The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

What Makes a Solid Gold IIoT Product?

By Special Guest
Artem Kroupenev, VP, Product, Augury
January 30, 2018

Widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the industrial world is inevitable. The current rate of innovation is staggering with hundreds of startups and most industrial organizations racing to implement strategies.

There are, however, a number of unique challenges that industrial IoT entrepreneurs must overcome in order to build products that provide meaning and value to their customers. First, the challenges:  

Hardware, Sensing and Connectivity
Methods for capturing vast amounts of data from physical devices and being able to transmit it cheaply and securely is an imperative in the wave of IIoT product adoption. There are multiple platform efforts in this space, but the lack of standardization remains a clear obstacle to connecting devices in an interoperable manner.

Data and Algorithms
To provide valuable insights, a digital representation of physical devices is the first step for industrials, and only then can a form of intelligence be applied to make sense of the data. Here too, multiple platforms are competing to provide a standardized infrastructure to enable AI applications.

Machine interfaces help represent valuable insights in a way that people can understand and use to inform meaningful actions. Historically, internet interaction have been conducted primarily via visual interfaces, but the new wave of IoT devices are based on speech. People speak with interfaces like Siri and Alexa, which create a more human relationship with physical devices in the consumer IoT space.

In the industrial sector, interfacing with machines and systems that are custom-built to serve a specific purpose in a given environment requires a higher level of specialized knowledge. Industrial problems are often large scale, and therefore require solutions that are simultaneously versatile, flexible and scalable. Keeping these things in mind, here’s how to build a killer IIoT product:

Solve a Big, Measurable Problem
Focusing on a clearly-defined problem is paramount to building any successful product. In the industrial world, even when customers are aware of their major pain points, any solution will struggle unless it is translated into a tangible and measurable dollar amount. The biggest challenge many customers face in implementing IIoT solutions is making a case to upper management. This is where you need to ensure that your customers have the tools to understand, prove and track the ROI of your solution. When focusing on a truly disruptive solution, the ROI should be at least 5-10x higher than when compared with the current way of addressing the problem.

Minimize Time to Value
A great product provides value at first engagement. This immediate value can come in the form of tangible impact or simply in a deeper understanding of how the specific solution is applicable to the customer’s own unique product/service. In either case, onboarding needs to be fast and frictionless, and must provide concrete evidence that the product is focused on meeting the customer’s needs quickly. In the industrial and commercial worlds, fast time to value often requires a significant amount of manual support and hand-holding before you can sufficiently productize the process. Embrace it.  

Do Not Compromise on Usability
Successful consumer products are geared towards high usability, simplicity and aesthetics. The idea that this approach should be any different for industrial customers is misguided and outdated. While industrial customers are sophisticated and highly knowledgeable in their fields, they still seek solutions that are low touch and do not require additional training expertise or other effort in order to set up, configure and use. IIoT customers appreciate the usability, elegance and aesthetics in the digital products they use at home, why should they expect a lower level of usability from their industrial products? Look at consumer solutions for inspiration and strive to deliver an even higher standard of usability.

Unlock Stickiness
A killer product should be difficult to replace, not because it’s designed in a way that locks customers in, but because it creates loyalty and behaviors that are directly tied to the value it provides. This is especially true for industrial customers who will make a significant investment in order to adopt a new way of doing things, and will want to make sure that the solution is worth the effort. Sticky products also provide a platform for expansion and adaptation that deepens and enriches the customer experience. Evolving your product based on constant attention to new customer needs and behaviors will allow you to tackle larger problems more knowledgeably as you retain more of your current customers.

Overstress Reliability, Security and Safety
One of the key pain points of the industrial world is reliability. It is difficult to build a rapidly growing startup within the constraints of hardcore industrial regulation, but it comes with the territory and could severely limit your product if not taken under consideration. IIoT products have unique security challenges rooted in a combination of digital and physical threats. Security is a particularly public challenge. If you have access to the customer’s operational and business data, focus on providing the highest level of protection there by adopting an array of cyber security strategies.

In IIoT, we also deal with physical product development and installations in industrial environments. It’s hard to underestimate the importance of proper safety training and precautions for every single member of your team.

Keep it Flexible
Finally, a killer product is ready for anything. It needs to be customizable, but also scalable. It needs to be innovative, but able to integrate with what already exists.  Customers want a low barrier to entry and financial flexibility of as-a-service offerings.
Including hardware, installation, service and diagnostic costs into a subscription fee that is straightforward and focused on value, not on upfront investment is half of the equation.

The second half is easy integration into your customer’s workflow. With systems and workflows in place, selecting product partners that make working together natural is key in driving a great product home. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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