Hardware design is an important facet of an Internet of Things solution, and therefore, cannot be overlooked.
Design teams tend to focus more on sorting out the software when creating an Internet of Things solution in the belief that the hardware can be easily designed to work with the system. Software may seem at the outset to be more complex, tempting organisations working on IoT solutions to focus on the software aspect more than the hardware.
However, there is much more to consider than just what ‘the hardware will do’ – the type of IoT system to work with needs to be considered in conjunction with the choice of the hardware design path.
After deciding on the IoT platform to design the hardware, the choice of hardware design path is crucial to the success of the IoT implementation. Be it for internal use, or turnkey systems for customers, the choice of hardware design can play a part in the long-term success or failure of the system.
‘Choice of hardware design’ actually refers to choosing one of the hardware design paths. This can range from choosing proprietary hardware interface designs from an existing supplier, creating one’s own hardware and protecting the intellectual property with copyright and possible patent protection, or open-sourcing the design to some degree to allow input and contribution from internal and external customers.
There are pros and cons to each method, so let’s examine them in some more detail.
This is the easiest option for the design team, as the hardware interface to the required IoT system has been designed and tested, and is ready for integration into the hardware. To resell one’s own devices based on an external system can require licence or royalty payments to the system provider; however, this will often be returned in kind with marketing support, referrals and leads from the system provider.
The downside of relying on an external system is that one is at the mercy of the success or failure of the host system, which could leave the user with outdated and useless hardware that can only be modified with difficulty or at worst, will be a total write-off.
Internal, protected design
One will have access to the required interface design from the IoT system provider that allows them to create their own hardware instead of buying or licensing technology from the provider. In addition to having total control over the hardware design including possible modularity between the IoT interface hardware and the product itself, in case of system failure, one will have the ability to maintain all IP, and market their designs as an exclusive product that’s compatible with the system. However all design, support and revisions will happen in-house.
Open-sourcing as an option is preferable if one is offering paid access to the server-side infrastructure or happy to allow others to create devices that compete with their own hardware to quickly allow customer take-up of their IoT system.
Open-sourcing also allows one to build a community around users of their system, which can reduce the support load and generate goodwill. The downside is that one would be in essence abandoning revenue from hardware sales and any intellectual property created by them. The openness of the designs may also lead to security concerns, especially from larger customers.
As a partner, LX group will discuss and understand the client’s requirements and goals, and help them navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve their problems.
LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia specialising in embedded systems design and wireless technologies.