How to create a successful ecosystem for your IoT project? Episode 1 - Overall vision: IoT, from design to industrialization
How to create a successful ecosystem for your IoT project? Episode 1 - Overall vision: IoT, from design to industrialization
In 2017, a survey led by Cisco revealed that almost three quarters of IoT projects were failing. The survey showed that collaboration between IT and the business was a key success factor, as was IoT expertise, whether internal or through external partnership, plus a technology-focused culture, stemming from top-down leadership and executive sponsorship.
The recent Covid-19 crisis also shows that when the system breaks down or stops working well, resilience and collaboration among businesses is key in creating valuable solutions. We have seen some great examples of successful collaborations between companies. Adapting their infrastructure, sharing insights or bringing intelligence, they have created innovative solutions to manufacture drugs or masks, invented platforms for combining talent, developed respirators or open source solutions and applications, thus saving lives and helping millions of people.
So we wondered what key learning’s could we take from the crisis to apply to IoT developers’ needs? How could we work with other businesses in an ecosystem to help our customers become more successful?
We have gathered together the best IoT experts and business heads from the IoT world. And we’ve asked them —while looking at each phase of the construction of an IoT project— to share their knowledge and best practices, giving you a step-by-step guide on how to successfully lead your IoT project. Each week, we’ll be sharing one of these interviews with you. We hope that you’ll find them as insightful as we have and that they can bring real added value to your projects.
We are honored to get started with one of the world’s leading suppliers of technological equipment whose ambition is to put its technical and industrial excellence to the service of a connected and responsible world: LACROIX Group. And more specifically, one of its activities, LACROIX Electronics that specializes in the design and production of secure, advanced and customized connected equipment and solutions for Industrial IoT.
For more than 40 years, LACROIX Electronics, with its 4 production plants and design center, have been bringing their customers’ innovations to life. They focus on the industrial, automotive, civil avionics & defense, home & building automation, and healthcare sectors. Guillaume Macaigne, IoT Business Development Director and François Ott, IoT System Architect will be approaching the subject of the overall vision: IoT, from design to industrialization, and will be sharing their views of the challenges that IoT developers and users face today and their advice on how to approach, conceive and deploy a successful industrial IoT project.
Guillaume and François, LACROIX Electronics accompanies many different IoT projects. Which profiles do you usually deal with and how mature are your clients projects when they approach you?
The Internet of Things is getting into a new maturity phase. It has been around for more than 10 years now and we have recently seen an increase in adoption. It’s now really starting to take hold in the industry too under the name Industrial IoT or Enterprise IoT. Indeed, in a near future, almost all industrial assets will embed connectivity and built-in sensors. With such innovation, companies are able to remotely monitor any assets such as equipment, infrastructure, networks, machine, fleets or control manufacturing quality, natural resource, comfort in buildings or factories but also the safety of employees on-site. And that information remotely captured will help technicians, engineers, managers and users to take the right decision at the right moment in time.
Nowadays, we are facing two types of situation. Some companies come to us with very mature projects because they have previous track records in IoT. They have experimented in the past with different companies and have a proof of concept (POC). They have developed their idea, refined their needs and properly thought about implementation of the product, and they want to start on a larger scale deployment. Other companies are only now getting started with IoT and need to be accompanied in their journey; from the initial idea, to the validation of the end users’ needs (or the economic equation), to the creation of the prototype and its industrialization.
Often, the IoT project handler is being tasked by a company leader to either improve operational performance, or to develop new services for customers and new revenue streams for the company. Depending on the project and where it stands, we get to deal with various profiles, from marketing services to operational management, business experts, R&D or innovation department. Quite often it’s a mix of all these profiles. Also, it depends on the size of the company, the type of project and at what point in the development process the client is with their project.
IoT is —and will be even more— pivotal in the impending cultural, societal, economic and environmental transformation.
What are the challenges that IoT developers face nowadays?
IoT developers are faced with many challenges but also many opportunities.
In 2025, the population is projected to reach 8 billion people. This creates major issues around transportation, mobility, energy, water, waste and farming, and brings with it a fundamental need to optimize the flow of industrial equipment and city infrastructure. Digitalization becomes necessary to make cities and companies more efficient, more sustainable, and IoT is one of the major levers that can enact these changes. It is the meeting point between societal and technological evolution. It is —and will be even more— pivotal in the impending cultural, societal, economic and environmental transformation. We are proud to participate in this transformation and to facilitate it as much as we can.
