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How to avoid the pitfalls when equipping a device with connectivity

Bringing connectivity to all kinds of devices offers a vast number of benefits. However, adding Internet capability makes the product design way more complex. 

Imagine collecting data from a sensor in the middle of nowhere or running a critical update in an installed base of thousands of products scattered worldwide. What would you do without the possibility of wirelessly connecting to the devices? 

The capability to update the device software remotely is an essential, useful feature regardless of the industry. With the wireless update, data security can be assured as bug fixes and patches are delivered cost-effectively, without an extensive service and support organization. Of course, it is also possible to add entirely new features by updating the device. 

It is also beneficial from the sustainability point of view when the vendor can extend the product lifecycle by updating the software. Accordingly, if the updates of a device of a particular brand cease too soon, the owner may not prefer the brand anymore when acquiring a new product next time. 
 

Severe demands call for special knowledge

However, planning the connectivity is not that simple, especially with industry-specific requirements. 

For example, the maintenance of a smart buoy fleet scattered in the middle of the seas measuring the water levels is expensive. So, it is crucial to keep the power consumption as low as possible to save the battery. 

“One aspect of preventing the battery drain is to minimize the usage and the power consumption of the radio communication when communicating with the buoy”, says Toni Rosendahl, Etteplan’s Solution Architect. 

Such optimizations require unique know-how that can be achieved only through years of experience with projects from several industries.

The reliability of the communication protocol is, on the other hand, critical for a device of high security, say a smart lock.

“Managing the encryption keys needed to encrypt the data traffic end-to-end is an art form of its own in which the stakes are extremely high”, says Antti Seppänen, Etteplan’s Solution Architect. A failure may compromise security and completely wipe out the vendor’s reputation and business. 

To make the right choices for each device’s software, hardware, and components, you have to know which options are available, how they work, how one utilizes them, and how well they fit the customer’s needs. 

There may even be trade secrets embedded in device firmware. So, cloning or reverse-engineering the firmware has to be prevented by design. Unauthorized clones of the devices may lead to a lost reputation or even the loss of the competitive edge for the original vendor. Unauthorized devices may also potentially use extensive resources of back-end systems in connected applications.
 

Benefit from the end-to-end expert experience 

Designing and implementing network connectivity with all the necessary features is rarely part of a manufacturer’s core competence. Some issues causing extra headaches can be device management, firmware updates, cyber security, and long-term, sustainable technological selections in firmware and hardware design. A capable partner with solid industry expertise can help tackle these.

“There is a great number of different requirements for the device connectivity. It is our job at Etteplan to help our clients to meet all the various requirements concerning them”, says Toni Rosendahl.

A seasoned technology service partner can help choose, design, and implement the optimal connectivity technology and architecture based on the customer’s needs. Without previous experience, it may be impossible to know various technologies’ advantages and constraints, use cases, and scenarios. 

Etteplan is in a unique position to cover all or any of the product development phases from planning to manufacturing on a turnkey basis or in support of the client’s R&D team. The customers do not necessarily need their own quality system as they can utilize a system provided by Etteplan. 

Why equip products with connectivity in the first place? It certainly pays off, especially when considering switching to a subscription-based business model. Read our previous article about the transformation of manufacturers into service providers here. 

Eero Kaappa

Business Development Director
+358 50 483 9854
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