with needless operations.

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