IOT Projects: Where to Start?


The following are some best practices on where to start with an IOT project. Some would ask, “Is an IOT project that different than most projects?” Yes, There are some things to consider and the following is a brief outline that we ask our customers when starting a new IOT project.  If you invest time at the beginning by attempting to define the scale of the project; this will have a big impact on your architecture and resource requirements. You may find that you need you need less resource based on how quickly the enterprise can respond to action events.

IOT Scale Metrics

Put a box around things you can. Spend time in the problem domain with the business stake holders and define what can be defined. Example: What are the action goals? How will this IOT device in the field empower your enterprise? What do you hope to achieve? How quickly can you or your customers respond to action? How much data should be store? Everything? Why? More important – How do we aggregate? By IOT Device Type, Location (installation), Geography, update frequency, etc.. The point, Ask a few bounding questions at the beginning.  Then, Set the boundaries.

Brain Storm, Quantify and Prioritize

This list can grow quickly during the process of discovery you will find more questions to ask along the way. Brain Storm, Quantify and Prioritize. The goal of the exercise is to define as much as you can before you start building architecture and writing code.

What do IOT Scale Metrics look like?

You will start compiling a narrative of IOT scale metrics that should look something like this; “We have 200 IOT devices in the field. There are five base types composed of temperature, pressure, vibration, voltage and current with three specialized type for tracking human activity around heart rate, respiration and activity level. Each of the machine sensors will send push message every five (5) minutes with the capacity to answer Ad-Hoc on-demand polling for a specified length of time and frequency. The human activity sensors will … etc.

You should be getting the picture. I’m working an a book due out by Christmas 2016 that will detail the process. Again, We’re building a narrative that anyone can understand quickly without diving into the minutia of device type or data.

You have IOT Scale Metrics – Now What?

The IOT Scale Metrics are a good starting point. If you Brain-Stormed with your stake-holders then you’ve started the process of defining scope and scale. The “Scope and Scale” will drive your architecture and analytics requirements.

The next steps will include doing the math and calculating the size, space, compute, capacity, storage, network bandwidth, high-availability, scalability, security requirements and much more. By defining a few of the expected constants you’re removing variability and now you can specialize and focus on architectural boundaries. Most project start with defining the problem and try to solve it right away.  My suggestion here, Scale and ability to respond to a “action event” are a part of the problem that your trying to solve.

The main take-away, Starting an IOT project by trying to define these metrics may help you as an Architect, Technical Project Manager, Developer and Stake-Holder before you start spinning up EC2, building S3 buckets and RDS Clusters. The IOT scale metrics may help you find that one technology service will be a better fit than another and understand how all the pieces will fit together.

Isn’t Cloud about Build Fast?

Some of you are saying.. “Isn’t the point of the cloud to scale as you go and build a minimal viable product as quickly as possible?” The answer is Yes, Of course but by spending just a bit of time at the start will help you put a box around how large and how quickly the system should respond.

If you ask the questions up front – your extreme large scale n-tier architecture may turn into a moderately scaled 2-3 tier architecture that can be started in the Cloud and include some of your on-premise systems systems that will grow with your requirements and customer engagement. The scale and complexity may seem complex at first only to become something that is easily implemented and scaled based on your IOT scale metrics, resource requirements and ability to respond.

Thank you, – Gus Segura
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