Prepared by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino & Pilgrim Beart
The Connected Digital Economy Catapult has worked on scoping the role of a Connected
Product Studio (CPS) through a series of activities including a stakeholder workshop,
interviews with various experts and desk research. The authors of this report researched
and documented the landscape of “connected products” in the UK, the resources already
at hand and the pain points early stage businesses were experiencing. They then
developed up innovation processes to resolve them within the context of a dedicated
space to be housed in the Innovator Centre, CDEC’s new home in London.
Key pain points related to the challenges in turning a very early stage prototype into a
product which adequately addressed hardware and software development issues.
Networking opportunities between early stage entrepreneurs and vendors of these
technologies was also highlighted as a potential activity. Understanding how corporate
partners could contribute to this ecology, either in procuring help from entrepreneurs or
vendors or partnering with startups was the third key pain point.
This report offers a straw man for some of the activities the CPS could conduct over the
course of a 6 month pilot program. It makes sure to highlight the strengths and
weaknesses for each processed and learnings from past industrial and governmental
programs in similar spaces (local development agencies, R&D spaces, etc).
The report finishes with conclusions and recommendations for moving forward with the
CPS as a “third space” for entrepreneurs, corporations & technology vendors to meet,
collaborate and accelerate the development of successful connected products and
therefore businesses in the UK’s unique business landscape.
In response to the recent growth in governmental and industrial interest in the development of
connected devices in the UK (commonly referred to as internet of things, quantified self, smart
cities, citizen science devices) the Connected Digital Economy Catapult requested a report on
the feasibility of a Connected Products Studio (CPS). This physical space would be carved out
of the upcoming Innovation Centre near Euston station in London and would be dedicated to
help accelerate the development of connected product prototypes into commercially
viable products by a range of practitioners.
The objective of this report is to elaborate on what that role the CPS should play considering
and growing industrial, academic and entrepreneurial landscape. It will also identify
some key opportunities and pain points which the CPS can address based on consultations
with experts and develop innovation processes that would help resolve those pain points
within the context of a possible pilot program. Building blocks for the CPS will be described
and examples of how customers might interact with them will be outlined.
If a space is to be truly useful to industry, we must start by identifying who would use the
space and for what reasons.
There are growing number of start-ups across the UK and Europe that fall under the
“connected products” category. They are often SMEs or micro-SMEs, at an early stage of
development and taking advantage of the rise of crowd-funding to help bootstrap the
commercialisation of a next-generation physical product.
Examples of these often consumer-facing connected products are shown below2
under 4 categories: home, wearables, maker tools & smart city applications.
Industrial SMEs & corporations
Other companies working in this space include SMEs in B2B applications (military,
communications, blue chip) that have started adding sensor networks or internet connectivity
to existing product lines.
Larger corporations such as Cisco, IBM, Intel have entered the connected products discourse
with either large marketing campaigns (Internet of Everything for Cisco, Smarter Planet for
IBM) or hobby/DIY centric tools (RaspberryPi, mbed by ARM, Galileo platform by Intel) but
their problem space is not the one this report will focus on as the market dynamics for
companies is easier to resolve by natural market dynamics.
Consumer goods manufacturers
Corporations in the consumer product space are currently looking to explore the potential of
new technologies in a dedicated space where they can ascertain the validity of an idea more
quickly and meet possible vendors before deciding to invest in resources (new hires &
tooling). These types of businesses represent a possible market for the CPS’s paid activities
and we will dive into proposing ways to interface with them in the next chapters.
Startups and SMEs currently have access to a number of spaces and processes which try to
encourage the development of next generation products in various ways.
Either US-based with access limited to a small number of startups or focused on giving access
to space / resources, there are no UK-based physical spaces that are completely dedicated to
these types of businesses and their unique challenges.
Name Type Location Elevator Pitch Physical
Funding Duration # of
Mayo Clinic /
MA, USA “A neutral setting for
collaboration on research
and innovation focused on
improving patient care and
lowering the costs of care.”
Office space No Ongoing TBC
Incubator London /
Springboard IoT will bring
the core methodologies used
by Springboard Web &
Mobile to massive success
with entrepreneurs, partners
and also corporates that
have pre-existing experience
within this sector to create
the world's first accelerator
bootcamp programme for the
Internet of Things.
office space at
Campus in Old
13 weeks 11
Incubator NYC “the first agency-based
accelerator program focused
on startups that are creating
connected devices and
Unclear $20K +
3 mo 10
Level 39 Incubator London
“Level39 is Europe’s largest
accelerator space for
finance,retail and future
Office space None,
“ can help you start, run and
grow your business.
