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Design 1st Helps Clients Develop IoT Connected Products From Concept To Manufacturing

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Design 1st takes products from concept to manufacturing setup by providing hardware product design, engineering and development services. The company also specializes in helping its clients transform their existing products to connected IoT products. Below is our interview with Allan Kerr, VP Analytics at Design 1st:


Q: What are the main challenges of developing IoT Devices right now?

A: IoT or smart connected products will play an important role over the next decade in the development of delivering new and better business outcomes to the market; improving how products are created and made and how services are operated.

As we buy, set up and use each of these connected products, they will come with their own unique interfaces and challenges that we will need to learn to use them.

Great products are born from ease of use as it enables us to accomplish tasks, allows us to feel in control and in doing so, projects our confidence and personality to others.

Product ease of use for interconnected mobile devices is more challenging than standalone device designing as they must be convenient and easy to use everywhere. Radio signal strength and no effort connection to the cloud is a requirement for users.

Timing on bringing connected product to market is also important. Design 1st was on the smartphone design team with large displays that were released in 1996 by Nortel. They were a great example of a product that was ready but the cloud infrastructure to deliver a great user experience was not.

Next generation connected devices are full of complex electronics and custom software combined with off the shelf hardware and software modules. The options are many and each choice you make has consequences in the cost of parts, functions, maintenance costs and licensing fees.

It’s important to bounce your ideas off technical experts to determine which path is lowest risk and highest value. The experts can also help you decide if should you wait, or start working with the chosen technologies now.

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Q: What skills are required to develop connected devices?

A: Connected devices are complex; they require a fundamental understanding of how a user will interact in many situations and locations. From an engineering perspective, the design management team draws on artists, human factors specialists, mechanical and hardware engineers, software programmers and manufacturing setup experts to successfully turn an idea into a product ready for market.

It is a high-risk business – unless you have a design engineering team who has done it successfully many times before and who is knowledgeable in pre-empting problems. For a fast, cost efficient development project, a collaborative team that is co-located in one place and has strong connections into the manufacturing supply chain is ideal.

Q: How is user experience and design changing with rise of connected products?

A: Many IoT products exist in the environments around us and they become an extension of our lifestyle and activities.

There are other data collecting IOT devices that work in the background and need to be invisible to us except for the information or benefit they deliver to us. The best user experience for IoT connected hardware devices in our environments is to disappear from our conscious experience.

It’s the outcome of the experience we want not the device, the device and the network management are necessary evils. With a truly perfect product it becomes a part of who we are. The smartphone is an extension of ourselves and comes with us wherever we go.

We recently were working with a client in our boardroom when suddenly an IoT device went into audio mode and said, “I’m sorry, I did not understand, can you repeat the question?” It interrupted the meeting and the people on the conference line were very confused.

The choice of interface from audio input to keys, gesturing and touchpads are part of the selection process to ensure users love your new product. Careful selection and testing must be part of the concept stage of a product development process. The experience needs to be natural, fit the need and situation. We have a long way to go with many products being developed for use today.

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Q: Why did you merge with an electronics development company?

A: Product development of connected products requires intimate knowledge of custom hardware and custom software code to run the product and to interact with the cloud. Early on we understood a fast and efficient design process requires engineers in all disciplines to be close to the artists and user interaction designs to create a high functioning team.

The electronics company we merged with had 20 years of complex communications based electronics hardware and firmware design. They were a team that understood our unique design process. We worked with their team for several years before we merged together as Design 1st. Bringing them in-house put the final skill sets in place to offer the market a truly integrated one stop design solution.

Q: How many connected IoT products have you developed for clients?

A: We have worked on dozens of IOT connected products starting in the early 2000s, long before the term IoT was popularized. The vast number of products that we work on today are IoT connected with cloud interactions.

Some examples of IoT products we have developed for clients include: Fantasy Scoreboards – an Internet connected scoreboard, Liberty Pumps – an connected Sump Pump, Pedz – a pedriatic safety device and most recently, Toddler Monitor – an infant monitoring device.

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Q: Why do global clients choose to work with you vs. a local company?

A: Canada has a great reputation globally. We have a stable currency and political system and Ottawa was the center of digital telecommunications since the 1970s.

Design 1st helps clients develop market ready, connected hardware products.

Our team has 30 years in this environment and we have really great experience in electronics and communications design, prototype, and testing of these types of products in house. We have a long record of accomplishment and a portfolio of successful products.

Design 1st has a proven process for moving product from concept to production, quickly and efficiently, meeting the business cost and schedule objectives the first time through the process. We stand behind our commitment to our clients. The shortest path from your idea to a winning product.

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