That said, this acceleration places other constraints on IoT developers:
Time to market is key in the world of IoT and it’s getting shorter and shorter.
Customers want to go fast and competition is fierce. LACROIX Electronics and other hardware and software providers are addressing the problem by proposing ready-to-use functional blocks to quickly comprehend the subject and test the use cases. We have developed generic sensors and platforms but also dedicated prototypes production lines to allow our clients to test their solution quickly. These sensors can be customized from a design, functional or mechanical perspective and combined with additional sensors to enrich the data capture. The connected device can be managed remotely and the application interface (data visualization) can also be customized and adapted to existing customers solutions.
The need for Industrial IoT applications poses different challenges and numerous constraints, especially in the way devices are built. They need to be robust, reliable, easy to install and secured including data transmission: fulfilling this equation is a real challenge that only a few actors can take. It is an end-to-end approach.
First you need to understand how the technicians and assets works: Where the connected device will be installed? To which external conditions will be the objects exposed (such as humidity, dust, telecom coverage, interference, high temperature)? Which data is critical to measure in the field? What is the scale of deployment? All these will have an impact on the design and manufacturing constraints. Also, integration with coexisting legacy operating systems and customer processes is a major challenge to cope with. You need to understand the business of the customer. This is fundamental to take all this information on board at the very beginning of the device’s conception.
While ROI is not always a measure of IoT’s success, this is a major driver in Industrial IoT and the lack of it may cause the project to stop.
At LACROIX Electronics, when we design products & services for our clients, we fine tune them to optimize the material and manufacturing bill. We know that one way or another, at the end of the day, the proof of value is the main driver. We know that —and that’s a message for our customers— even when the use-case seems to be simple, we must never forget that we are talking about industrial IoT; where robustness and security are key. Reliability has a value, is costly and should be paid for especially if you want a fit-and-forget device operating for more than 10 years in outdoor or harsh conditions. Scaling up is the tipping point to ensure the ROI as mass-production entails a reduction of costs.
We often associate IoT with sensors, but telecom coverage is also a key element in the IoT value chain. And even more tomorrow when connectivity will be natively integrated in industrial assets.
Whatever the coverage is based on, public or private network, cellular or unlicensed band, short or long range, you first need to answer the following questions: What type and volume of data will need to be transmitted? How often? Will the Smart object be mobile or fixed? Do you want to update the firmware remotely?... At LACROIX Electronics, we anticipate this and have developed connectivity expertise and very close contacts with the telecom and electronic industry to be ready to accompany our clients in the process and think about connectivity straight out of the box.
And then there is Data.
Once the sensor has captured the info, what do we do with the data? What information is useful? That's what's important! We can gather an enormous amount of data but at the end of the day, it has to be useful and relevant for the end user. At LACROIX Electronics we call that "Smart Data", data that has real added value for the user. To do that, we bring intelligence into the device. Instead of bringing intelligence to the cloud, we make sure that our objects integrate Artificial Intelligence natively. Thanks to “Edge AI”, we are able to analyze data where it is produced. Instead of transmitting large data batches through a high energy consuming wireless protocol and refining this raw data with an algorithm hosted on a server, the data is processed locally in the sensor. So, that only useful and valuable data is sent to the server. This improves security as we only send useful information, and additionally the environmental impact is reduced because the fewer requests servers receive, the less energy they consume.
We can only do that if we work hand in hand with our customers. They know their business and which type of data is relevant for them. We need that business knowledge to design the right device and make sure it can deliver valuable data all the way through to the end result. The client brings the business need, we bring the technological answer and the market verticals. This is the fusion between different expert profiles that helps us define which data is relevant. As the deployment progresses, we continually refine the information one deployment after the other to stabilize the next release.
IIoT, during the last 10 years was all about connectivity - but we now have solutions that have become more mature. Today is all about reliability, scalability and customer processes integration. Tomorrow will be about cyber security, how to standardize data and develop eco-design products.
Another pledge that we haven’t yet mentioned is energy management. Along with security and value, it is one of the 3 fundamental points when we talk about industrial IoT.
