Hardware integration is an essential step in the smart product development process enabling product developers to perform tests on their products and to better understand smart product specifications. Successful Internet of Things (IoT) hardware integration is essential for optimizing the performance of the final smart product. The following are useful guidelines to follow when planning and integrating hardware into a smart product.

The importance of planning for IoT hardware implementation

During the planning stage of smart product development, it is important to plan the size and requirements of each component to prepare your product in advance for IoT hardware implementation. Adding or modifying the hardware and electrical components of a product at an advanced stage of product development can require adjustments to be made to the design of the smart product.

Mounting the IoT hardware components: choosing the best technique

There are various methods for mounting the hardware components onto your smart product including:

  • Screws and Bases: Screws and bases are a common method of mounting components onto plastic and metal products. It requires redesigning the product and adding the capability to fit the screws and bases onto the product.
  • Customized Housing: Used for locking a component into place using sockets or slots. Customized housing is considered an advanced way to mount a component and sometimes requires adding customized pieces, even though this method requires less manual labor.
  • Sewing or Stitching: This method is used when mounting hardware components onto soft material. It requires more manual labor, but is necessary in cases when electronic components are attached to fabrics.
  • Gluing: The fastest, simplest method of mounting hardware components onto your product. This method is recommended only when other options are not available. When using glue, make sure that the glue is in no way electrically conductive; warm glue is often used due to fast drying time and ease of use. This method also requires a considerable amount of manual labor, and is often used when electronic components are attached to fabrics.
A product developer installing hardware components

Make sure to protect the IoT hardware components

When the product is used in motion it may impact the components and wiring. It is important to follow these guidelines to make sure that the hardware components and wiring remain secure.

Ensure that:

  • All cables have hooks or gluing points.
  • The PCBs have a space of at least a few millimeters around them for heat dispersion.
  • No loose elements or components are hanging from the wires.
  • No wires or elements that can cause a short circuit in the hardware are exposed.
  • Depending on the industry, certain regulations and certifications determining the quality of the integration may apply. For example: baby products must be fire resistant in terms of both the electronics and the materials.

Remember to make adjustments according to the type of product e.g., if the product is waterproof, make sure the electronics are sealed. If the product has a screen and is intended for outdoor usage, ensure that the hardware elements are protected in case of extreme temperature change.  

Leave room in the product to enable access to specific elements

Make sure to leave enough space in the product for easy access to commonly used elements including: battery cases, screens, buttons and LEDs. In prototypes this space can be created using simple methods such as drilling. Or it can be planned for in advance using computer aided design (CAD) for both the prototype and the final product.

The significance of component location in the smart product

Make sure that these guidelines are followed to ensure the adequate placement of components in the smart product.

    • Communication elements such as antennae and readers require a certain distance, space, orientation, and positioning in order to function properly.
    • Buttons and other touch elements should be visible and accessible, and a convenient size and shape should be selected. It is important to consider ergonomics and the needs of product end-users e.g., buttons for children’s toys would most likely be bigger and stand out more than buttons on professional tools.   
    • Batteries and other power sources are usually placed in a concealed area of the product. There are many methods of concealing the power source and still keep it within easy reach.
    • PCBs are typically concealed within the product due to aesthetic and functional requirements. PCBs are mounted to the inside of the product usually by means of bolts, and are positioned in such a way that takes minimal effort to connect to it.
    • Screens and cameras are usually placed in a central location where they are most easily visible to the user and are then connected to the product hardware.
    • Sound elements such as speakers and buzzers should be placed in a concealed area, but with openings for the sound to transmit clearly. The shape and size of the openings should be determined by the desired aesthetics, as well as the size and power of the sound element.
    • LEDs should be positioned in the product according to their size and luminosity, taking into account the use case for operating each LED. e.g., a low battery LED can be small and placed in the back part of the product near the battery case, while an LED that is used for signaling something to the user should be placed in a visible location. 

Taking into account the placement of hardware components during product development is an essential step towards ensuring the successful operation of your smart product and one that should not be overlooked.

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