By Forrest Hobbs
In the previous blog in our series about sensors, we talked about important factors to consider when selecting a new sensor or IoT device. Now that you’ve identified your use case and understand the other factors involved in selecting a sensor, it’s time to vet the possible sensor vendors.
Keep in mind that sensors and other IoT devices are constantly evolving, often quite complex, and can be challenging to deploy and maintain. Choosing the right sensor from the right vendor will help you deliver industry-leading products.
How do you know that you’ve chosen the best sensor vendor? Here are the top questions you should ask a potential sensor or IoT device vendor to make sure they’re a good fit for your use case.
1. What sets the vendor apart from other sensor/IoT device vendors?
This initial question will help you understand the vendor’s capabilities, as well as applications that the vendor is targeting. The vendor should have a solid understanding of the complexities of sensor deployment at scale, and a strong track record of enabling their customers to achieve high rates of success with their IoT applications.
2. What are the vendor’s product innovation plans? Does their roadmap align with your vision?
Make sure your sensor vendor is up to date on advancements in sensor capabilities and connectivity (e.g., NB-IoT and Cat-M support). While you’re primarily looking for hardware capabilities, also investigate how the sensor data is being augmented by advancements in terms of software capabilities (such as artificial intelligence). The vendor should constantly be working on ways to improve their products so that you can benefit from new functionality that you’ll need for future applications. While you should never feel locked in to a single device vendor, it is important to be confident that the sensor vendor is looking to innovate in ways that you would benefit from.
3. Does the vendor have experience working in your particular industry?
It takes more than just having a functional IoT device to make projects successful. Some vendors might tick all the boxes but may lack experience in your industry. For example, if you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, you want to make sure that you are working with a vendor that has experience in the pharma industry and is fully compliant with required certifications.
4. If your IoT device is used on airlines, it must be certified and in full compliance with functionality requirements.
In this case, the vendor must have already gone through the time-consuming process of getting their sensors certified and approved individually by each airline.
5. How robust is the IoT device? What level of support does the sensor vendor offer?
Ask your potential vendor to describe failure rates they have experienced. A strong sensor vendor should also provide robust diagnostic and failure alerting capabilities to ensure your technical teams can support these sensors once they are deployed. You may have chosen the best sensor vendor for your needs, but if they can’t provide you with proper support when integrating the sensor into your application, your use case may fail. Ask if they’ve worked with other companies in anticipating roadblocks and how they’ve solved technical issues. It’s important to determine exactly what kind of support channels they offer to customers.
6. Will the vendor provide data to you in your preferred format?
If you want to have the sensor data ingested into your own data lake, for example, make sure that the vendor will do that and has the appropriate integration layer to support your request. This is particularly important because you most likely will use more than one IoT device vendor; if the vendor can’t easily integrate with your existing systems and technology investments, you won’t be able to successfully manage your project.
7. Does the IoT device vendor have a partner program?
This isn’t a requirement, but it’s a bonus if the sensor vendor has a partner program designed to build best-of-breed solutions with products that reliably tap into the vendor’s technology.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t do you any good to have the best sensor/IoT device in the world if you’re unable to get the sensor data to the right systems and people. You need to visualize the entire data journey and understand how the sensor data will be used and visualized. If your sensors are being used to provide greater visibility into your supply chain, look for a technology-neutral Digital Visibility Platform solution that includes both purpose-built sensors and the ability to integrate with any edge device or data source.
Read the next article in Cloudleaf’s sensor series: Why an Open Platform Is So Critical to Your Data Strategy