October 26, 2023
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to gain momentum and transform how we work and live, driven by expanded connectivity, new hardware capabilities, and innovative edge applications. Despite supply chain challenges, industry data indicates remarkable growth, with the number of connected IoT devices projected to hit 16.7B by the end of 2023.
As IoT device developers and manufacturers look to capitalize on the IoT opportunity, they must first navigate an evolving ecosystem with increasing complexity. With the steady increase of user expectations around IoT devices, launching a device with fancy new functionality alone is not enough. Today’s customers expect seamless integrations, continuous feature enhancements, and uncompromising ongoing performance.
With advancements in connectivity and hardware capability, the IoT product lifecycle necessitates IoT companies to balance four key elements for sustainable success:
In this blog, we’ll offer an approach to the IoT product lifecycle with best practices and strategies to help you build, ship, and manage connected devices at scale.
Device developers know well the issues in launching a product on time. Nearly half of products miss their launch date. Electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, manufacturing, marketing, test automation—all of these are difficult to manage singularly and become exponentially more challenging when considering that each process has a discrete timeline.
By focusing on firmware practices while pursuing a new product introduction (NPI) timeline, teams can streamline development and meet their launch goals. First formulated by Apple engineers, the NPI timeline offers six milestones for hardware development teams, and those using it can expect a timeframe from prototype to launch of roughly 12-18 months. Using this model and simultaneously adopting some firmware best practices can help you get your IoT device shipped on time.
Below are the six key milestones for hardware development and general time estimations for each. This cursory introduction establishes a solid framework for merging firmware milestones for accelerated, robust IoT device development.
Components of a robust test plan should:
Firmware supports the overall hardware roadmap and offers ways to optimize the process. Disentangling hardware and software is critical to saving development time and increasing the likelihood that your product will ship on time. The chart below shows where your firmware timeline should fit within your NPI.
With different timing variables and the inherent complexity in design and engineering, adopting best firmware practices during your NPI allows you to reduce potential issues and make your product timeline less likely to slip. Follow these best practices:
Implement test-driven development (TDD)
Build software and firmware using a software test harness instead of relying on physical hardware. For instance, leverage unit testing frameworks like CppUTest or simulation tools like Renodes to emulate your hardware environment and develop software within this virtual context. This approach offers several advantages: it enables software development to begin even without fully prepared hardware, accelerates the iteration process, and establishes a resilient suite of tests to improve development.
Adopt Day 0 updates
A Day 0 approach involves a software update applied to devices immediately when the user turns on the device. It upends the traditional development schedule by shifting the completion of final firmware from the manufacturing stage to the moment customers receive the devices. This approach allows you to separate manufacturing dependencies and extend the software development timeline by at least four weeks—or more.
Implement a strong hardware abstraction layer (HAL)
Utilizing a robust hardware abstraction layer (HAL) is critical, and the Zephyr Project stands out as an exceptional open-source Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) option, well-supported by semiconductor and device manufacturers. Though it demands some initial effort, adopting a HAL offers three significant advantages: