What To Consider Before Connecting A Thing To The Internet

Why Isn’t Everything Connected Already?

“Some of the problems with connected devices are [that] the people that make the devices don’t really [understand] networking, they don’t get the APIs, they don’t get the challenges,” he said. He went onto describe the skills needed to create a successful product and then the many extra skills needed for a successful IoT product.

What Skills do you Need to Build a Great Product?

  • Product ideas
  • Customer knowledge
  • Market research
  • Industrial design
  • Physical design
  • Hardware design
  • Embedded architecture
  • Manufacturing operations
  • Marketing
  • Sales

Fiennes says this is not necessarily a tech product, but rather, “They’re all the things people have been doing for hundreds of years, really. Anyone who’s made stuff: they know their customers; they know how to build stuff; they know how to please their customers.”

What Skills do you Need to Build a Great Connected Product?

  • Antenna design
  • RF engineering
  • RF approvals
  • Network-centric operating system design
  • Protocol design
  • Network security
  • Server software
  • Scalability
  • Cloud operations
  • Device management
  • Ongoing security and support

Fiennes contends that the companies that do really good connected products are most often networking companies because building connectivity inside is not something that comes necessarily naturally to most product companies.

He offers Google’s NEST as an example of something that came from converging a great product with great networking capabilities.

REST and JSON as IoT Standards

There’s no doubt that while the Internet of Things movement looks to connect more things than we can imagine, it also is bound to create more protocols and standards than we had ever thought possible.

Electric Imp chose to address this problem by using REST and JSON in the cloud to use already applicable API standards to connect it all remotely.

Fiennes says that API folks already understand why the combination of REST and JSON for IoT would work well: “You can iterate on this stuff. It’s visible. There are loads of tools. You’re not reinventing the wheel.”

One of the main reasons Electric Imp follows this path is for better Internet of Things security, “so you don’t have to do an OS patch down the road on a long-term appliance like an IoT washing machine.” What Electric Imp does is separate the operating system and the application, no matter the size of the advice. The IoT platform maintains a virtual machine in the cloud for every single device in order to maintain control over the security.

“Then the people who are managing the washing machine can worry about just managing the washing machine’s app, rendering versioning unnecessary,” he said. It allows clients to run things off Amazon Web Services, instead of draining power by leaving everything on the device. This allows for the device itself to be simple while leveraging the cloud to do data analysis, send messages, and the like.

This hardware independence isolates aspects to maintain security and to allow the device to be updated and run faster.

How Can Product Owners Adapt for the Internet of Things?

This isn’t going to be like the rapid move from dial-up to cable, from desktop to smartphone. Designing for the Internet of Things has so many layers of complication that you have to think beyond a product owner or a website designer. IoT is all about:

  • Bringing the best of what the Internet has to offer…
  • together with the data we’ve been keeping isolated inside those Things…
  • and designing with the consumer’s needs in mind…
  • which for IoT inherently means designing security and privacy as part of the user experience…
  • and balancing a desire for interoperability while keeping battery life, security and usability at the front of the mind.

Electric Imp chose to do that with a combination of REST and JSON APIs and virtual machines in the cloud. How are you making the Internet of Things a reality? Post a comment below and tell us!

Hugo Fiennes from Electric Imp will be featured among dozens of Internet of Things experts in Jennifer Riggins’s talk on “How to Build Yourself a Future in the Internet of Things Economy” at the Future of Web Apps conference in London October 5-7, 2015.

Be sure to read the next Internet of Things article: Daily API RoundUp: Atom.io, Applozic, Angus.ai Plus 9 More APIs


Comments (1)


Good article Jennifer. Nice to hear about those keeping the app and OS separate and security and privacy at the center if their efforts.