When we define the battery’s life expectation, we don’t randomly choose 3 years, 5 years or 10 years. We start from the customer's operation, the rhythm of intervention/periodicity of maintenance on their equipment. The object must meet the intervention requirement. We start from the use case and with that we refine, we make the right choice of technical solution to meet this energy constraint.
To wrap up the question, IIoT, during the last 10 years was all about connectivity - but we now have solutions that have become more mature. Today is all about reliability, scalability and customer processes integration. Tomorrow will be about cyber security, how to standardize data and develop eco-design products. New generation devices will need to take into account safeguarding the planet. We need to design devices that consume the minimum amount of energy possible, to create devices that don’t use plastics derived from petro-chemicals and to think about using natural light sources as a complement to battery power. If we want to address sustainability issues, we must think about our carbon footprint throughout the product lifecycle, from sourcing and design, to disposal and recycling.
What are the most common pitfalls that you encounter that could lead to the failure of the project?
A mistake we often see is not making the product scalable.
If you are planning on deploying many thousands of products, they’ll need to be able to keep up with market developments. You must foresee the industrialization of your object straight from the design phase; and not just design for the POC if you intend to scale your solution. This is a core competence of LACROIX Electronics: as electronics manufacturer, we can advise our customers at the design phase about the technical solution that will leverage the scalability of their hardware solution. This also means, that the cost of your smart objects will strongly impact your ROI. By cost, I don’t mean just the price of your hardware, I mean the total cost of the end to end solution, from cradle to grave. This may include the cost of installation, maintenance, disposal, recycling … This also entails including connectivity to the device, content delivery and a complete asset management system to facilitate software updates in order to keep your device as an ideal business solution.
Surrounding yourself with the wrong business partners
We sometimes receive clients who approach us to redesign their product because the constraints of fabrication had not been considered by the initial designer. It is crucial to surround yourself with partners who have an overall vision, who are able to take all the constraints into account at an early stage and who can anticipate market changes.
Trying to send too much data to the cloud
As we said before, data can quickly become overwhelming and distract you from the actual purpose of your solution. You must think carefully about what data is useful and relevant to your end user and agree not to send everything to the cloud.
Looking at the big picture, if you had to give 3 bits of advice to someone looking at developing an IoT project, what would they be?
1. Don't wait any longer!!!!
You will have to get there and adopt IoT at some point in your business processes. Of course, technologies are not yet all standardized. Of course, the market will evolve and innovations will arrive and be better than the ones they replace. Of course, you might fail. This is the name of the game! But all the most successful companies have had a failure at some point in their history; you might as well become a reference-point in your market. Get started!
2. Choose the right actor to accompany you.
Designing and producing a connected solution cannot be improvised. Select experts in their respective fields that have a clear vision and hands-on experience. Choose an actor who has the capacity to master all the technological evolutions and to anticipate and navigate any hurdles. Choose someone who will be able to accompany you in the long term.
3. Start your project with intermediate steps.
Don’t think too big too early. You have to be able to start quickly and pass a number of milestones to reach the maturity of your use case and validate your choices of technologies and your economic equation.
Thank you Guillaume and François!
If you’d like to get in touch with them, feel free to email them at this address
If you'd like to go further, head up to LACROIX Electronics website to discover the full infography " the 4 key steps for launching your industrial IoT"
About LACROIX Group and LACROIX Electronics
LACROIX Group is an international technological equipment manufacturer, aiming to serve a connected and responsible world with its technical and industrial excellence. As a listed family-run SME, LACROIX Group combines the essential agility required to innovate in an ever-changing technological sector with the industrial capacity to produce robust, secure equipment and the long-term vision to invest and build for the future. Through LACROIX Electronics, LACROIX Group designs and produces its customers’ electronic equipment, in particular for the automotive, home automation, avionics civil & defense, industrial and healthcare sectors. LACROIX Group also provides safe, connected equipment for the management of critical infrastructures such as smart roads through LACROIX City (street lighting, traffic signs, traffic management, V2X) and the management and operation of water and energy systems through LACROIX Environment. Drawing on its extensive experience and expertise, the Group works with its customers and partners to build the connection between the world of today and the world of tomorrow. It helps them to build the industry of the future and to make the most of the opportunities for innovation that surround them, supplying them with the equipment for a smarter world.