All posts tagged: Product Development

LX IoT Design to be deployed in World Leading Pipeline Monitoring Project

Remote monitoring of gas pipeline assets is an enabler for SEA Gas and Fleet Space

Fleet Space recently announced an exciting new IoT technology project using Fleet Space’s “Smart Sign Technology for Continuous Easement Interference Monitoring” on gas pipelines operated by SEA Gas. LX is pleased to be included as a design partner in this project. The project is currently underway with proof of concept development in train and a plan for rollout to start with a 13km stretch near Murray Bridge.

The full pipeline proposed for deployment extends over 700km through South Australia and Victoria and to date has required regular inspection through costly and inefficient manual inspection. Now continuous and accurate remote reporting will be possible through a network of low power IoT devices – micro cameras – connected to gateways via the LoRa network. 

The cameras are connected to processors that utilise machine learning to make decisions at the edge. These are able to detect and report on the arrival of heavy machinery and other traffic that may pose a risk to pipeline assets.

The project is a joint venture with Wollongong University and the Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) with the latter providing funding to the project as part of a wider drive towards decarbonisation of national energy networks. When the project is completed and the devices successfully deployed, it will position SEA Gas as ‘world leading’ in the adoption and deployment of IoT solutions for monitoring energy assets. The technology itself has the potential to be applied to myriad other industries that require monitoring of remote assets and areas in this way. 

The various data streams collected by the devices are sent via Fleet Space’s nano-satellite network, providing intelligent reporting in real-time. To achieve the same coverage through manual inspection would be resource intensive and cost prohibitive. LX is working with Fleet Space and SEA Gas to develop these devices for deployment in remote and demanding outdoor environments. 

Sign next to a fence post with text - Caution High Pressure Gas Line

Why is IoT technology important in Gas Pipeline Monitoring?

External interference with assets is a real issue for energy and utilities. With pipelines routed through rural and remote locations, interference with pipeline structures has the potential to impact not only supply, but the safety of those nearby. 

With continuous monitoring through IoT technology, easement interference and potential threats can be detected and addressed sooner, reducing the risk of events that can cost millions of dollars in disruption and physical damage. 

Added to this, the risks of human inspection are reduced and the cost savings through reduced manual checking mean that labour can be redeployed, creating increased operational efficiencies.

This exciting deployment of IoT technology and hybrid network communications opens the door to monitoring remote assets on a global scale – creating far reaching impact and benefits. 


Muhammad AwaisLX IoT technology deployed in world leading pipeline monitoring project

So you’re interested in starting a new product development project…Read this first!

Take me straight to the reasons

Most of us have been there at some point – when a flash of inspiration occurs and you get an idea for that new product. The one that fills a market gap perfectly and is a huge opportunity if you can get it right.  

But if you’ve gone beyond the initial idea stage before you’ll know there’s a bit more to it than that first thought or conversation, even more so if your product is electronic or a custom IoT product

On the road from discovery through to the ultimate goal for most product teams – manufacture at scale – there are a number of things that can derail a project, no matter how promising the initial concept. Whether that is at the planning phase or further along where changes to scope and form can be costly, hitting a barrier at any point is not ideal.  

Luckily for you, we have many, many years of doing just that; taking an idea from the first conversation all the way through to manufacture. So through experience and lots of learning along the way, we’ve honed our design process over time and are pretty good at avoiding the pitfalls. 

So, if you’re considering a new product development project, we’ve listed some of the key reasons projects don’t make it to the end of the road and how you can avoid them:

1.  Not getting your budget correct

It may be obvious to state this but designing and developing a new product takes a considered capital investment. Manufacturing one at scale even more so. Once you’ve identified a gap in the market and have a concept you think answers it, you next need to do your sums to work out your budget and ultimately the cost/benefit analysis for your business. That means knowing not just the development costs, but ideally ongoing capex and opex plus what you can realistically drive in terms of revenue (which ultimately means also knowing the perceived value of the product to the end user and any competitive benchmarking).

For startups, we know it’s often a challenge to determine how much is needed in terms of investment funding, or even where to start with raising capital. The clearest piece of advice we can give here is, to consider the technical risks on the project and build a budget and plan that seeks to mitigate the risks early in the product development program.  An understanding that design iterations will be required to refine the product will also ensure that the project budget is sufficient to enable the project to succeed.

With any project, you don’t know what you don’t know. And whilst many design companies can help highlight areas in discovery sessions, it’s never a bad thing to be prepared, both financially and mentally, that you may need to change your path based on internal or external factors. 

2. Misunderstanding product/market fit (or a lack of one!)

This one can come in many forms, for example if your product idea is for a medical IoT device you likely need to be across specific standards and certifications the finished product must to pass in order to clear regulatory hurdles and gain access to the market. Or if you’re building an IoT performance tracker for cyclists is it a key driver to make sure it doesn’t add too much weight for them to be competitive? 

