Internet of How: Piloting as a learning tool

Executive Director & Partner
Mark Breneman
Senior Interaction Designer

Connected products require tight collaboration between hardware and software teams; the physical object and the software which enables it are heavily intertwined.  This collaboration is critical to the success of the final product and difficult to achieve.

Hardware traditionally operates in a waterfall development process, enabled by generous timelines. Software on the other hand requires little development time (agile is built on the notion of speed), and can quickly be iterated upon even with users.  As a result, there’s friction between these two different processes and it’s often hard to align teams on timing and their role with the final product.  One practice that we at Smart leverage to align teams is piloting.

Piloting is a bit of mix of prototyping, and production. It is usually done in public with a smaller group of users, with the goal of simulating real world context.  Piloting holds many significant benefits:

Cost Mitigation

By testing with a small user group, piloting allows you to simulate real world conditions without investing in a global IoT infrastructure rollout.  Changes to the hardware and the software are made iteratively through multiple pilots before rolling out a final IOT solution.

Value Proposition Testing

Piloting allows you to test your product’s value proposition at different levels.  With a small user base, you may find that efficiency and peace of mind are enough. Scaling up to a large set of users will require a solution that allows for greater personalization and delight.

Identifying Assumptions

Often times assumptions around a product’s functionality, feature set and value are made but not tested, prior to a product launch.  By piloting you can reduce risk by quickly testing which of these assumptions are valid. This allows you to keep the features that hold significant meaning to users and discard the ones that don’t.

Evaluation of Partners

Launching pilot products puts partnership relations to the test.  By piloting with a partner you’re testing where your skills integrate with theirs.  This affords the opportunity to re-evaluate your partnerships or develop internal processes that could substitute them. By piloting a refined prototype with a small user group, you can make key strategic changes to both hardware and software prior to making larger manufacturing and infrastructure investments necessary to launching a product. Piloting reduces the risk of loss due and potentially limiting technology choices. By piloting, you’re able to protect and futureproof your product for ongoing development.


The Internet of How” article series is co-authored by Mark Breneman, Bernardo Schorr, Tucker Fort and Tara Gupta Dabir.