Guest Column | March 21, 2024

7 Unforgettable Ways IoT Is Reinventing Product Design

Emily Newton, Revolutionized

By Emily Newton

GettyImages-1019172426 connectivity iot

The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed how the world operates on several fronts. One of the most impactful of these shifts for businesses is how the IoT and product design have influenced one another over the past few years.

As the IoT has grown, so has its impact on product design methods and philosophies — even regarding non-IoT products. Here are seven ways this change has taken place.

1. Providing A Wealth Of Customer Data

The most straightforward relationship between the IoT and product design is the former’s insight into customer usage trends. Connected devices provide hard data on how users interact with these products — something previously only possible through time-consuming and limited surveys.

IoT devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes of data by 2025. That amount of information provides an unprecedented look at how people behave in their everyday lives. This data can uncover trends in everything from questions people ask to which products they use the most to what features are most desirable.

This data lets businesses get more granular about what design choices most meet what consumers need or use the most. Designing products around how people use them leads to more practical, consumer-minded innovations.

2. Putting A Spotlight On Customer Control

The IoT’s popularity also has emphasized the importance of control to modern consumers. Smart home devices give users more options than ever to control their HVAC operations, electronics, or large appliances. The considerable success of these products holds a significant truth for brands to recognize — consumers appreciate having power.

In light of the IoT’s success, many product design philosophies are now circling back to placing more control in the hands of their customers. This shift stands in direct opposition to the movement to do more so consumers don’t have to but empowers buyers who may feel fatigued by too many services and too little transparency.

This goes hand in hand with the rising trend of personalization. Today, 71% of consumers expect personalization in their brand interactions, and 76% are frustrated when they don’t get it. IoT functionality helps meet this need by letting users control more of their products and services from their smartphones or other devices.

3. Enabling Continuous Improvement

Another key takeaway from the relationship between the IoT and product design is how the IoT enables long-term design improvements. Connected devices’ real-time data capabilities let businesses recognize potential issues as they arise. Fixing these problems to improve products becomes easier as a result.

In some cases, manufacturers can roll out improvements through over-the-air software updates to fix errors without new hardware. Connected cars and smart home products, in particular, benefit from these kinds of ongoing improvements.

In other situations, usage trends from IoT connectivity show where some products could improve to be more practical or cost-effective to the end user. Designers can see this data in real time to redesign new versions for faster release windows of better products.

4. Highlighting Production Issues

The same benefits also apply to internal company processes. IoT data throughout a manufacturing facility can reveal where production errors stem from. Consequently, businesses can fix the heart of the problem to prevent these mistakes in the future and ensure higher product quality.

Now that 5G networks enable data transfer speeds 100 times faster than 4G LTE, manufacturers can collect more of this data and respond to it more efficiently. Predictive maintenance — where IoT sensors alert workers of future repair needs to prevent breakdowns — is an excellent example.

IoT-connected machine vision systems in quality control also can report trends in production defects. This insight guides manufacturers to redesign their products or adjust workflows to prevent errors before they reach consumers’ hands.

5. Creating Greener Products

Another production-side benefit of the IoT in product design is that it enables more sustainable products. IoT devices in a facility can monitor machines’ energy use and adjust them in real time to use as little power as possible. Doing so reduces manufacturing emissions, giving products a smaller carbon footprint.

Similarly, IoT trackers in the supply chain can monitor vehicle emissions. Over time, trends in this data can reveal opportunities to create more efficient routes or when it’s time to switch trucks out for newer, more eco-friendly models.

IoT-driven energy savings aren’t the only way to make greener products, but they address often overlooked pieces of the puzzle. It’s hard to say something is truly sustainable without including production-related and supply chain emissions, which is precisely what these IoT systems fix.

6. Bringing Security Needs Into Focus

The IoT’s surging popularity also has influenced product design by highlighting weak points in connected devices. Attention around the IoT’s cybersecurity shortcomings has emphasized how new products must take their users’ privacy seriously.

IoT devices are somewhat notorious among cybersecurity professionals, but that may be changing. New regulations like the IoT Cyber Labeling Law promote stronger built-in protections and make security a stronger selling point by bringing it to consumers’ attention. Shifts like this will likely affect all data-centric products, not just IoT devices.

Data collection and hacking threats from the IoT have highlighted how vulnerable consumers’ data privacy is. In light of the growing spotlight on this issue, product design is trending toward more proactive consumer protections.

7. Ushering A Shift Toward Interoperability

Interoperability is another common obstacle that is getting more attention from the IoT in product design. There are multiple IoT protocols, and not every device supports each one. Consequently, many smart home products are incompatible, limiting consumer choices, but that’s changing.

The IoT industry is moving toward interoperability with the emergence of more widely accepted open-source standards like Matter. This shift could signal a broader trend in the consumer electronics and home products markets. Businesses recognize that customers want to be able to pick and choose products from various manufacturers instead of sticking to a single brand.

For years, companies have pushed to be the only brand a customer buys, focusing on creating an internal interoperable but proprietary ecosystem. IoT trends seem to be reversing this movement, pushing product design to a more open and convenient market.

Combining IoT And Product Design Is A Recipe For Success

The IoT’s impact on product design is hard to ignore. The former has reshaped the latter in everything from technical considerations to broader market trends.

Adapting to these changes is important to remain competitive in today’s tech-centric, IoT-driven environment. Brands must acknowledge the relationship between the IoT and product design to meet the needs of modern consumers.