Facilitating Discussion with an IoT Canvas

One of the fundamental challenges in IoT projects is that various IT specialists, device experts, platform providers, and business experts often fail to understand one another – or, more precisely, the implications of each other's domains on their own. In the realm of IoT, business expertise encapsulates all areas where IoT is utilised.

Detailed guide related to APIOps Cycles phase:
Business First with API Canvas

For instance, experts might oversee aspects ranging from traffic light control to transportation and environmental issues. Consequently, project planning meetings can easily devolve into a series of monologues by these experts, with interactions reminiscent of ships passing in the night.

Columns on the canvas represent organisational objectives, usability requirements (including environmental conditions, especially for devices), data requirements, and technology and security requirements. Rows cater to applications, storage locations, communication with devices (i.e., the core of the IoT platform), and the devices with their embedded software.

The underlying principle is that moving from left to right and top to bottom, the various columns and layers influence each other and pose requirements to one another. Read in the opposite direction; they offer opportunities to each other.

To maximise the benefit of the canvas, use it before letting specialists from different fields speak up. The canvas can also be leveraged in ecosystem projects, where different organisations are responsible for different canvas sections.

Image 1: Canvas to conceptualise IoT solutions supporting the procurement process.

Image 2: Completed canvas (anonymised version from an actual workshop)

Instructions for Using the Canvas:

  1. Invite the project/procurement planning team and any necessary external experts to a workshop. Participants should possess business knowledge, an understanding of the organisation/project goals, environment, and users, as well as technical expertise from various IoT and IT areas. Allocate around 1 to 1.5 hours.
  2. Collaboratively fill in the canvas shown in Image 3 using sticky notes on flip chart paper or via a digital collaboration platform. The completion is quick, but participants must be provided with brief background information and some debriefing time.
  3. Ask each participant to start with the most familiar topic or one they have any thoughts or questions about. (See examples provided after the instructions for inspiration).
  4. Review the canvas collectively, engaging in discussions and seeking clarifications where needed. Start from the left, move right, and from the top down, commencing with organisational goals and concluding with technology and security requirements. Re-arrange sticky notes and add details as necessary.
  5. Conclude by discussing the most pressing open questions and identified challenges. Decide on assigning responsibility before taking further actions (e.g., detailing objectives, mapping architecture, refining requirements, drafting guidelines, or agreeing on roles). Summarise the discussion in a few final remarks.

Examples of Requirements and Questions:

Organisational/Business Requirements: 

  • Acceleration and fuel consumption monitoring; 
  • a variety of sensor types for future purposes; 
  • device power consumption; the impact of device lifecycle and lifespan on costs; 
  • clearer communication; automated data production; knowledge on what data moves where and how; reduced vendor dependency; 
  • cost reductions: operating vs. development costs, e.g., open-source app development vs. using a predefined interface; 
  • improved road safety, impact and potential business opportunities in the area.

Usability and Environmental Resilience (devices, e.g., sensors): 

  • Easy installation;
  • standardised installation models; 
  • low maintenance but maintainable; 
  • automated power supply (no battery replacement) and power-saving; 
  • ability to calibrate; 
  • 24/7/365 reliability and durability; 
  • exposure to road salt, solvents, and other chemicals; temperature, humidity etc. for indoor, outdoor, and northern conditions.

Data Requirements: 

  • What are the requirements for data and data transfer when purchasing new equipment? 
  • Are there any standard guidelines? 
  • Who/what is measured? What information can be collected (considering GDPR)? What is recognised? Ensure objectives for a data governance model are in place and outline the management model; should collected data be freely available? And to whom? Through apps or interfaces or both? Requirements related to data format and modelling.

Technology and Security Requirements: 

  • Communication requirements and network solutions, e.g., mobile network compatibility;
  • documented installation models; 
  • documented contact points, including physical installation permissions; 
  • documentation and guidelines (and monitoring) for protecting device networks; 
  • how to safeguard connections and devices from vandalism or cyberattacks; 
  • edge computing device requirements and optimal location; 
  • IoT platform as a SaaS solution; source code licensing (e.g., open-source); 
  • machine learning model licensing; 
  • data licensing; 
  • API management; 
  • documented interfaces; 
  • data governance; 
  • access management to devices, data, interfaces, and applications.

Back to related APIOps Cycles phase:
Business First with API Canvas
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