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How to Start an Internet of Things Company




IoT is a hot industry, but do you have what it takes to build a successful business?

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The rise of internet of things (IoT) technology has many names, including The Next Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 and, simply, The IoT Apocalypse. Regardless of your stance on the future of IoT, most can agree that IoT will be a disruptor in every sense of the word — and not just in Silicon Valley and at MIT. The implications of IoT are far-reaching, touching nearly every industry that relies on industrial automation.

Related: 25 Innovative IoT Companies and Products You Need to Know

As with any emerging technology, entrepreneurs worldwide are impatient for a shot at building IoT businesses. But, if IoT is Mount Everest, we’re still at base camp when it comes to understanding the full implications of the climb. Today we find ourselves at the juncture where software-as-a-service was in 2008. The market is hungry for it, but few have succeeded at doing it. While every startup’s future IoT product offerings will differ, there are some foundational items that must be addressed before starting an IoT business from scratch. Here are three.

1. Practice design thinking in product development.

When it comes to starting a new venture, the natural human inclination is to start with the tactical work. “What first?” is usually the primary question entrepreneurs try to address, before considering “Why is what we’re doing important?” Design thinking is a framework for ideation that institutions like Stanford teach and executives at IBM swear by. At a basic level, design thinking inspires practical creativity to flourish. It involves following four steps in starting a business, creating a product or deploying a new strategy:

  1. Discover what people really need.
  2. Push past obvious solutions to get to breakthrough ideas.
  3. Build rough prototypes to make ideas better.
  4. Craft a human story to inspire others to action.

Using design thinking, entrepreneurs can identify a need that justifies an IoT product, rather than hoping their product will create a need.

Related: 3 Ways Entrepreneurs Are Making IoT More User-Friendly

2. Scaling an IoT company is not the same as scaling any other company.

A theory exists called the “scaling fallacy” that applies to IoT companies. At a very basic level, a scaling fallacy occurs when someone assumes that because something works at one size, it will work just as well at any size. People assume that if a tiny ant can lift 50 times its own body weight, it would be able to do the same if it were the size of a human. This simply is not the case. In the same way, an IoT company engineering for prototype is very different from engineering for scale.

Related: How Startups Can Capitalize on IoT’s New Co-Economy

3. It’s all about security, security, security.

A Gemalto IoT security report revealed that only 33 percent of survey respondents believed they have complete control over the data that their IoT products collect. Protecting data gleaned from a connected device presents a different challenge than installing antivirus software on a PC. IoT security is fundamentally more difficult, which causes many to “put it off” until it’s too late. Stanford computer science professor Philip Levis established that IoT security procrastination results from the rush to develop a product that’s inherently difficult to develop. The threat only grows as the number of connected devices increases, because each device represents a new “door” a hacker could break down. Thus, security must be a priority from the very beginning — even in early development. From there, IoT startups should be quick to invite experts to weigh in on vulnerabilities. The consequences of procrastinating security could be costly.

Operating as an entrepreneur in an emerging industry is risky to say the least. The potential challenges you will face along the way are unparalleled, most yet to be uncovered. But, with the total number of IoT connections expected to grow from 6 billion in 2015 to 27 billion in 2025, it’s a market opportunity too compelling for entrepreneurs to ignore.

A daily source of inspiration and information, fuels the spectrum of game-changers that define what it means to be an entrepreneur today. That includes business leaders who launched something from nothing, content creators in the social influencer space, athletes pushing the boundaries of performance, and internal thought leaders innovating inside major corporations. offers strategic insights and how-to guidance for the people that make things happen.



There Is a Creepy Side to Those 'Smart' Toys and Appliances On Your Gift List




As holiday shoppers attempt to “wow” their friends, families and coworkers with the top presents of the season — think Amazon Echos, smart TVs and internet-enabled toys — they could be inadvertently exposing their giftees to a world of cybersecurity pain. Unfortunately, hackers looking to expand their attacks beyond networks and emails have set their sights on devices that are connected to our home networks.

Despite the recent security issues with IoT devices (i.e. smart teddy bear flaw), a recent survey found that 65 percent of millennials are unaware of IoT risks and the same percentage don’t take this type of security seriously. However, with stockings already being hung by the chimney with care, it’s important to raise awareness about the types of threats plaguing these devices. Before making those final purchases, let’s explore which popular items are most at-risk and ways in which owners can secure their new toys.

