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Internet of Things

Advice for IoT manufacturers

2 Mins read

One overarching question facing IoT manufacturers is: does everything need to be smart? Manufacturers are beginning to investigate whether there is an advantage to device being online. However, when making devices smart another issue arises for the manufacturer: that of technical support and ongoing maintenance.

“Demand for internet enabled devices continues to climb as these gadgets have rapidly matured to provide virtually anything a business or consumer would like with the added convenience of being able to manage it through a web app or a mobile device. IoT devices continuously appear on the market with amazing specs, great packaging and, in many cases, manufacturer names nobody has ever heard. For instance, searching for ‘IP Cameras’ on Amazon will result in 50 or more of the exact same camera; each with a unique manufacturer name. Given the number of similar or identical products repackaged but not necessarily unique in any other significant way, the device and manufacturer are likely to disappear within a few months, never to be seen again,” said Tim Jensen, Senior Penetration Tester for BSI’s Cybersecurity and Information Resilience.

How does this impact the consumer?

Because of the expected lifespan of a product in the past, a manufacturer disappearing wouldn’t have mattered for most people because if you buy a camera and it works for 10 years, then there is no problem and your expectations are likely to have been met or exceeded. Unfortunately, with many IoT devices this is no longer the reality as product lifespan is often dependent on ongoing support, such as software and security updates.

In today’s market, where new and improved products are released regularly, people tend to pay the price for manufacturers dropping product support, removing network infrastructure, adding or increasing subscription fees, or failing to resolve technical issues that cause early obsolescence.

In an ideal world, allowing the consumer to know how long the device will be supported would be a very beneficial part of the purchasing decision. For example, if a manufacturer launches a new device on the market but sales don’t meet expectations, how long will the early adopters have to use the device? Will the product be killed off early, or will their owners get the expected lifespan out of the device?

To provide peace of mind for the consumer, a guaranteed support lifespan and end of life expiration date for the device should clearly be marked on the website and preferably on the packaging, as well. I’ve personally had several devices that I enthusiastically embraced become paper weights over the last few years due to the manufacturer discontinuing support earlier than expected.

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