How to Design an IoT Product?

Abhishek Reddy | Published : Dec 2019

Gartner has estimated that the Internet of Things will grow to 26 billion connected devices by 2020. This compares with the 0.9 billion connected in 2009 and represents a thirty-fold increase over the last ten years.

And this is just the beginning. Analysts at Juniper Research say we are only now entering the incipient scaling phase of the Internet of Things. They predict the number of connected devices will reach 50 billion by 2022.

The growing market for IoT devices

It comes as no surprise then, that there has been a shift towards developing smart devices in many an organisation’s new product development strategy. Established businesses and start-up entrepreneurs want to get a slice of this growing market. And it is a fast-growing market: PwC says business investment in IoT solutions will grow from $215 billion in 2015 to $832 billion in 2020.

The consumer market is growing rapidly too: here PwC predicts a jump from $72 billion in 2015 to $236 billion in 2020. Between them, businesses, governments, and consumers will invest nearly $1.6 trillion to install IoT solutions in 2020. PwC says the majority of investment will be spent on software and application development.

And this points to one very important difference when designing a new product for the Internet of Things: you need to consider associated software as an integral part of the functionality of the end device.

Since most of this software will be hosted in the cloud, this new consideration comes second to the other key component of any Internet of Things product: the connectivity itself.

Where are the opportunities for Internet of Things product design?

This illustration shows the key sectors where IoT device growth is expected to be strongest.


Whatever sector you are in, the design of your IoT device must incorporate the two new elements fundamental to the IoT:

1) How are you connecting your device?
2) Why are you connecting your device?

At the very early stages, you need a clear idea about the answers to these questions because this will impact not only the decisions you make about the connectivity and any associated software, but also the design of the device itself.

Why are you connecting your device?

The starting point has to be the user. We’ve written in the past about the importance of user-centric design (read the blog here).

Why is the IoT widget you’re developing going to be so much better than the standard widget that doesn’t connect to the Internet that consumers can buy now?

Are you pulling data from the Internet to give the customer more information or aid the operation of the device? Or are you sending information back to the Internet in order to add value for the consumer via an App – perhaps using stats recorded locally by the device or about the operation of the device itself?

It’s vital to put yourself in the mind of the consumer to understand the value add being delivered and how this could best be achieved. Essentially, does your design have legs? Consumer research, ideation, concept evaluation and other feedback mechanisms will help you to decide whether to progress from the drawing board into prototype production.

We can help you with these early stages of product development as well as the design stages.Find out more here.

Why Connectivity Matters

The second major new consideration when designing an IoT product is: how are you connecting your device?

There are many ways to connect your device to the Internet of Things.

Perhaps your product is designed to aid quarry or mining operators manage their tooling and kit at site. In this case, it may be more applicable to use radio frequency across a remote wide area site that is poorly served by mobile phone networks, then use a hub controller to feed data to the Internet via a standard telephone connection.

It may be that your product is designed to be used in a “smart home” where good Wi-Fi coverage makes connectivity over the home Wi-Fi a no brainer.

Or perhaps the product is designed to be out on the road all day monitoring and tracking movement of goods or vehicles. Perhaps a combination of GPRS and a mobile phone SIM card will be the most appropriate method of communication here.

Thinking about how your product will be used – and where – will help you make decisions about the sort of connectivity your device will require. This is important to consider at an early stage of the design because these connectivity elements will be fundamental to the design.

For example, if you are sending data between your device and a hub controller via radio frequency, you’ll need to incorporate a transmitter and a receiving antenna into the design of your IoT device.

If you are going to be using GPRS and 4G phone signal, you’ll need to incorporate a SIM card holder that is appropriately accessible, plus charging ports (since this method of communication is likely to be heavier on the device battery), as well as the appropriate transmission and receiving technology.

The importance of good design in any IoT new product development

We’ve considered the two major differences when designing a product that is going to leverage the exciting new possibilities offered by the Internet of Things.

Now let’s consider one aspect that remains the same: the importance of good design.

Design is critical to any new product development. It will affect the three most important factors that will influence whether or not your product is a success:

1) The functionality
2) The usability
3) The look and feel

Once you have a clear idea of why you’re connecting your IoT product and how you’re going to connect your IoT product, your design process will follow much the same process as any other product – albeit referencing these two major factors throughout.

You’ll need to list the essential functional elements, agree on a look and feel and what branding elements you wish to incorporate, build a 3D model or prototype, seek feedback from your potential customer base, and adapt the design accordingly. Here at Criador Labs, we have a wealth of experience guiding both new and established businesses through this journey.

You can find out more about it on our blog about the design process here.

Or, if you’d like to speak with us about the design and development of your own IoT product, please fill out our contact form here and our team will get back to you immediately.

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