Designing for the Internet of Things

A Series of Six Articles on the IoT

Alasdair Allan
5 min readFeb 26, 2019


This is a overview article for a series of six articles on designing connected devices. The first article in the series is “Where Does Your Smart Product Sit?” and talks about product design. The second is “Starting With One” and covers prototyping, the third is “Your Developers’ Experience” and talks about product design, the fourth is “Remember the Physical Environment,” and discusses deployment issues, the fifth is “Time to Market vs Common Sense,” and talks about manufacturing as a startup. The final article is “Security is Your Job,” and talks about security and the Internet of Things.

We’re used to yearly, or faster, upgrade cycles. A new phone each year, a new laptop every couple of years, and each year the slabs of aluminium, plastic, glass, and silicon get a little bit thinner and weigh a little bit less. But the underlying model around which our computing is built doesn’t change quite as rapidly as the computing itself.

Discarded phones.

Despite more than a decade has passed since the Apple iPhone changed everything, the last change is still fresh in our minds. The arrival of the iPhone turned the mobile phone market on its head and spawned an app economy that is estimated to be worth around $150 billion, and has swallowed a quarter of Enterprise IT budgets.

But this too shall pass. The black rectangle, which has become so familiar over the last decade, won’t last as long as the beige box which sat under, or on, our desks since it was introduced by IBM in 1981 to disappear without much fanfare around the time the iPhone started to appear in our pockets. For a piece of design that was so ubiquitous the desktop computer disappeared remarkably quickly from our awareness. The black rectangle will fade out just as quickly, and we won’t even notice it as it goes.

Right now our computing is slowly diffusing out into our environment, and with that, everyday objects are becoming smarter. A decade from now everything you carry with you will be measuring and calculating, and with that talking and consulting with the computing it sees in the world around you. Right now almost all of the devices that will one day will be connected to the network, aren’t.