When designing hardware to integrate with an Internet-of-Things solution, or an entire solution – it can be easy for the design team to focus on the software, server and control system due to the ease of prototyping and the availability of experienced people. It’s a common philosophy that once the software is “sorted out” – the hardware can be easily designed to work with the system. Thus it can be tempting for organisations who move towards IoT solutions to focus on the software more than the hardware as it may seem at the outset to be more complex and more difficult part of the system.
However hardware design cannot be overlooked or resources in that field minimised. There is much more to consider than just what “the hardware will do” – the consideration of which type of IoT system to work with needs to be executed – and in conjunction with that the choice of which hardware design path to take.
After deciding on which IoT platform to design your hardware for, the choice of hardware design path is crucial to the success of your IoT implementation. Even if you’re developing for internal use, or offering hardware or turnkey systems to customers – the choice of hardware design can play a part in the long-term success or failure of the system.
When we say the “choice of hardware design” it is not the actual type of device (however that can also play a part in success or failure) or design tools used to create something – it is the choice between one of hardware design paths. That is, will you choose proprietary hardware interface designs from an existing supplier; create your own hardware and protect the intellectual property with copyright and possible patent protection; or open-source your design to some degree to allow input and contribution from internal and external customers? There are pros and cons to each method, so let’s examine them in some more detail.
Existing design – This is the easiest option for your design team, as the hardware interface to the required IoT system has been designed, tested and ready for integration into your hardware. To resell your own devices based on an external system can require licence or royalty payments to the system provider, however this will often be returned “in kind” with marketing support, referrals and leads from the system provider. However you’re at the mercy of the success or failure of the host system – which could leave you with outdated and useless hardware that can be at least difficulty to modify or at worst a total write-off.
Internal, protected design – With this option you have access to the required interface design from the IoT system provider that allows you to create your own hardware instead of buying or licensing technology from the provider. It gives you total control over the hardware design – including possible modularity between the IoT interface hardware and the product itself, in case of system failure (as mentioned previously). Furthermore you have complete control of the design, maintain all IP, and can market your designs as an exclusive product that’s compatible with the system. However all design, support and revisions will happen in-house.
Open-source – After a few minutes searching on the Internet it may seem that almost everyone is open-sourcing their designs to allow all and sundry to review, modify, critique and sometimes re-manufacture their products. This method is preferable if you are offering paid access to the server-side infrastructure or you are happy to allow others to create devices that compete with your own hardware to quickly allow customer take-up of your IoT system. Furthermore you can build a community around users of your system, which can reduce the support load and generate good-will. However taking this path in essence abandons revenue from hardware sales and any intellectual property your team have created. Finally, larger customers may see this product as insecure (even if it offers encrypted data transmission) due the openness of the designs.
Here at the LX Group we can discuss and understand your requirements and goals – then help you navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve your problems. We can create or tailor just about anything from a wireless temperature sensor to a complete Internet-enabled system for you. For more information or a confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.
LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.
Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.