Before you plunge headfirst into the Internet of Things, three experts in the field have some words of caution.
They spoke Tuesday at the IoT: State of the Business session at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center as part of Dallas Startup Week 2017.
The IoT takes everyday items and connects them to the internet so they can be controlled via mobile devices or run automatically. It could be anything from cars, watches, refrigerators, or thermostats.
It’s a wide-open field for ambitious entrepreneurs who want to make the world an easier, more convenient place. Dallas, AT&T, and other companies are moving Dallas forward with smart infrastructure, including this new kiosk in the West End.
ARE YOU SOLVING A PROBLEM?
Jody Guy, an advanced architect at Verizon, said the most important thing is to look at the problem you’re trying to solve.
“Can you make it so we don’t have to go to a physical location?”
“What are the things that trip us up today?” Guy asked. “Can you make it so we don’t have to go to a physical location?”
Noel Geren, founder of ZoomRank, took the archaic sprinkler system and modernized it so it’s tapped into the WiFi and can be controlled by the mobile device.
This solves a problem by making it easier to control residential or commercial sprinkler systems.
But just because it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s necessary.
Case in point, Guy’s smart refrigerator that he said plays Pandora music out of “lousy speakers” while he’s cooking dinner. He paid a $1,500 premium for the smart fridge.
“It’s cool but it doesn’t really solve a problem,” Guy said. “It’s minimal.”
STOP TALKING AND START EXECUTiNG
Another common mistake for startups is the reliance on non-disclosure agreements.
“Ideas are a dime a dozen. Someone actually executing on them is rare.”
A quick Google search will likely show other companies chasing after the same innovation you are.
“Work hard and you’ll beat them to market,” Geren said. “Ideas are a dime a dozen. Someone actually executing on them is rare.”
Competition makes products better.
WHAT IS IT? WHO NEEDS IT?
It’s also important to know your market.
Adam Lotia, IoT product manager for Bioworld Merchandising, once invented a GPS tracker for dogs so people could locate a lost dog.
“That’s the biggest key factor, making sure they understand exactly what they are getting.”
They quickly found the devices being used not for the family pet but for generators and other industrial equipment that contractors wanted to track.
“It was all the sudden a new use case. We need to retool our marketing,” Lotia said.
Sometimes consumers don’t understand why they need a product in their life.
“That’s the biggest key factor, making sure they understand exactly what they are getting,” Lotia said.
Entrepreneurs looking for an area that’s prime for innovation should look into batteries, Guy said.
“Battery life is the biggest challenge,” Guy said.
They want to be able to put a device in the field and have it transmit data without needing to be charged daily or even weekly.
“That’s a game-changer,” he said. “Then I can just receive data from it.”
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