The 4 Reasons You Should Make an IoT Business Prototype

The value of your IoT solution increases when you challenge your assumptions.

Adam Dunkels, Thingsquare CEOBy Adam Dunkels, Thingsquare CEO – November 13, 2019

You should always start your IoT project with a business prototype.

What is a business prototype?

It is an early prototype of your solution that is intended to validate your business idea – not just the technology.

This is different from a tech prototype, which is intended to validate the technology.

Tech prototypes tend to be difficult to use to validate the business case, mostly because they look bad. They tend to look like bare electronics.

In this article we look at the 4 reasons why you should always build a business prototype, and not just a tech prototype, as part of your IoT projects.

  1. It lets you validate the business case early
  2. It will challenge your user assumptions
  3. It will challenge your technology assumptions
  4. It will make you re-prioritize

What is a Business Prototype?

Any IoT prototype is an early draft of the intended IoT solution, but built quickly.

Just like the final solution, the prototype consists of:

  • A good looking smartphone app or web frontend
  • A piece of hardware, that looks reasonably good
  • The necessary infrastructure to support the above (this is where a solid IoT platform is absolutely essential)

Unlike a traditional tech prototype, which usually is intended as a proof-of-concept of the technology, a business prototype is intended as a proof-of-concept of the business case.

What does this mean?

It means that the business prototype must be usable for end-customers, because that is where we need to test it.

So the business prototype must not only work well, but also look good.

Example IoT prototypes

Hot desk tracking screenshot

Hot desk tracking screenshot

An IoT business prototype will inevitably include electronics, but it should not focus exclusively on the electronics.

Again, this is because the business prototype is not a tech prototype. Much of the IoT community has focused on building tech prototypes.

In the IoT community, many build tech a prototype by taking an electronics kit, such an Arduino, hook it up to a sensor, and add a blinking LED. And that is as the prototype. While this is not entirely wrong, the problem with this approach is that this focuses only on one piece of the puzzle and that it misses that part of the prototype’s purpose is to validate the business case with actual users. And users react very differently to a 3D printed box than a handful of bare electronics.

1. A business prototype lets you validate the business case early

The purpose of the IoT solution is to bring some form of value. This value may come in many forms: reduced organizational cost, added value to an existing product (which thereby should yield more revenue), or an entirely new business.

It is crucial to see if your idea has the potential to bring this value, as quickly as possible. This is what we mean when we talk about validating the business case.

Different IoT business cases need different approaches to validate them. Here are a few:

  • Run the solution in its target environment, and measure the effects it has on the problem it solves
  • Test the solution with early customers
  • Get pre-orders of your product

With a business prototype, you can measure (or estimate) the business value early, and adapt the plan if you see that the value may be lower than expected. If the value may be higher than expected, you should accelerate the project.

2. A business prototype will challenge your user assumptions

Your IoT solution will eventually end up in the hands of your users. And you will have a bunch of assumptions on how the users will act. Some of them explicitly stated and some hidden.

The first meeting between your solution and its users will challenge your assumptions.

The first meeting between your solution and its users will challenge your assumptions. Doing this early can lead to tons of insights. Things that was thought to be important turns out to be insignificant. And overlooked things turns out to be extremely important.

The earlier you can challenge and revisit your user assumptions, the earlier you will be able to change your plan.

And the earlier you can change your plan, the more successful your project will be.

3. A business prototype will challenge your technology assumptions

Every technology has its limitations and testing the technology in the wild is often the only way to really understand them.

This is particularly true for anything that is wireless. And with the IoT, everything is wireless.

The earlier in the process you can understand the limits of your technology, the better you will be able to prioritize the system you are building.

For example, you may have planned to collect data from your sensors every second. But when you test this in a real-world setting you might see that this is way too fast for the wireless network. So you need to change. And again, the earlier you can make those changes, the easier they will be.

Every technology has its limitations and testing the technology in the wild is often the only way to really understand them.

4. A business prototype will make you re-prioritize

After testing with users, project priorities will change.

The first set of priorities is created with only a little information. The prototype brings a wealth of important information. This will help update the list of priorities.

And the earlier you are able to re-arrange the priorities, the better.

Example priority shift

Priorities before

  1. Hardware size
  2. Battery life
  3. Installation mechanism
  4. Graph color
  5. Update speed

Priorities after

  1. Graph color
  2. Installation mechanism
  3. Update speed
  4. Hardware size
  5. Battery life

Conclusions

Like all projects, IoT projects need quick business validation and need to meet users early.

And because IoT projects often require costly hardware and software development, the earlier you can get your priorities right, the better.

An early IoT business prototype will challenge your assumptions and will make you get your priorities right.

Thingsquare helps companies build their business prototypes to let you accelerate the process to getting to a successful IoT business. Get in touch with us today to hear how we can help!


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Adam Dunkels

Adam Dunkels

CEO

Fredrik Rosendal

Fredrik Rosendal

CTO

Marcus Linderoth

Marcus Linderoth

VP Engineering

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