5 IoT MVPs you must see
Often, all it takes is a little reminder alongside a little dose of inspiration, and you might just have the next groundbreaking idea. Whether you’re at the ideation, prototyping, working on your MVP or even later stage, my goal is to share some successful examples that were once in the same position that you’re in right now!
An MVP is the very first product you can offer to your initial set of users to test if you can deliver any value to them.
A part of IoT solutions is often a mobile application, which will be the focus of this article. Without further ado, here are 5 captivating examples of IoT startups and their MVPs:
Let’s kick off with my favorite case – Fitbit, the famous wellness assistant we all know.
Fitbit’s history goes back to 2007 when founders James Park and Eric Friedman saw the potential to implement sensors into a small wearable device.
The first prototype literally consisted of an electrical circuit board housed in a wooden box, and it still managed to gain interest from the investors, allowing the team to secure $400,000 in funding.
This was when smartphones were only starting to become big, and iPhones had just come to play. The app was introduced only a year later, in 2010, allowing users to track 3 core metrics of Fitbit on their phones: step tracking, distance traveled, and calories burned throughout the day.
Fitbit’s value proposition was already validated, so the app served a complimentary, enhancing the overall Fitbit experience factor.
Before the mobile app, information gathered during the day could only be transferred onto a computer via a USB dongle. Users could access their data and monitor their progress through the online dashboard provided by Fitbit. They would have to go the extra mile for this syncing process, showing they genuinely desired the product. It’s always crucial to test whether your product provides enough value for your users to spend money on it.
2. Ring (doorbell)
Originally named Doorbot, Ring is an innovative doorbell that allows homeowners to communicate with visitors at their door remotely through a mobile app.
The founder – Jamie Siminoff – got the idea from his wife, who complained that he had a tendency to miss the doorbell. This simple issue inspired J.Siminoff to tackle the problem back in 2011 with a team of three engineers (himself and an intern) in a garage office. The group of five later ordered the first shipment of 5,000 doorbells from a Taiwanese company, and the rest is history.
Two years down the line, Ring was sold across 85 countries, scoring 20,000 units in sales. The company’s growth and technology led J.Siminoff to become a millionaire after selling the business to Amazon in 2018.
Over time Ring has improved and added features, such as cloud storage for video recordings, customizable motion detection zones, smart home device integrations, and compatibility with voice assistants.
Although the improvements helped Ring gain popularity and conquer markets, the prototype only consisted of the following core features: a video camera, audio communication, and a motion sensor. Therefore, the mobile app MVP focused on allowing the user to access the basic elements of the doorbell.
Coming from a biomedical engineering background, the Airthings case study is particularly dear to me. With a background as CERN scientists, the team couldn’t accept that Radon (gas) is the most common cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.
The conventional methods of detecting cancer after it has already started to grow in the body inspired the team to work toward proactive cancer detection. The result? A battery-powered short and long-term Radon detector for home use.
The Norwegian Research Council recognized the significance of the project and dedicated funding from their grant for the Airthings mission.
Even though the device served just one purpose, prototyping was not easy, and it took the team two years to design the first testable prototype.
With the help of their scientist peers, they gained access to the Radon chamber for throughout testing. After successful results, the team knew they were onto something.
Now picture yourself in the shoes of the Airthings team five years later after the release of the first Radon detector. If I were to ask you if you would make the 2nd generation of the detector with a full display for monitoring and reporting purposes or use the one we all have in our pockets, what would you choose?
As you can see, the team built a mobile app for remote monitoring and reporting. In the case of Airthings, the device’s single purpose did not require a dashboard at the beginning, such as a mobile app, and was only introduced later for improvement purposes.
By avoiding a costly touch display on the device, Airthings’ team quite possibly managed to save on production costs, showing that a more considerable investment for a mobile app at the start of a project can pay off in the long run.
From three scientist founders in a university office in 2023, the team’s headcount has risen to over 140 with an annual revenue of 35 million USD. It is also included in the public stock market.
Tile’s device is a simple item-tracking tool that helps users keep track of their belongings, especially when lost. Established in 2012, the founders, Mike Farley, and Nick Evans, raised 2,6 million in presales on their website a year later, with 50,000 units sold directly to the customers.
Accompanying the device is a mobile app which at MVP stage served four core purposes: device pairing, item tracking (map), ring function (triggering a sound to find), and an out-of-range alert.
Over time, Tile has evolved and introduced new features and improvements to its product, expanding its range of tracking devices and enhancing the app’s functionality.
5. August home
August Home is a smart lock that turns traditional door locks into smart ones. The lock enables users to control access to their homes remotely using a mobile app, granting keyless entry and the ability to monitor who enters and exits.
Established in 2012, the first prototype was accessible only within the range of Bluetooth capabilities, as the bridge with a Wifi connection was only introduced later.
The smart lock was accompanied by a mobile app that featured fundamental features, including a remote lock/unlock, a virtual key for trusted users, and alert notifications.
In 2017 the business was acquired by the Swedish industry giant Assa Abloy, leaving the founders Jason Johnson and Yves Béhar millionaires.
Often a part of IoT device projects is creating a mobile application that is a fundamental necessity or drastically enhances the user experience.
Many founders are unaware that there are cross-platform frameworks at their disposal that are lightyears ahead of natives’ quicker and less costly testing of the product.
Proving their position in the industry, cross-platform frameworks such as Flutter and React Native have become stable and are growing exponentially. It’s hands down the best choice for the project development phase, and 95% of the cases enough for a full product build.