London “a cross-disciplinary
research club for those
interested in the made world:
from makers of molecules to
makers of buildings,
synthetic skin to spacecraft,
soup to diamonds, socks to
Workshops London “a making and learning
space [...] for makers,
experimenters, production &
entreprise. A place for
pioneers & prototypes.”
None Ongoing Just
Incubator Shanghai /
“is a new kind of accelerator
For people who hack
hardware and make things.”
$25K 3 mo 10
What has been popular in the UK and accessible to startups in the early stages of
development, are so called “maker spaces”. There are currently over 30 such spaces in the
UK which are accessible (through either memberships of around £10/month or on a drop-in
basis) to a team or individual with an idea for a product that they would like to prototype.
Most of these spaces offer a minimum of access to soldering, laser cutting and 3d printing
facilities that would otherwise be available professionally (services offered by the architectural
or in university engineering & design departments across the country.
These point to a strong existing network of physical spaces where the first phase of a
connected product can be prototyped and a local community accessed without spending too
much time and money on transportation. Beyond that point however, the resources are rather
4D Modelshop / www.modelshop.co.uk
iMakr shop / www.imakr.com
As such the CPS could position itself as fulfilling the needs of a community of entrepreneurs
who might find the resources of the British Library too limited (the business models involved in
software and hardware together are unique to connected products), the materials unavailable
or expensive to order just to try out and the maker space ill equipped to help them move into
production. These assumptions had to be tested with a community of maker space managers,
entrepreneurs and corporations which led us to conduct a day-long workshop around these
issues to test and scope the problem space and pain points the CPS would be addressing.
Keeping in mind the existing landscape of services on offer, our stakeholder workshop in
January 2014 aimed to focus on
1. identifying the top 5 pain points involved in developing connected products
2. identify what the CPS could offer in terms of processes to help solve those pain
Additionally we were able to describe a process of successfully commercialising a connected
product at a micro SME stage (blue line). This included access to a number of resources (grey
columns), some of which were defined as under-developed or hard to reach in the UK right
now (green columns).
Out of a selection of 20, 5 pain points were finally identified as unique and difficult to currently
● Connecting hardware & software
Connecting a product means designing a physical product which has
electronics embedded inside which run embedded software that then connects
to the web or other cloud software platforms. Making a choice about which
electronics to design, how to write the software and web platform (or mobile
platform if need be) can take some time for a startup. What is valid in the early
stages of development when presenting a prototype of a product or a demo
possibly hinders development at scale in the later stages. Getting support,
inspiration and knowing what is out there are crucial pieces of research that all
startups in this space must spend time doing. The advantage though is that
there are limited set of technologies to choose from which could be presented
in a way that could support many startups at the same time. We will discuss
● Developing a proof of concept (specifically access to the right expertise).
Having access to the type of expertise that would allow an entrepreneur to
develop a scalable product can be expensive to find (time-consuming) in order
to receive basic feedback on a product prototype. This highlights a crucial
stage in the product’s development which is the point at which a prototype
needs to become a pre-industrialised product. Experts in the development of
electronics design & production, back-end web developers, embedded software
engineers and other experts are rarely available on a freelance basis, don’t
often network in the same events as early stage entrepreneurs and are located
close to industrially focused areas in the UK where full-time employment is
easier to find. This points to an opportunity to bring both communities to the
same table and enable them to directly engage and work together.
● Doing user research / reaching to potential customers
Market validation is important to a startup in the early stages but time-
consuming to organise. Giving startups the opportunity to show their work to
early adopters or the types of consumers they are looking to attract in the early
days means they are more likely to be able to make the right design and
production decisions to make their connected product attractive to a larger
audience and market further down the line.
● Finding corporate partners
Finding the right partners to engage in full production of a product or potential
larger partnerships can be time-consuming and expensive for a startup. Finding
out which person to speak to within an organisation, getting some of their time,
understanding the timescales involved in engaging with that larger player are
all part of the challenges in the space of connected products. What makes it
unique and beyond a simple networking problem is that often a connected
product will relate to several industries at the same time, so corporate ties will
happen at different levels. If a startup is developing a connected watch, they
may need to engage with a fashion label, a watch manufacturer, a Machine-to-
Machine provider within a telecommunications company. These are all much
larger organisations but for the product to survive, those startups do need the
expertise available there and the potential partneships.
