The task of finding a reasonable provider is never a trivial one, especially if hardware is involved. Especially now, when the number of manufacturers, producing various automotive sensors is growing exponentially due to the continuous expansion of Internet of Things.
This expansion is not only quantitative, but also qualitative. Even a couple of years ago “smart” elements of everyday devices were mostly introduced in order only to marginally increase market value of a project, as a minor improvement, whereas now these capabilities constitute the core value of any device. Combined, these devices make up a new vibrant business ecosystem for a variety of industries.
Automotive and fleet management industries are both relying heavily on sensors and controllers as the core of their telematics. Thus the quality and reliability of these components directly influence the resulting solution.
So, one of the most pressing issues car manufacturers encounter on the road to integration of various IoT products and services is the gargantuan effort they need to spend on the search of adequate providers of sensors. More often than not fascinating projects such as, for example, remote control of a car, are crippled by mundane lack of hardware suppliers.
We are not the ones to reinvent the wheel, so let’s examine the common ways to approach the task:
1. Design the required automotive sensors and controllers in-house and find a manufacturer who has the capacity to produce the desired components. As an option – establish a subsidiary manufacturer.
2. Find an OEM supplier who already produces an automobile controller with required characteristics and build a solution based on existing hardware concentrating the development effort on the software.
3. Find a ready-made solution encompassing software and hardware, negotiate suitable partnership terms, or purchase the company.
The first option which includes development of proprietary hardware is unsuitable for most companies due to the significantly prolonged timeline. It may take 6 to 12 month to design a stable product which is optimised in terms of cost and performance. Such duration is unfortunately unacceptable for innovative products, practically eliminating any competitive advantage connected with the innovative character of the product. The market is changing so fast, that Achilles stays way behind the Tortoise.
It is possible to accelerate the design stage by concentrating the design efforts onsite and thus eliminating delays in decision-making, but this undoubtedly leads to skyrocketing spending.
Finding an OEM supplier may sound as an easy solution but it may turn out to be tricky. Competing providers will not feel inclined to share valuable contacts, so it will be necessary to invest some time and effort in the search.
Quality issues: it’s no rare case when a feature declared for a particular device is not 100% ready or the quality leaves much to be desired. While having spent time on its review, we still need to discard such option and move to the next one, though valuable time has been wasted. And even if the perfect automotive sensors provider has been singled out of the hundreds available, the next stage – negotiation of price, characteristics, handling of defective goods, warranty conditions – is no less important or time-consuming.
And of course there is always the option to find a stable product with an off-the-shelf SDK. From there on there are two ways – a partnership with the automotive sensors manufacturer or acquisition of the company. Acquisition is a viable option for bigger companies, the greatest challenge lying in correctly estimating market value of the existing solution (its innovation value). Every now and then we hear about such type an acquisition – the most recent one is Intel buying Movidius. In this case the aspect which needs tracking is licensing arrangements for used third-party products.
Still, there is one more solution – hiring professional consultants which are experienced in R&D project development, preferably in fleet management and automotive. This way you will have access to the consultants’ existing network of providers, solutions, and services of experienced IT specialists, which can help to optimise the design and development stages.
Such companies have already invested heavily into getting to know the supplier market, have encountered most of the possible pitfalls and will lead you through the process effortlessly.