Challenges of Building a Hardware Device
For Nick’s team, it felt like they had a very clear idea and a really elegant solution.
Now they just needed to figure out how to turn it into a tangible product. And they had to solve for certain challenges:
- It needed to be tamper-proof
- It needed to accurately measure micro amounts
- It needed to have limited components so it would be safe and out of the way in a household
- They needed to be able to control as much of the safety of the device as they could from the office
What began was an iterative process that involved tradeoffs. Key to it: understanding the needs of the customer and of the gas companies.
Advice for Others Developing an IoT Solution
“There’s a lot that I would do differently,” Nick says, “a couple areas where we might have been able to potentially speed things up.”
Find Clever Ways to Test Early
The first area: understanding the experience you’re trying to provide your customers and dispelling the risky assumptions you may have about what the product should be.
To do that, test often and early. And that might require some clever solutions.
For Nick’s team, they didn’t really have the funding to create a high-fidelity prototype. Instead, they combined off-the-shelf components with cardboard. But they got a low-fidelity device out there and in the hands of the customer so they could start testing as soon as possible.
You’ll learn a lot in the process. When the funding finally comes through, you’ll be better prepared to develop a device that’s closer to what the customer actually needs.
Be Wary of Skewed Data
Beta customers often end up rooting for the product’s company. In doing so, they can skew the results of testing. That ends up creating unintended downstream effects.
In Nick’s case, they worried that their invasive approach to concept testing— coming into people’s homes to physically weigh the gas cylinders — added a component of social pressure to the experiment that might have had an effect on the outcomes.
Although you may have a prototype that has some off-the-shelf components, eventually you’ll realize that to be a commercially viable product, you may need to create some custom componentry.
When you start the value engineering process, you might need to make some tradeoffs.
The earlier you start that process the better. Try conducting it while you are testing your initial prototype. Filter those findings down to v2 so that you can reach positive unit economics sooner.
Find Consensus on the Goalposts
For the morale of the team, it’s really important to have all key stakeholders dig into the problem you’re trying to solve so that everyone shares a clear vision for what success looks like.
It makes it much easier to get buy-in from everyone on what the metrics of success should be so that the goalposts don’t constantly shift throughout the process.
The result? A team rowing in the same direction towards company goals.
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