In addition to these pain points, workshop participants as well as later interviews enabled us to
come up with some key learnings based on what the market has already been doing in similar
Connected hardware and software should be easier.
Considering the number of vendors working on connected technologies cross the UK’s
industrial landscape (wifi, low energy bluetooth, whitespace, GSM and others) there is a gap
to be filled by a pool of resources that allows smaller companies to make better design
decisions to make their designs scalable. A recurring theme during the stakeholder workshop
was the idea of matchmaking services between a fairly technical workforce (engineers,
developers, etc) and the entrepreneurs themselves or a connection between universities and
entrepreneurs. This presents some interesting challenges for a dedicated physical space as
most matchmaking could be entirely digital and work regardless of location but the point
remains that there are physical components which entrepreneurs do not have access to and
are not currently available easily or require expertise that isn’t affordable to a startup in the
Make the physical space that makes sense
Feedback from the workshop points to a desire from community managers & entrepreneurs
not to see a competing space created in London to existing maker/hacker spaces which
means the CPS will have to offer a complementary set of physical resources and a strong
program or activities / events for participants.
There were mentions of examples of unsuccessful spaces that attempted to offer material
resources with no clear program of activities include Mersey Broadband and Northern Net.
Both programs were supported by the North West Development Agency & EU funding
between 2000 and 2006 and according to entrepreneurs in the area found little uptake or
success with the local community as they over-focused on access to technologies which
became very quickly irrelevant or obsolete a few months after acquisition.
A successful way to resolve this issue is exemplified by the Ogilvy Digital Labs space in
Canary Wharf which after 8 years supports a healthy relationship with a network of vendors in
the consumer electronics space who lend or donate samples of their products for internal
demonstration purposes. These vendors understand the importance of being able to expose
their products to advertising executives who are then able to think about their products across
accounts & develop more technologically advanced campaigns thus leading to more business.
Further challenges are found in offering what could be considered prototypical event / meeting
/ workshop rooms or event spaces. These are widely available in London and commercial
pressures mean these spaces often do not offer consistent community events. This role is
therefore taken up by pubs such as the ones that have been hosting the very popular Hacks &
Hackers meetup of journalists & technologists
(http://www.meetup.com/HacksHackersLondon/) or external sponsors. Google Campus for
example has been hosting Silicon Drinkabout http://silicondrinkabout.com/london for 3 years
and Xivelyhave been hosting the Internet of Things meetup London
(http://www.meetup.com/iotlondon/) since late 2011. Another model is Shoreditch Village Hall
which offers free events to non-profit events. (http://shoreditchworks.com/shoreditch-village-
hall). All of these are long-term engagements with a community and this is something the CPS
should consider going forward.
London is a hub with spokes
There is a clear anxiety in the community of entrepreneurs & community managers about the
role of London in a discourse around connected products. The strongest idea that came out of
the day was that the makerspaces become a gateway space for anyone to enter or access the
CPS’s resources. A team would need to meet with the owners of a local makespace to talk
through what they are trying to do to see if existing resources / people are available locally to
help them to the next stage of development. This would act as a great way to empower
existing spaces across the UK and connect them to local entrepreneurs. This will also insure
the CPS doesn’t get flooded with requests for support from teams that aren’t quite ready to
use its services. We want to help the leaders, those teams who have enough internal
motivation to get to the next stages of development quickly.
Market Validation is difficult.
Right now there are no accessible or cheap ways to test a product with potential customers
other than engaging with market research companies which is why crowdfunding platforms
like Kickstarter have essentially become marketing platforms that are both useful to
entrepreneurs and investors to validate a marketplace for a product. Market research around
connected products is also more challenging as products will often only really make sense to
consumers once they can live with the product for a few weeks / months.
Most of these point to opportunities in increasing the exposure of connected products startups
to a pool of specialised resources in business, customer & product development fields. This in
turn helps them make a better product which will increase their chances of finding funding
opportunities which are currently limited due to the lack of clarity around a particular product’s
marketability & customer interest.
CPS would be most useful as a “third space” for businesses to really understand in a hand-on
process how to move forward with an connected product idea more effectively. It would help
them validate a market space more quickly and while meeting companies or vendors they are
likely to work with in partnership.
