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MAY 18 2015

How to start an IoT product


So you have a company, a start-up, or just an idea that will change the world of material things. The Internet of Things presented the opportunity and you’re ready to take it!

Yet, like with any product, you need more than an idea. You need to make it happen. Here, I talk about how we design and build IoT products at Citibrain. We are focused on Smart Cities, but the possibilities are endless. I suggest you start with Postscapes’ IoT resources to get your blood pumping. 

This post focuses on IoT, but we propose an approach based on lean and agile methodologies. We’re looking at creating an MVP for IoT, so this is about maximising the product’s value for your potential customers using the least amount of effort possible. So let’s start from the top.


The problem

So you had this brilliant idea. The first thing you need to do is create an hypothesis. This means stating the problem you wish to validate. 

Imagine you are creating a premium fitness tracker for semi-pro athletes. The problem you identified would be something in the grounds of the following: 

  • Semi-pro athletes can’t get good enough data from their off-the-shelf fitness trackers. Your market niche are those semi-pro athletes, your competition would be all the other fitness trackers.

Your initial hypothesis, however, could be: 

  • Semi-pros are willing to pay a premium to have better and more detailed data on their performance.

This is the first thing you need to validate. Then you can move on to which things they’re willing to pay for: 

  • “Semi-pro athletes need information on heart rate, body temperature, posture, instant velocity, reaction times and landing impact.” 

So use whatever you can to validate your hypotheses. Discover if your problem is a real problem. Talk to users, create a landing page, share and create content, use Kickstarter, lead your target users to your website and find out if they’re interested. Ask a lot of questions, again and again. Ask the right questions to validate your hypothesis. Only this will help you build the right features.

In the midst of it all, you’re going to get caught in technicalities, feature-creeping, an irrational fear that what you’re doing isn’t enough, suggestions from your friends and teammates to include this and that. If you’re building hardware, it’s even harder (no pun intended) &mdas