Developing future-proof IoT solutions
Jabil, a billion-dollar contract manufacturer, engaged us to help them develop technology-agnostic, future-proof IoT solutions for their clients using a lean-agile development process.
Jabil, a $30B contract manufacturing business, builds products for 300 of the biggest brands in the world across a variety of industries — from healthcare, packaging, smartphones, and cloud equipment to automotive and home appliances. Beyond manufacturing, Jabil aims to provide additional value to its clients by leveraging technical expertise in a range of areas, including the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT refers to the network of physical objects — things — that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to connect with devices and systems over the internet. In other words, IoT products are where the digital and physical world meet. IoT enables companies to better analyze and act on data, providing timely and relevant insights about their business and customers — an enticing prospect for many of Jabil’s clients. Making the right choice when it comes to IoT technology is important, especially given the rapid pace of innovation in the sector. Companies choosing their IoT solutions today are at risk of buying into closed, proprietary IoT solutions that may result in vendor lock-in. For example, if a Jabil client buys into one aspect of a closed IoT product ecosystem, switching costs can be prohibitive when a better IoT solution comes along in the future. This client would be stuck building an inferior, more-expensive product.
Since Jabil is a manufacturing company and isn’t selling an IoT service, it’s in the unique position of being able to counsel clients on the best approach for their IoT needs without bias for any specific technology. Yet clients often think of Jabil simply as a manufacturer, rather than as a collaborator in innovation. As such, Jabil sought an outside partner that could change this perception among their clients — a partner with deep expertise in IoT as well as practical experience applying lean-agile methodologies to product development.
Our approach is focused on providing Jabil’s clients with knowledge around open-source IoT tools, while also helping them develop proof-of-concept prototypes as fast as possible.
Instead of the closed, proprietary IoT solutions offered by many of the major players on the market today, we leverage open-source tooling, breaking down IoT into 21 different microservices, which range from solutions like digital product registration — where you scan QR codes — to AI and machine learning on predictive maintenance. These solutions are based on well-defined, modular APIs, enabling Jabil’s clients to pick and choose which microservices fit best with their defined product needs. In this way, Jabil’s clients can try out a number of IoT solutions and quickly make adjustments as needed. This can help clients get products to market faster and more cost-effectively than competitors that go with proprietary IoT solutions.
The typical process for our engagement involves the following:
- Strategizing with clients on how IoT can be integrated into their product portfolio and what business needs it might serve
- Determining the specific IoT microservices to use
- Developing a prototype and demonstrating it to the client
- Gathering feedback from end users, asking them to interact with prototypes, and implementing their feedback
Our lean-agile approach to IoT product development allows us to make technology-agnostic recommendations, focusing on open-standards, open-protocol, open-API microservices. Compared to many of the largest IoT providers, our timeline for building an MVP of an IoT-enabled product is much faster: just 2–3 weeks compared to 18–24 months. Through this process, we help Jabil’s clients future-proof their products by enabling permissionless innovation. They won’t have to ask a massive IoT parent company to add desired features across their ecosystem — changes that can take months to roll out and require infrastructure upgrades. Instead, clients can add new features and functions directly to individual products on a case-by-case basis.
By decentralizing the product development process, Jabil’s clients avoid vendor lock-in, allowing them to develop IoT products faster, cheaper, and with more flexibility. On the other side of the equation, Jabil is able to provide additional value to their clients outside of manufacturing, while positioning themselves as a leader in the IoT manufacturing sector. It’s the definition of a win-win.
- Built and demonstrated open-architecture prototypes for six Jabil clients
- Implemented lean-agile processes for hardware development, reducing Jabil’s R&D cycle time from 18 months to six weeks and prototype cost from over $1M to under $100,000
- Helped Jabil become a recognized industry leader in IoT manufacturing