"Internet of Things" entries

The 11 deadly sins of product development

Creating great hardware and software means avoiding these product-killing pitfalls.

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Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from “Prototype to Product: A Practical Guide for Getting to Market,” by Alan Cohen.

Thomas Edison famously said that genius is “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,” and his observation holds true for product development. Developing “genius-level” products certainly requires inspiration, but the bulk of the effort is more like perspiration: work that benefits from insight and cleverness, but is also largely about not screwing up. Most product development efforts fail. It’s been my observation that failures are not usually due to a lack of inspiration (i.e., poor product ideas), but rather from mistakes made during the “perspiration” part.

What follows is a brief catalog of the most popular ways to wound or kill product development projects. Most efforts that get derailed do so by falling into one or more of a small set of fundamental traps that are easy to fall into, but are also fairly avoidable. As an organizational construct, I refer to the specific traps as sins and the more-general negative impulses behind the sins as vices. And since these sins are often fatal, I call them deadly sins to remind ourselves of their degree of danger. Before we get into the specific vices and sins, let’s start off with the fundamental principle that lies behind all of these, a basic truth that largely determines success or failure. Read more…

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Beacosystem evolution, hurdles, and resources

A look at the issues and trends in deploying beacon-based solutions.

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Save 25% on registration for Solid with code SLD25. Solid, O’Reilly’s conference on hardware and the Internet of Things, covers topics like beacons — and everything else you need to know in order to build intelligent, connected devices.

In this post, the third of our series, I’ll look at some of the issues in using and deploying beacon-based solutions, some of the trends in both hardware and software offerings, and share some resources where you can find more detail on everything I’ve covered so far.

First off, let’s take a look at some of the topics that can cause issues, or trip us up when starting to consider a new iBeacon-based solution. In no particular order, these include:

Notifications, Notifications, Notifications

I have many conversations with potential clients that go something like this (in condensed form):

Client: “We want to do a beacon project”

Me: “Great, what are you thinking of?”

Client: “We want to trigger messages to people as they come past or in to our place on their phones”

Me: “OK, is this iOS only?”

Client: “No – of course not – in fact, most of our users are on Android”

Me: “Ah – ok… well…”

(long conversation follows)

With the initial hype and excitement around iBeacon, it’s understandable that there’s some confusion around what’s possible, and what’s not, across all the mobile handsets available today. For now, I’ll focus on just iOS and Android, though we could usefully expand to include Windows and Blackberry. Read more…

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Why the Internet of Things isn’t the same as the new hardware movement

Cheap, accessible, open hardware is driving the IoT.

The Internet of Things and the New Hardware Movement are not the same thing

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been committing a lot of buzzword imperialism lately. It’s a hot term, marching across the technological countryside and looking for rich disciplines to capture. Electronics, manufacturing, and robotics, among others, have all become dominions of the IoT. The result is that the meaning of IoT has broadened to include practically anything that involves 1. technology, and 2. something physical.

At the same time, practitioners have been trying to escape the IoT — and its early association with Internet-connected refrigerators — for years. Big enterprises that want to develop serious applications for the Internet of Things have come up with other terms for what they’re doing, like Internet of Everything (Cisco) and Industrial Internet (GE).

Let’s put a stop to this and define some boundaries. In my view, the Internet of Things is the result of a much larger and more important movement that’s about making the physical environment accessible in the same way that the Internet has become accessible over the last 20 years. I’ll call this the “new hardware movement.” Read more…

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Building functional teams for the IoT economy

Experts weigh in on more fluid approaches to IoT team building.

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Download a free copy of our new report, “When Worlds Collide: Hardware, Software, and Manufacturing Teams for the IoT,” by Mike Barlow. Editor’s note: this post is an excerpt from the report.

You don’t have to be a hardcore dystopian to imagine the problems that can unfold when worlds of software collide with worlds of hardware.

When you consider the emerging economics of the Internet of Things (IoT), the challenges grow exponentially, and the complexities are daunting.

For many people, the IoT suggests a marriage of software and hardware. But the economics of the IoT involves more than a simple binary coupling. In addition to software development and hardware design, a viable end-to-end IoT process would include prototyping, sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, operations, marketing, sales, distribution, customer support, finance, legal, and HR.

