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[Part 4/4] IoT Essential Truths: Rethink the Product Design Process

Executive Summary

Being willing to go back to the drawing board and refine your product’s design can expand both its role and how effectively it is used and maintained.

  • Staying stuck in the past with your design process will ultimately leave customers unsatisfied.
  • Customers today desire a streamlined and automated approach to the products they are buying, especially when it comes to maintenance and upgrades.
  • By rethinking your product design process and employing real-time data, you have the ability to create a more valuable and versatile product that will increase customer satisfaction and help your bottom-line.

— Part 4 / 4 —

The jet turbine companies’ switch to leasing is a great example of the fourth, and interrelated, IoT Essential Truth: rethink products and their roles.


Because the manufacturer no longer needs to guess about whether the customer likes the product and how it’s being used, product design and refinement becomes a continuous process, so that GE and others can now push a product upgrade out the door more rapidly and increase the chance that customers will be satisfied.

Software now becomes a key component of products, especially in terms of maintenance and upgrades. Tesla’s response after a product recall because of issues with its suspension is a great example.

As Wired recounts: “Not to worry,” said Tesla, and completed the fix for its 29,222 vehicle owners via software update.

What’s more, this wasn’t the first time Tesla has used such updates to enhance the performance of its cars. Last year it changed the suspension settings to give the car more clearance at high speeds, due to issues that had surfaced in certain collisions. Even better, the upgrade was done automatically, overnight, without requiring customers to go to a dealer.

Changing our attitudes about products can mean exciting breakthroughs that were unimaginable in the recent past. Consider the example of BigBelly trash bins in Chapter 1 [from The Future Is Smart] and how they reinvented a traditionally mundane product. Also, because of designers capitalizing on the IoT’s disruptive power, products that once were costly and so large that they had to be located in a permanent facility are now affordable and can fit in a pocket.


Don’t minimize the difficulty you’ll face in scuttling old attitudes such as linear processes that we’ve inherited from the nineteenth-century Industrial Age. They’re so ingrained in our subconscious that we’re not even aware how much they shape our thinking and restrict our vision and our ability to consider alternatives. However, abandon them we must, because we’ll never realize the IoT’s full potential for customer satisfaction, production precision, and new revenue streams if we don’t embrace the new attitudes—the Essential Truths—that the IoT entails.

Excerpted with permission from The Future is Smart: How Your Company Can Capitalize on the Internet of Things--and Win in a Connected Economy by W. David Stephenson, copyright W. David Stephenson.

Bring It Home

Years ago, I released a product that I’d spent countless hours designing and perfecting. It was my baby, and I was confident it was going to exceed customer expectations. Though it wasn’t exactly cost-effective, I assured myself that the customers would think its benefits were worth the investment. Looking back, it’s easy to see that if I’d been willing to rethink my approach to its design, I likely would have ended up with a more affordable product and a much more successful outcome.

Share an example of one time where you incorporated customer feedback by joining the conversation below. Was rethinking the product design process part of the solution?

W. David Stephenson

W. David Stephenson develops strategies and theories around the Internet of Things, Enterprise and E-Gov 2.-3.0, data, homeland security and crisis management. Stephenson empowers the public with tools like personal communication devices and Web 2.0 social media to engage with private sector companies and organizations.

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