The Internet of Things is poised to grow and evolve rapidly in the coming years, and businesses eager to take advantage of these trends need to take action as quickly as possible.
Of course, speed is only part of the equation. In order to truly thrive in the IoT space, companies must also ensure their applications are designed to meet all of the IoT's various intricacies. With that in mind, here are a few of the most important design requirements to make note of while developing solutions for the IoT:
– Purpose: The IoT industry is complex, wide-ranging, and ever-changing. It's easy for IoT application developers to overlook one of the most critical IoT objectives: Every IoT-related solution needs to fulfill a specific purpose and address a clear problem.
"Keeping the solution's purpose in mind through every design stage will be critical."
This doesn't always happen. Consider Revolv, developed by Nest. Nest is intricately tied to the IoT, as its sensor-driven thermostat systems are among the most popular consumer-facing examples of the IoT on the market. However, the Revolv was neither profitable or a success by any means. This product served as a home automation hub that could interact with everything from entertainment systems to light switches to garage doors, but as Harvard Business Review contributors Scott A. Nelson and Paul Metaxatos noted, this range of services didn't come together to actually address any customer needs. As a result, there was little demand for the product.
IoT companies need to avoid falling into this trap. To that end, keeping the solution's purpose in mind through every stage of the design process will be critical.
– Size: The IoT is vast, incorporating a huge range of possible applications. Ultimately, though, the vast majority of applications share one trait in common: They're small. From smart thermostats to data-gathering machine sensors in manufacturing plants to wearables, most IoT applications are tiny by necessity. As businesses look to further leverage the IoT for different purposes, this physical limitation isn't going away. As such, any IoT application design needs to factor in size early on.
– Reliability: Reliability is critical for IoT application designs for two reasons. First, there are many instances where the sensors and other solutions will be difficult to access, as is the case for a device that improves deep-sea drilling through the detection of ocean currents. Considering the challenges in repairing or completely replacing these IoT devices, companies are going to be insistent on a high standard of reliability.
Second, the sheer number of IoT-connected applications will make reliability important. According to Gartner, there will be more than 20 billion connected "things" around the world by 2020. For the IoT to function effectively, all of the devices on a given network need to deliver accurate information, and the number of these things will only increase. Consumers and businesses alike will need to know they can trust their IoT to remain operational and accurate.
– Standardization: This factor is still being discussed, but there is a strong possibility that standardization will eventually become a key aspect of IoT application design, especially as devices from different companies begin to interact with one another. If and when standards emerge, IoT companies will need to pay close attention to accepted formats for displays, data transfers, security, and more, as Digital Design Standards contributor Sean Abel pointed out. He noted that while not every tech industry developed standards, there is a very good chance that leading manufacturers will not let this be the case for IoT applications.
Flex PCB's Role
How do flexible printed circuit boards enter into this picture?
For one thing, flex PCBs are ideal for meeting both the size and reliability requirements while also ensuring the application or device can communicate with the cloud at all times—a necessity for IoT design success.
Flex PCBs are also widely adaptable, ensuring they can meet the needs of the wide-range of potential IoT applications, from the sensors themselves to the control devices managing several of those sensors. They can also help to address standardization, as their adaptability will enable the creation of designs that meet requirements without seeking out new PCB types for each device. However, this adaptability is only valuable when paired with dependability, which means organizations must choose to partner with reliable circuit board manufacturing companies that deliver consistent quality and expertise—an issue we'll dive into deeper in a following blog post.