It’s reasonable to assume that an IoT process would be part of a larger commercial business strategy that also involves multiple sales and distribution channels (e.g., wholesale, retail, value-added reseller, direct); warehousing; operations; and interactions with a host of regulatory agencies at various levels of government, depending on the city, state, region, and country.

A diagram of a truly functional IoT would look less like a traditional linear supply chain and more like an ecosystem or a network. The most basic supply chain looks something like this: Read more…

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For hardware startups, technology enables scale

Turning a hobby into a company just got a lot easier.

Download a free copy of “Building a Hardware Business,” a curated collection of chapters from our IoT library. Editor’s note: this post is an excerpt from “The Hardware Startup,” by Renee DiResta, Brady Forrest, Ryan Vinyard, which is included in the curated collection.

Over the past five years, we’ve begun to witness the emergence of Maker pros: entrepreneurs who started out as hobbyists and now want to turn their creations into full-fledged companies. The difference between a project and a product is the difference between making one and making many.

To turn a project into a company, the product has to be scalable. “Making many” has traditionally been a problem of cost and accessibility; it’s historically been both expensive and difficult to manufacture. Growing a company further requires keeping costs low enough to profit, setting up distribution channels, and managing fulfillment. Over the past few years, several trends have combined to create an environment that’s mitigated those problems. This has resulted in the growth of a hardware startup ecosystem.

Rapid prototyping

Advances in rapid prototyping technologies have fundamentally changed the process of taking an idea from paper to the physical world. Hobbyist and prosumer-level 3D printers, CNC routers, and laser cutters have altered the landscape of personal fabrication, enabling quick and affordable iteration. While 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, the cost of a machine has dropped dramatically. Materials such as metals and ceramics enable higher-fidelity models. Cloud-based fabbing services, such as Ponoko and Shapeways, can produce a single prototype and ship it to you within a week — no need to own the printer yourself! Inexpensive boards (such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone) make electronics prototyping accessible to everyone. As interest in the Internet of Things has grown, products such as Spark Core and Electric Imp (startups themselves) have hit the market to make connected-device prototyping fast and easy. Simultaneously, computer-aided design (CAD) software has become more sophisticated, more affordable, and easier to use. Read more…

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The Internet of Living Things

The Internet of Things offers new opportunities in wellness management for businesses and communities.

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Register for the free webcast, “Life Streams, Walled Gardens, and the Internet of Living Things.” Brigitte Piniewski and Hagen Finley will discuss the Internet of Living Things, what makes sensoring and monitoring data emanating from our bodies unique, and why we should elect to participate in this seemingly Orwellian mistake of open-sourcing our personal health data.

The majority of the 3.8 trillion dollars spent on sick care today is spent on treating chronic ailments that took decades to become symptomatic.

Making better day-to-day health decisions is by far the least costly way to avoid spending trillions on late-life care. Further, much of people’s health-related suffering can be significantly reduced or eliminated by making better lifestyle choices earlier in life. The business value is clear, but will wearables deliver on the promise to better inform and influence our health decisions?

The IoT model

Network-connected industrial devices have increasingly captured the imaginations of technologists and manufacturers. Real-time reporting from embedded sensors not only changes the way machines function, it changes the way they are sold and operated. GE, for example, rents its jet engines to carriers, then extends that product offering by wrapping the engines with a full-service contract. Sensors embedded in the engines provide consumption-based billing information and allow GE to perform just-in-time maintenance on field-replaceable engine parts. The carrier’s maintenance model is dramatically more effective and efficient than the previous non-sensored model, which either pulled engines out of service based on mileage or based on part failure, both of which translated to waste for the carriers. Read more…

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Pop-up factory

An experiment at Solid tests a manufacturing style pioneered by pirates.

Attend O’Reilly’s Solid Conference, June 23–25, in San Francisco. Solid, O’Reilly’s conference on the collision of software and hardware, will feature a radical demonstration: a live, pop-up electronics factory.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a tour of the South China manufacturing ecosystem with Andrew “bunnie” Huang. One of the most fascinating things that I saw there were the markets full of funny little mobile phones: Read more…

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Real-world interfaces are in an awkward and playful stage

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Josh Clark on the world as an interface, avoiding data rash, and the importance of play.

