How to launch IoT devices – Part 3: make vs buy decisions

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(This blog post is part of a 5 part series, titled “How to launch IoT devices”. It will cover the key choices and concerns when turning bright IoT ideas into a product in the market. This entire series can be found with slides + audio here: How to launch IoT devices.)

Part One can be found here: Why does IoT take so long?

Part Two can be found here: Select the right hardware and foundations

Your IoT device is nearly half way through its journey to release. Congratulations! Read the last part (above) to get up to speed on how to make sure you select the right hardware.

This blog will help you cut through the technical complexity that can overwhelm anyone, when developing an IoT product. We’ll look at the benefits of choosing infrastructure instead of trying to build it yourself, and why you don’t need to build it yourself.

Building a customer reference point

As we said in the first blog, a critical part of a product in the market is having a way to interface with customers; e.g. Amazon’s marketplace for a retail product. The Amazon market place not only gets digital footfall, but it also automates how sellers think about getting their product to customers. Whether you sell 10, 1000 or 10000 products, it’s a standardised method for the customer to reach you and for you to talk about/explain/display/advertise your product.

Applied to IoT, we found two challenges that any IoT product needs to think about. First, how do you write and host applications so that customers have an online reference point to come back to? Second, how do you distribute software without needing to send out an engineer or re-engineer your entire device each time something changes?

These problems are solvable but costly to do so. Critically, it will skew the unit economics of even the most ambitious IoT projects to build out this infrastructure. It’s difficult to guarantee product demand will reach the quantity to make the infrastructure positive ROI. 

Automation with smart infrastructure for IoT devices

Looking at how infrastructure is created and maintained in many other industries, there is no reason for an individual customer to build it. Infrastructure skews unit economics because the costs need to be spread thinly, across many devices and many customers. 

You can use Canonical’s infrastructure to accelerate time to market. Let’s walk through the flow:

Use existing infrastructure for IoT so you don’t skew unit-economics

Canonical provides a device build system that packages apps and the operating system into a device. This removes the complexity involved in integrating the full stack of hardware, operating system and user apps. The process of writing apps, packaging them and making them work with your device is automated. Any changes or updates to the OS or apps can be slotted into the model-driven architecture with minimal ongoing effort.

As discussed in the white-paper on App-stores , the most critical element to  infrastructure that helps you automate is how you get updates out to in-field devices. The goal is to do this with as little (ideally no) on-site engineering. An Appstore provides a field-tested update mechanism that works as your app store. 

Customer’s have successfully updated fleets of 30,000+ devices across the globe in as little as 2 days. Downloads are configured to when you want, and backed up with failure resistance. Advanced settings include creating channels of updates that match the risk profile of a device. No matter what the use-case of your device is, we’ve got you covered.


It’s easy to think green-field projects need a lot of DIY. They do and arguably should, but not when it comes to infrastructure. Use Canonical’s infrastructure now, to accelerate the launch of your IoT devices. 

Next time in this series, we’ll look at how other industries use specialists to essentially commoditise high-expertise steps to market. You should sign up to our IoT newsletter on the right hand side of this page to make sure you read it when it comes out. If you can’t wait till then, sign up to the webinar on How to launch IoT devices to get the full story, all in one place.

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