The 6 Biggest IoT Device Design Mistakes

Eseye author


IoT Hardware and Connectivity Specialists


As global demand soars for IoT devices, the opportunities for designers are plentiful. Healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics are just some of the industries ramping up IoT investment, with device deployment expected to grow by 80% or more by 2025.

No matter how sleek a product looks, it’s useless if it can’t reliably connect to cellular networks or maintain interoperability between public and private networks. Many of the most crippling design mistakes happen because of a rushed development process or insufficient testing. Certification slowdowns are also a vital consideration when estimating time-to-market.

We’ve identified the top six myths about IoT device design. These common mistakes can derail a project, balloon costs, and, ultimately, make the difference between success and failure.

IoT is an exciting, innovative space, and many designers want to deliver a product that’s never been seen before. And for some business cases, particularly those with above-average demands for tight controls and device security, starting from scratch may be necessary. Sometimes the additional flexibility in the device specifications is well worth the extra time and money spent developing a custom solution.

Generally speaking, however, an off-the-shelf solution will drastically shorten time-to-market.

IoT connectivity is a highly regulated space, so there are inherent engineering limitations to new feature sets. Even if you develop a previously unseen functionality, it won’t stay unique for long — a dozen other companies may already have similar prototypes in the pipeline. By the time yours hits the market, customers may not value the differentiating feature at enough of a premium to recoup the heavy upfront investment. That’s why off-the-shelf designs nearly always turn a better profit margin

Another common mistake of IoT device design is neglecting to plan for the next device generation. Apple reveals a new iPhone every year. Even if you aren’t keeping that same aggressive cadence, many IoT devices reach obsolescence in less than 10 years due to changing network contracts, interoperability issues, or simply new technological advancements.

It’s important to plan early for an expected device refresh schedule, looking ahead to Gen 2 and Gen 3:

  • How will you roll out firmware updates or security patches? 
  • Will your device offer hardware upgrades, or will customers need a new device for next-gen features?

After a certain number of years, manufacturers may stop producing replacement parts for off-the-shelf solutions, or your business case may demand sunsetting an API or cloud service that the original device relied on.

Perhaps the biggest myth in IoT design is that devices will easily connect to a network as soon as they have a SIM card. Whether the design architecture includes an eSIM or iSIM, the radio frequency (RF) communication needs to be resilient.

RF communication faces disruptions from environmental factors, battery performance, spikes in data usage, or even network changes to roaming agreements. Mobile network operators often modify or even disable older networks in order to optimize their newest generation of cellular infrastructure, and this constantly changing landscape impacts connectivity performance.

All the customer will see, however, is a device that doesn’t work. Most end users have little patience for devices stuck on “searching for service.” Successful IoT device design must include redundancies and programming to pivot between networks while in the field. The only way a design can maintain connectivity after deployment is through extensive testing.

Testing is time-consuming and expensive, but releasing an inoperable product is far more costly in the long run. Some manufacturers stick with a minimal testing suite — a set of standard tests assessing basic functionality, power consumption, and compatibility with intended platforms.

Temperature extremes, excessive moisture, signal interference, network interruptions, or even the impact of someone accidentally dropping the device have to be part of readiness testing. 

Effective IoT device validation simulates problems in suboptimal environments to uncover hardware flaws, poor battery performance, or connectivity malfunctions that don’t register under perfect operating conditions.

Cutting corners on testing won’t save money when, a few months into deployment, you need a series of truck rolls to unhappy customers. What’s worse, repeated issues cause a hit to your brand’s reputation, which ultimately costs future sales when customers decide to switch vendors.

Customer satisfaction isn’t the only reason to test extensively. Failing a regulatory device certification can lead to production stoppages, extensive redesigns, and potentially increased scrutiny in the future.

On top of this, authorized test labs have limited availability, and it’s difficult to reschedule quickly if the first test fails. This adds weeks onto what’s already an arduous process. The PCS Type Certification Review Board (PTCRB), required by some of the major carriers around the world, runs on a 10-week turnaround.

Even with off-the-shelf parts, it’s a misconception to think any design can speed through certification. Time-to-market for IoT devices is typically one to two years, even when they manage to pass testing the first time around.

The last myth is that companies should design IoT devices alone. More than 80% of IoT projects fail because of device-level issues. As an example, poor connectivity on a remote network might be due to an incompatible antenna — something that could have been noticed in the design phase but didn’t come to light until a fully developed prototype was out in the test field.

This is where having a third-party advisor can be the difference between success and failure. IoT specialists can bring fresh perspectives to business plans, recommend suppliers, and offer expertise in areas where your team has gaps in skills or experience. An extra set of eyes early on could be the difference between a costly, embarrassing recall and a highly reviewed product.

After deployment, ongoing success requires proactive monitoring of device performance and regular updates on consumer sentiments and industry trends. Many organizations turn to third parties for this data as well for both logistical ease and administrative cost savings.

It’s never too early to discuss your IoT device ideas with an Eseye specialist. Our teams help you achieve scalability and a faster time-to-market thanks to our industry insider expertise and comprehensive onboarding tests that prepare your device for certification.

The majority of new IoT device designs will fail this year, often because of rushed decisions or incorrect assumptions. Avoid the traps — smart investments on the front end will pay off later on.

This article is based on an Eseye webinar, 3 IoT Device Design Myths… Busted! View the full presentation for more IoT insights, and connect with Eseye to see how our experts can drive your business forward.

Eseye author


IoT Hardware and Connectivity Specialists


Eseye brings decades of end-to-end expertise to integrate and optimise IoT connectivity delivering near 100% uptime. From idea to implementation and beyond, we deliver lasting value from IoT. Nobody does IoT better.

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