This article is based on Breadware’s IoT Product Development in 4 Smart Steps that outlines the four phases of IoT Product Development.

The Internet of Things (IoT), after years of speculation, is starting to take off. In the last five years alone, businesses and products that use of IoT technologies has nearly doubled to about 25%. That growth is only expected to continue in the next five years – according to IHS Markit, it’s expected that there will be over 73 billion connected devices by 2025. It’s also estimated that nearly two-thirds of enterprise companies will adopt IoT to help reduce expenses, optimize assets, and improve internal safety and security.

So how does this IoT boom affect product developers and manufacturers? Building a product in this new era of connected devices requires a product development cycle that’s strategic and focused. At Breadware, the IoT product development cycle is broken down into thinking, planning, and building a new, smart product initiative. Within those areas, there are four key phases that every company should consider: Project Definition > Alpha Prototype > Beta Prototype > New Product Introduction.

Within each phase, you’ll find additional, necessary steps to ensure your product is launched to success every time. Let’s take a look at the Project Definition phase and outline those important steps for success.

Phase 1: Project Definition

Just as with anything that’s ever been created, you begin with an idea. The project definition is the crucial first step that waterfalls into the other phases to realize any product. For projects that do not have a clear and full product specification, this phase is the best place to start.

The Goal

Begin by understanding your desired goal from this phase. You’ll want to come away with a succinct product vision, a technical product architecture, at least one physical design concept, pricing estimates for production, and a detailed product development plan. 

Step 1: Feasibility Study

Review marketing research, similar products, user needs, timeline, and team to prepare a feasibility report to provide direction and technical strategy for product development. This is a crucially important first step because it’s the beginnings of turning your idea into a tangible product. As much as it can be the stepping stone to the next step, this can also prevent you from heading down the wrong, potentially costly and time-consuming, path. 

Step 2: IoT Workshops

Learn more about specific IoT needs. On-site brainstorming workshops and IoT training sessions are designed to educate, engage, and inform participants on the IoT product development journey. This is a unique offering by Breadware’s engineering experts to walkthrough specific development processes or facilitates a strategy brainstorm session.

Step 3: Technical Architecture

Create a mechanical, electrical, firmware, cloud, mobile, and database architecture that best meets the market needs, usage factors, and constraints for the product. This step is a common stumbling block for new IoT initiatives. Because this step uncovers the tech stack needed to realize the product. It can be technically nuanced and involve multidisciplinary teams, all increasing the complications behind a project.

Step 4: Proof of Concept

Development of a rapid prototype, generally using off-the-shelf hardware and software, to shed light on the key “gating” questions around technology, features, user interface, and unit cost. From looks-like to alpha prototypes, this is when some of the biggest unknowns show in a product. Low-fidelity, quick turnaround prototypes allow potential pitfalls to present itself sooner than later which could financially save a project entirely. 

Step 5: Product Requirements Document

Create a preliminary product requirements document (PRD) that clearly articulates the product look, feel, functions, and feature-set. This document becomes a blueprint to guide product development throughout the process. After the due diligence of the first 4 out of 5 steps, the compiled findings should take from in a well-defined PRD. 

Remember, the right product development strategy will help you build a better product, lower your time to market, and grow your bottom line.

If you want to learn more about all four phases of the IoT product development cycle, download Breadware’s free IoT Product Development in 4 Smart Steps. See real case studies, reference articles, and more.