The resources and building blocks necessary to achieve these goals would be split between:
- A Connected Technologies Library & Demo Space
Offering startups and entrepreneurs access to hardware and software working demos
and materials. Activities connected to this resource would include:
o Working physical exhibits / demos
o Matchmaking resources
- A Showcase Space
By creating a platform for showcasing new connected products (within an open or
closed IP context), the CPS would be attracting the vendors or corporations directly to
meet entreprenrus thus saving them time and enabling opportunities directly. Activities
connected to this resource would include:
o Networking sessions
o User feedback sessions
- A Work Space
A dedicated and reconfigurable work space where teams could be assembled and
work together in a space would enable intensive work sessions over a few days or a
weeks around themes where rapid development is necessary (health, transportation,
Activities connected to this resource would include:
o Themed workshops or Boot camp weeks
These resources would help connect entrepreneurs to vendors and corporations through 3
different innovation processes we will now describe.
What is it?
In this process the “Connected Technologies Library” would be made available to both early
stage ideas (no prototype) and later stage startups (looking to go beyond their first prototype
to making many) to understand and explore for themselves the technologies (hardware and
software) they need to think about integrating and working with.
An innovator with an idea would visit the library and a dedicated “Demo Space” where
physical demos using connected technologies are set up and maintained by vendors.
Not unlike design & architectural materials libraries available around the country, this one
focuses on the ingredients for connecting products, getting someone to understand what they
should look to invest in early on in the process both in terms of hardware and software.
Entrepreneurs would explore these demos, be given basic information about the technologies
they use and which vendors offer them and contact details for those vendors.
This might enable a designer or entrepreneurs at a very early stage idea to be influenced by
the realistic use of connected technologies.
Entrepreneurs would also be encouraged to attend seminars offered around a range of topics
which would help them understand these technologies in more details. The range of topics
covered could include:
● Getting Started with prototyping a connected product idea (Introduction to the various
prototyping platforms available, pros and cons for each)
● Introduction to connecting technologies (an overview of all technologies available)
● Connecting products to a mobile phone (Low energy bluetooth, etc)
● Connecting products via wifi
● Connecting products via radio (Neul, Sigfox, etc)
● Building connected products at scale
● Building services for connected products (web / mobile services, etc)
Theses would be charged at a reasonable rate and give entrepreneurs some high-level
knowledge around technologies (hardware and software) and vendors who could get them to
the next level.
This has the happy by-product of encouraging a community of future innovators to choose
technologies and platforms that are open and interoperable instead of dealing with the “fait
accompli” of a prototype someone has thought too much about and chosen difficult or
The pain points addressed with this process
In this process we are clearly supporting the development of better prototypes and informing
entrepreneurs (and possibly corporate managers) who aim to understand more fully the
details of how to bring an idea to a more advanced stage of prototyping. We aren’t exposing
the entrepreneurs to possible consumers or corporate partners at this early stage in the
process as we don’t believe it would be that useful to them. We may find we are indirectly
getting corporates to attend a workshop where they might meet entrepreneurs or vendors who
can help develop ideas further but this isn’t the immediate aim as the core audience for this
process is startups and entrepreneurs who, as mentioned, need more support.
Connecting hardware & software Yes
Developing a proof of concept Yes
Doing user research / reaching to potential customers
Finding corporate partners Indirectly
In this model we’re addressing all the pain points identified by stakeholders and are insuring
that the physical space is essentially constantly busy, active and in flux. We’re also insuring a
connection to existing maker / spaces centres and really addressing issues which are at the
heart of the development of a connected product. We are offering a format of engagement
which is understandable and akin to a hands-on museum experience, not something that is
currently available in the UK. This should make it easy to access and should encourage
constant flow of visitors & attendees throughout the duration of a possible trial period.
This model is dependent on the right kinds of hires to run the program of seminars and
engaging with vendors to maintain the Demo Space. The Demo Space may increase or
decrease in size according to vendor engagement so we may need to include budget for a
technical staff to be available on contract to maintain the whole space regardless of the
vendor. Maintaining a good library and functional Demo Space will be key to the process and
adequate measures should be taken so that the demos are simple (ie 10 Ways to Connect a
Light Bulb) but using a wide breadth of technologies.