Related: Government Agencies and Hospitals Face Increasing Risk of IoT-Powered Cyberattacks

Ho-Ho-Hold the Phone — Consider These Potential Risks

The newest, hottest devices are obviously high on holiday wish lists, and for good reason! Many of them are not only fun additions to the home, but also add a significant convenience factor when it comes to day-to-day activities like switching lights on and off, controlling music, locking doors and entertaining children. However, before bringing these items into the home, it’s important for consumers to weigh the pros and cons.

One of the biggest risks associated with installing IoT devices revolves around the loss of privacy. As IoT evolves, devices that have video cameras in them should be avoided at all costs. We’ve seen vulnerabilities appear within connected cameras time and time again — see examples here and here. While using IoT cameras externally for security purposes makes sense, bringing them into the home can be, and has been, an issue.

Besides security cameras, we are seeing video capabilities in TVs, toys and even appliances such as vacuum cleaners. Before purchasing and gifting these items, shoppers need to think long and hard about the potential implications.

Related: 3 Reasons Why IT Security Must Be a Top Concern for Tech Startups

So, Which Devices are on Santa’s Naughty List?

Over the last year, there have been a number of toys designed for children that pose serious risks — the Cayla doll is a prime example. Unfortunately, as manufacturers continue to develop and release connected toys, security is not always top of mind when installing components like remote audio and/or video capabilities. Combined with the fact that children can easily be preyed-upon, shoppers should take great caution when selecting any internet-embedded technology device for a child.

From a connected home perspective, smart speakers are a perfect example of a risky addition to the household. While these items will be all the rage this year, it’s important to evaluate the security implications. We saw just last month the BlueBorne vulnerability that left prominent devices within this category vulnerable to hackers via just a Bluetooth connection — through this, malicious actors could feed smart speaker owners false information (i.e. traffic reports and inaccurate schedules) and even spy on victims. And the scariest part? If a hacker gained control of the connected device, they could potentially spread to other networked devices or eavesdrop on network traffic communication.

Additionally, smart systems that are used to control door locks and garage-door openers are being exposed by hackers. Apple’s HomeKit is the most recent example. As usual though, Apple was able to fix the issue quickly via a server-side patch.

Related: Why Millennials Don’t Worry That Much About Online Security

Does This Mean IoT Devices Should be Taken Off Our Wish Lists?

Let’s be realistic — the entire holiday shopping population isn’t going to abandon purchasing IoT devices as gifts due to the chance that they might be hacked. And, to be honest, a number of items still make great gifts — for example, ones that add convenience and entertainment like automation for lighting and switched outlets.

With that said, consumers still need to do their due diligence for securing these items and be especially cautious with devices that contain video cameras. A few questions to ask before purchasing an IoT device include:

Who is the manufacturer? Is it someone reputable, or a suspicious knock-off that may save you a few bucks? Look for products issued by companies like Amazon, Apple, Bose and Google this holiday season. Many of these companies — like Amazon and Google — have patching solutions already in place, so in the event that a vulnerability does arise, they can quickly mitigate the issue. It may cost more up-front, but the savings from a potential security breach are greater by leaps and bounds.

What are the known vulnerabilities? Before completing your purchase, do a quick search to see if any security vulnerabilities have been discovered previously in your gift. Is the first Google search result on that product you’ve been eyeing a vulnerability exploit/issue? If so, you might want to stay away from that one and consider another gift.

Will the device update automatically? Ensuring that the latest firmware is installed on any internet-connected device is of utmost important. Old firmware equals new entry points for malicious actors. One of the easiest ways to ensure this is the case is to buy devices that update automatically and don’t require manual firmware installations.

IoT is Coming to Town

Whether we like it or not, these devices are in our homes. Fear not, though, if you’ve already purchased and wrapped these gifts for your loved ones and coworkers. Give the gift of security this year and pass along these helpful tips with your connected purchase:

Use the tech as it was intended: Make sure the device is deployed properly and used the way it was designed. Follow installation directions completely and double check that the latest firmware is installed.

Change default password: Never stick with what’s given! Also, when selecting a new password, follow the same procedures you would when selecting one for your online bank account. Don’t use any of your personal information — that includes Fido’s name — and avoid passwords that contain words/phrases that can be associated with you, your business and/or personal life. In addition, don’t reuse passwords across multiple devices/accounts.

We have enough to worry about this holiday season with 10s of family members running around the house fueled by eggnog and candy. Don’t let cybersecurity add yet another thing to your checklist. Follow these simple IoT security tips to ensure a carefree holiday for you and your loved ones.

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