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As our society keeps moving to the digital space, the number of connected devices keeps increasing. The demand for it also isn’t stopping anywhere as we notice the rise of different types of wearables, cars are moving online too, it seems like for every device that exists, there comes a competitor with a connected version.
Understanding how to prototype this kind of device can set you up nicely for the coming years and the general trend that is going on.
This article will explain what prototyping connected devices means, why it’s relevant and how you can do so.
A connected device refers to any device that can connect wirelessly to the internet or other devices via Bluetooth. The intent is to exchange information, either to save some data; transmit an input or collect an output. This includes remote sensors, remote monitoring, PCs, eReaders, routers, and mobile handsets.
Most of the time, these connected devices can be spread out across different sectors:
Prototyping on the other hand is all about creating an initial device that will serve as a base for your reasoning and development. An initial circuit that might not be fully functional but that implements the basics so as to help you conceptualize your idea and show your client what your project is.
Prototyping a connected device is then all about finding the right circuit architecture that will showcase your project and its functionalities.
A prototype brings your project to life as a functional model of your concept. Functional prototypes are often necessary, not only for concept evaluation but also for securing grant money and are widespread across a range of industries.
Compared to drawings and theoretical research, a working connected device prototype will give you a strong persuasive tool to gather feedback, work out the design flaws, minimize errors, eliminate misinterpretations and demonstrate your idea to potential investors.
Let’s look at a few advantages of using a connected device prototype:
Shorter Development Time. As you introduce a prototype, you can immediately test issues and concerns. This cuts out the guesswork and creates real results without hypothesizing.
Reduced Cost. The point of creating a prototype is to help you iterate over it, this should theoretically minimize rounds and theoretical discussions, saving you time and money.
More Clarity. When it comes to building a connected device, a working prototype will bring immense clarity and transparency to what would otherwise be a theoretical idea. This will help you dispel ambiguities and misinterpretations. You will be able to discuss concerns, and customers will gain a very clear understanding of the product. This will help all the participating members to have accurate expectations.
Accurate Requirements and Research. A prototype will also bring you more clarity to concepts you might not understand, helping you create more accurate requirements. It should also help you when conducting research, especially when conceptualizing difficult subjects. Allowing groups to access a functional model will greatly increase the accuracy of their feedback hence the quality of your results that directly depend on it.
Increased Speed to Market. As you develop your prototype, you increase your speed to market, this makes for a quicker development process, transparency, and highly accurate research.
Foundation for Financial Support. One of the greatest benefits of using a prototype is the solid foundation it gives you to sell your product or idea. Most of the time, securing investors and financial support requires a functional prototype. Demonstrating a working model will greatly increase your chances of acquiring investors.
Developing a prototype will quickly make you understand how your product functions, its flaws, and problems, you will be able to demonstrate its features, helping you access investors and funds in the process and understand the internals of your device.
When building a prototype for a connected device, an important aspect is to select what technology you’ll use to get connected. This part will go over the advantages and draw backs of different technologies.
Good for: Large existing infrastructure, uses more power than other sources. To stay connected you have to keep sending data otherwise you’ll be tossed out, this means more power and is not well suited for battery-powered devices.
Drawbacks: More setup is required, involves more memory. The overall costs are moderate. You will need large amounts of power and memory.
Benefits: You might lose in memory and power but you gain a lot in speed with larger bandwidth.
Good for: Low battery consumption when compared to WiFi and cellular options. Benefits from a lot of traction in the healthcare field. Offers the possibility for “beacon” detection that is used in location aware services. This is a popular choice for fitness trackers.
Drawbacks: The range isn’t great, and the protocol suffers greatly in high-traffic areas as the technology is not particularly reliable.
Benefits: This technology is cheap and offers some unique features like proximity detection.
Good for: Largely used in home automation ad industrial settings. It allows devices to talk to each other without a central router. It maps out the network by itslef and uses the best possible path.
Drawbacks: This protocol isn’t particularly secure and as a new comer in the space, there exists several different protocols, the industry hasn’t chosen a specific one yet.
Benefits: It’s relatively low cost, slightly more than bluetooth. The range is correct and uses very low power.
Good for: It’s the only technology that allows remote applications to connect to the internet. This means the technology is versatile.
Drawbacks: This versatility comes at a very high cost, almost 4 times more than WiFi. There are certification issues and the approval to work with carriers can cost upwards of $100k. The process also often takes several months to process, the use of this technology also comes with a yearly fee.
Benefits: This technology, despite being expensive, is extremely versatile and uses moderate power. It can be very useful when in partially remote areas to stay connected.
Prototyping a connected device will help you greatly, cost you less money, time and hassle overall, give you a more precise idea of what you’re doing as well as help you get feedback for your project. Selecting the right technology for your idea however means making a few sacrifices in either cost, speed or versatility.