Our advice here? Research, research and more research! Great research is a strong foundation for any project and that’s even truer when you’re designing a new product from scratch. Build your knowledge base by speaking to industry leaders and people who work in your chosen market, by conducting focus groups and by reading as much as you can around the topic. Really understand (through quantitative and qualitative research), who your target market is, what their drivers are, how your product solves a problem/provides a benefit and what their potential objections might be. 

3. Taking too long! It’s a race, so run at it

Let us refer to the genius of Theodore Roosevelt here:

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Often in new product development, you’re not the only horse in the race and someone has had a similar idea to you. And we’ve all seen where the second or third product to market may be functionally far better than the first, but by the time that second product has launched they’re already being lapped by the competition. That’s a difficult point to come back from, plus when timelines expand, more often than not so does the budget. Or if you’re working with consultants and contractors, scheduling of resources can become a challenge, so there are multiple reasons why staying on your timeline can be important.  

So once you have your budget and your product/market fit, set out a plan and work to it. Whether you are using agile methodologies or another process, a clear roadmap with defined accountability for each key phase and task is a great start. 

4. Prioritising form over function and using ‘every crayon in the box’

Whilst we understand that physical appearance is important and we want things to be beautiful inside and out – the majority of the time they also have to work. So throughout the process, it’s a good idea to keep referring back to your business case and any initial workshop sessions.

5. Missing the manufacturing piece of the puzzle

It sounds obvious, but plan for the manufacturing process as well. You’ve done all the work to get there so you don’t want to fall at the final hurdle. Often it’s at this point that products have problems, when the design doesn’t pass manufacturing readiness tests. This test looks at the design, cost, process capability, materials availability, QA plan and test plan and if a product is too expensive to produce or the design doesn’t work at scale, it won’t pass. The other side of that coin is where manufacturing comes back as too expensive or timelines are too long to meet the in-market deadline. 

So have a timeline and cost set up for manufacturing and do research over the best manufacturer for your kind of product. Or depending on the type of project, your product development team may offer turnkey services where they handle not only the new product development but the manufacture too.

Muhammad Awais5 Reasons why New Products don’t make it to Manufacture

LX's Electronics Prototyping

A prototype is a model that designers use to determine the feasibility of a concept or device and to test the development of the device throughout the research and pre-production phases of the product development. The word is made up of two Greek words meaning roughly something like “first impression.” Prototypes are used in many ways, but are particularly helpful and necessary in electronics development and manufacturing. Electronics prototypes are often assembled manually, which is faster and cheaper than creating an actual stamped PCB board and can be more easily modified, but still allows for circuits to be properly assembled and tested.

Proof-of-Concept Prototype

A proof-of-concept or proof-of-principal prototype is a model that is close enough to the envisioned device to establish sufficient certainty that the idea has the potential to do what is intended, before pursuing the task in earnest. Issues that are identified can be remedied long before the more costly and complex research process begins. This can save time and money that could potentially be wasted if it turned out that the conceptual idea is either impossible or is too difficult to make it worth the time and effort.

Prototype Product Evolution

Demonstration prototypes are the next step in the product evolution. Once designers, engineers and investors are convinced that the product is feasible, the prototype serves as a demonstration tool to sell the idea to others. Usually that refers to investors and others with an interest in the feasibility of the concept. In some cases the prototype is required to file for a patent for the device. Demonstration prototypes are generally more advanced and closer to the fully operational device than the concept prototype, but still not fully functional or formed.

Product Development

Once everyone is satisfied that the product is possible, the next stage of product development begins. In electronics, this often consists of the creation of software and control instructions. The research prototype serves as a test bed for the software and may undergo some hardware changes to ensure compatibility with the software algorithms.  Depending on the device, a research prototype may be used to also help develop appearance and physical designs. Once the research is complete, the final product is built in the form of a functional prototype, which as closely as possible mimics the finished product.

Commercial Production

Once the research necessary to build the device is complete, the final process is the commercial production phase. This is when the device is finally made into the fully functioning product that will be sold to consumers. The first iteration is called an alpha prototype. It will be as close to the intended final product as possible in both form and function and serves to identify any issues that interfere with production. Once complete it will be thoroughly tested and if necessary changes to either the device or production process will be made. The next iteration is the beta prototype, which reflects any changes that were made during the first iteration. Once complete the device is put through more grueling trials and testing. Once again, any identified issues are corrected and when complete the pre-production prototype emerges. This is the final prototype before large scale production begins.

Prototype Process

Prototypes are an important part of the process of creating, building and manufacturing an electronic product. Without utilizing prototypes along the way, the process would suffer frequent setbacks that will consume funds needed for the project. The prototypes evolve as new information comes to light and grows along with the idea. Without a prototype, the only way to know if a device will do what is intended would be to manufacture it, which requires a much larger expenditure of time, effort and money, and the finished product may not work at all.

Prototypes are an essential tool in the development of any electronic device because they take a concept that exists only on paper and in theory and transforms it into something that is tangible and actually performs at least some aspect of the envisioned product. Prototypes are considered so important in the electronics manufacturing field that there are entire companies that specialize in constructing them for other designers, inventors and manufacturers.

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.

Muhammad AwaisThe Importance of Electronics Prototyping