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Smart Cows and How Not to Design IoT Products to Fail
As a growing number of consumers come to rely on the power of the Internet of Things, increasing pressure will mount on product makers to ensure that their products are reliable.
Jul 15, 2018—
No one sets out to build an Internet of Things (IoT) product that will fail, but it happens. From smart locks that can be hacked in little to no time at all to the recall of 440,000 smart smoke and CO detectors, stories of IoT device failures abound.
When that failure is one-off and can be easily fixed by exchanging the faulty product, the impact on a company's brand and its bottom line may be minimal. But when those IoT products are installed in hard-to-reach places or in harsh environments, all bets are off. When these products fail, a company's success or failure may be on the line.
In this "smart cow" application, IoT sensors are implanted in multiple locations under the cow's skin. The process requires a minor surgery with anesthetic (Figure 1). Once operational, the sensors are expected to operate without fail for at least three years. During that time, they track a range of things, such as the cow's behavior and temperature, which is a leading indicator of disease.
It sounds simple enough, but because the sensors are located inside the cow, they can't be easily accessed if something goes wrong. The sheer weight of the animals and their habit of continually rubbing up against objects poses another problem. What happens when an adult cow, weighing upwards of 1,800 pounds, decides to rub a part of its body where a sensor is located? Will the sensor become damaged?
Congestion and Load Troubles
To avoid such failures, product makers should test the ability of their IoT devices to operate normally with a traffic load comparable to that expected in the target environment. That testing should also be performed while simulating different traffic types, like streaming video or voice.
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