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What Tesla and Apple Got Right for IoT Products

Many companies embracing the IoT connected product movement are doing it without fully understanding the possibilities. When asking developers, product managers, and CxO’s why they want to have a connected product, the focus is often on a few of the possibilities: remote control, analytics, diagnostics, etc. However, there is one key point to consider that doesn’t require additional lead time, will reduce work in the future, and is the source of most connected product success.

Connected product functionality is really about reliable and secure device management. Both Apple and Tesla have gotten it right. Product manufacturers can follow there lead with the following two key points.

1. Design for future functionality

Limiting imagination in the early days of product specifications can quickly constrain a product’s flexibility in the future. I am not saying to do everything all at once, but I am saying that considering device management as the first phase of connected product design can unleash functionality that otherwise would be missed or would require retroactive work once needed.

By taking inspiration from companies such as Tesla or Apple and by designing a product with device management in mind, companies can add new and powerful features to their product as customers demand them or as engineering develops them.

Through thoughtful device management, Apple and Tesla enable new business models that create recurring revenue; beyond the phone, Apple picks up additional dollars every week through their subscribers in music, videos and app sales. Each phone receives the right app, the right upgrade version, etc. Tesla has been stuffing their vehicles with data-gathering sensors that customers don’t have access to today, but through those sensors and device management, the data they collect could eventually be made available through annual subscriptions. If Tesla suddenly offered Ludicrous Mode or auto pilot on an annual subscription, people could upgrade their standard model vehicle anytime, without having to wait for the next version of the product. This same concept should be considered when initially designing your connected product.

2. Protect your brand

Device management forms a direct relationship between the developer and the customer that previously required a distributor as a ‘middle man’ for most revenue expansion opportunities. But this also puts your brand in the limelight and therefore requires utmost attention to security to avoid risk. Security isn’t just about encrypting data packets, it’s about ensuring the two ends of the link are validated, authenticated and authorized. It’s about ensuring that the firmware and licenses delivered to a device are enabled for only that one single device. Device management is tough; it has to be robust since manually power cycling a sensor on the other side of the world isn’t as straight forward as it is when you are next to the device. 

It doesn’t take much to include device management capabilities in your first connected product, particularly if your selected IoT platform embeds it in the operating system. But thinking about this early on can make a world of difference! Whichever platform you choose, try to take a test drive.

Posted by Julie Mullins on behalf of Author: Nick Dutton

Director of Marketing at Zentri - Julie Mullins has been successfully managing teams in software/technology and retail sectors for over 10 ten years, particularly for high growth companies.