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World_Alarm_Clock_Bob_Bob_FlickrIn this week’s episode of the Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chats with Josh Clark, founder of design agency Big Medium (formerly known as Global Moxie). Clark talks about the changing nature of his work as the world itself becomes more of an interface, how to avoid “data rash,” and why in this time of rapid technology growth it’s essential for designers to splash in the puddles.

The world is the medium

The influence of the Internet of Things is beginning to touch every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate to how we work to how we play. This fundamental shift away from screens to the real-world around us not only is influencing how designers approach their craft, but is changing the medium itself in which designers work. Clark talked about this shift and how it’s affecting his own work:

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found the nature of my work has been changing as well as my interests. I think the culture of digital design is changing, too, as we start moving off of screens. It felt like an opportunity to redefine my own work, so I also did that with my agency and changed its name to Big Medium. The idea of that being that the Internet itself is a pretty big medium, and in fact starting to expand beyond the bounds that we’ve traditionally associated it with, which is the screen. Increasingly, as we’re seeing connected devices — the smart phones were kind of the leading edge of this, but now we’re starting to see wearables and the Internet of Things — this idea that the Internet is becoming embedded in our environment and in everyday objects means that anything can be an interface.

My work is starting to engage more and more with that truly big medium, which is the world itself. Finally, the world is the interface, which of course it always has been, but now we’re able to create digital experiences that belong to the world that we actually move in instead of us having to dive into the screens.

Read more…

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Protecting health through open data management principles

Personal wellness data should be shared as freely as water and air.

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Register for the free webcast, “Life Streams, Walled Gardens, and the Internet of Living Things.” Brigitte Piniewski and Hagen Finley will discuss the Internet of Living Things, what makes sensoring and monitoring data emanating from our bodies unique, and why we should elect to participate in this seemingly Orwellian mistake of open-sourcing our personal health data.

We are at a threshold in the history of personal data. Sensors and apps are making it possible to generate digital data signatures of important aspects of healthy living, such as movement, nutrition, and sleep. However, we are rapidly losing the opportunity to erect a Linux-like open “living-well” data system steeped in open commons principles. We can either join together to ensure enlightened open source and crowdsourced discovery practices become the norm for our living-well data footprints, or we can passively allow this data to be sequestered into one of the walled gardens offered by health systems, funded research, or big business.

Why this is important?

Living-well data provides the map by which vast amounts of preventable human suffering can be prevented. Everyone can benefit from the health journeys of those who lived before us because our modern societies are no longer “accidentally well.” Decades ago, parents had no need to question the nutrition a child was offered or concern themselves with how much activity a child engaged in. No deliberate use of devices was needed to track these important health contributors. Reasonable access to whole foods (farm foods) and reasonable amounts of activity were provided, as it were, by default — in other words, by accident. This resulted in remarkably low rates of chronic disease. Today, communities cannot take those healthy choices for granted — we are no longer accidentally well. Read more…

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The state of augmented reality

A look at AR today and how we need to design it for tomorrow.

Attend O’Reilly’s Solid Conference, June 23–25, in San Francisco. Solid is our conference exploring how the collision of software and hardware is fueling the creation of a software-enhanced, networked physical world. Helen Papagiannis will speak at Solid on June 24.

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Screenshot of the Google Sky Map app.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) provides a gateway to a new dimension without the need to leave our physical world behind. We still see the real world around us in AR, whereas in VR, the real world is completely blocked out and replaced by a new world that immerses the user in a computer generated environment.

AR today

The most common definition of AR to date is a digital overlay on top of the real world, consisting of computer graphics, text, video, and audio, which is interactive in real time. This is experienced through a smartphone, tablet, computer, or AR eyewear equipped with software and a camera. Examples of AR today include the translation of signs or menus into the language of your choice, pointing at and identifying stars and planets in the night sky, and delving deeper into a museum exhibit with an interactive AR guide. AR presents the opportunity to better understand and experience our world in unprecedented ways.

AR is rapidly gaining momentum (and extreme amounts of funding) with great advances and opportunities in science, design, and business. It is not often that a whole new communications medium is introduced to the world. AR will have a profound effect on the way we live, work, and play. Now is the time to imagine, design, and build our virtual future. Read more…

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