Why companies need better Pilots, not more POCs, for IoT projects

The development process of an IoT project, similar to a software project, can be separated into three main phases: proof of concept (POC), pilot, and production. Each phase has its own unique purpose and advantages. Although each phase is necessary for an innovative project, many teams are too focused on running POCs, while they have enough information to focus most resources and time on running pilots. This article will discuss the concepts and expectations of each phase, and share how companies can benefit from the right tools that help to focus on evaluating the technical and the business sides of an IoT project.

The POC phase

Proof of Concept (POC) is the first step in a software project. It focuses on testing the viability of an idea or feature before investing more time and money in.

During the POC phase, the risks are high, and the objective is to determine whether it’s worth pursuing further. It allows developers to test if the software can be built, identify any weaknesses, and develop solutions for those weak points. In recent years, it has become very common for companies to create a small team and set a small budget when dealing with the Internet of Things (IoT) arena. Companies spread the use of POC in IoT projects because it allows for more flexibility and exploration in the concept phase. However, the proliferation of POCs for IoT projects has brought some negative points including project scope creep and failed POCs.

Typically, during a POC, a team tries to answer the following questions:

1. Is the idea feasible?

2. How difficult will it be to develop and implement?

3. What is the expected timeline for completion?

4. Will it require additional resources or personnel to complete?

5. What type of budget will be required to execute it?

The main reasons why so many POCs involving IoT projects have failed are related to project scope creep and a lack of clear objectives. In order to avoid these issues, it is important to define a set of measurable goals before starting the POC phase. Additionally, teams should make sure that they have adequate resources both in terms of budget and personnel needed for the project. In its current state, it is not a surprise that more than 30% of IoT projects fail while still in the proof of concept stage.

The Pilot phase

The pilot phase is the next step in the process of software development, providing a way to test an idea or feature on a smaller scale before committing to full production. During this phase, developers can identify any flaws or weaknesses and make any necessary changes for a successful launch. During the phase, although the assumed risk is still high, the production readiness level is much higher than that of a POC.

On the other hand, during the pilot phase, the team is trying to answer the following questions:

1. Is the idea successful on a smaller scale?

2. Is it efficient for what we intended the software to do?

3. Are there any unforeseen issues that need to be addressed before full production?

4. What kind of budget will be needed to transition from pilot to production?

5. Does it require additional resources or personnel to complete?

Pilot projects and minimum viable products (MVPs) are very similar; the key difference being that pilot projects are done on a smaller scale and with fewer resources. Furthermore, while MVPs focus mainly on customer feedback to determine product success, pilot projects have an additional goal of assessing the feasibility of a feature before investing in full production.

The Production phase

The last phase of development is the Production phase. Here, developers and managers have full control over the quality and features of the software product. In this stage, all of the necessary changes, security patches, and bug fixes are implemented to ensure that the end-user experience is up to par. The risks associated with this stage are much lower than those seen during the proof-of-concept or pilot phases. At each point in the software development process, it is important for developer teams to assess their project’s progress and make sure that they are meeting deadlines and staying on track with their goals.

The growing need to focus more on Pilots, not POCs

Given the current maturity of each component of the IoT ecosystem and the large number of use cases, it now makes more sense for companies to increasingly focus on the pilot phase. Although a POC may still be necessary in some situations, it is the pilot phase that will demand more attention from the team and management.

One way of thinking about the pilot in an IoT project is that it could ask: “Will we be able to scale up this project while making a profit from it?”, which is more challenging than asking, for example: “Will our LoRaWAN devices be able to collect data from X sensors from our farms located Y miles apart and present a report in a dashboard?” during the POC. This situation has clearly been oversimplified to an extent, but that is basically the key difference in mindset during a POC versus a pilot phase, and that truly is crucial.

Running better, more effective Pilots

The TagoIO platform can help with a pilot for IoT by providing all the necessary tools for data storage, analysis, and visualization of results. TagoIO is also a very cost-effective solution as it provides numerous features at a much lower price than many other services. Additionally, TagoIO’s platform supports both MQTT and HTTP protocols which makes it extraordinarily easy to integrate with any existing system currently in use and any kind of IoT connectivity technology, sensors, and web services. TagoIO’s tools also facilitate the collaboration between developers and managers so that considerable time and resources, needed to validate an IoT project during the pilot stage, do not go to waste.

These tools include analyzing data from sensors, assessing new features with user feedback, and identifying any potential issues before moving into full production. By focusing on these key factors, companies can ensure their pilot projects are successful and that they have the resources and personnel needed to transition into full production.

At the end of the day, it is essential to evaluate a project from both a technical and business feasibility angle. The combination of the technical feasibility determined by a POC and the business feasibility obtained through a Pilot will be what determines the success of an IoT project.

We hope this helps! 🙂 Good luck with your project!