We’re also mostly focused on entrepreneurs and young companies, although corporations
might find it relevant to send their staff to some of these seminars. This might mean that
financial opportunities are not fully explored but can be mitigated by research on attendees at
the point of sign-up.
What is it?
In this scenario we are building the conditions for ideas to be presented to a larger audience of
potential customers & partners. This is a more traditional take on a process of exhibition but
enables a closed or open process of learning for startups who find it difficult to find feedback
outside their immediate group of family, friends and peers. Tradeshows are expensive and
time-consuming for a very early stage startup (it cost Good Night Lamp £13K to exhibit at the
Consumer Electronics Show) and the Showcase Space would be dedicated to organizing
events focusing on curating a number of events where startups developing connected
products along specific themes would be invited to come and show their work. Some of these
events could be placed within a non-disclosure context if the industry they operate in is highly
competitive (health for example) or more open public events for startups who are at a launch
stage and want both potential beta testers or general feedback.
A startup would have the opportunity to look at a schedule of open and closed Showcase
Events and apply to showcase their product. This could be done entirely online or by meeting
members of the CPS team at a seminar and seeing the Demo & Showcase Event in action.
Closer to the event they would be given the opportunity to access the list of invitees to help
them dictate how to present their prototype in the best possible light. This Showcase Space
could be set up temporarily within the space or be a permanent fixture of the space, so
startups would get a chance to sign up to either. Some of them might not be willing to part with
an early stage prototype for more than a few hours and the CPS should accommodate both
The pain points addressed with this process
In this process we are clearly supporting the development of networks of potential future
customers for startups and entrepreneurs, we are also helping build a bridge between the
outside world and themselves in a sustainable long-term way. This process is more targeted
at startups who already have something to show, implying that they are no longer at a stage of
prototyping but real development so the support needed is really about meeting customers
and potential vendors and partners, something the Connected Digital Economy Catapult
already has access to.
Connecting hardware & software no
Developing a proof of concept no
Doing user research / reaching to potential customers yes
Finding corporate partners yes
At the present moment, the opportunity to showcase a connected product prototype is limited
to industry conferences adding on a “showcase” space (Launch in San Francisco, MakerFaire,
TechCrunch Disrupt, SXSW, CHI), expensive tradeshows (CES, CeBit) or talks that a founder
gets to give at an event where they might demo their product on stage (conferences, meetups,
etc). These are limited in terms of exposure as the focus is rarely the startup itself but the
event around it and the curation is driven by cost (ie how many startups are willing to spend
money for the space allocated). There would be great appetite for recurring events where a
community of early adopters as well as potential partners are invited to attend a Showcase
Events knowing a little about who they will meet, the theme addressed and self-selecting
accordingly. The focus would squarely be on the startups and the innovative solutions they are
proposing in a particular industry segment. This format would also allow interest in industries
that are more neglected to develop more publicly (health for the elderly, disabled, home
energy management). Public Showcase Events would also help the CPS grow its network of
possible vendors for the Demo Space and Seminars as these would be run in the same space.
The availability of startups to showcase at events is of course dependent on their ability to be
present, so recurring themes may need to be visited over the course of a year. There may
also be some self-selection when it comes to startups attending as they may realize a
competitor is exhibiting. Having organized the British Gas Connected Event in September
2013, this wasn’t the case but the energy industry is very top heavy and not afraid of
competition. In more nimble sectors like the automotive industry, we may find startups are
unwilling to be in the same room with competitors. This risk is mitigated by having closed
events but can never be entirely removed. The schedule of Showcase Events is equally
important to enable a large enough audience to attend, considering a tendency for fickleness
on the part of attendees in London specifically (average 40% drop-off rate).
What is it?
Smart homes, telecare, energy & elderly care are, as mentioned of great importance to
government but the challenges are very large when it comes to small teams attempting to
address them (Project Andiamo in Bethnal Green Ventures is a perfect example).
Taking inspiration from conversations with corporations and groups like Forum for the Future
the idea here is to take a community of entrepreneurs, vendors and corporates and enable
collaboration in a closed setting to accelerate the design of ideas and prototypes inside what
we’re calling the Work Space of the CPS.
A theme would be set with a corporate sponsor and a cohort of designers & technologists
would be invited apply to be part of the cohort of people to spend days or a few weeks in that
The aim is to create the conditions for the creation of strong teams who want to take an idea
forward together and create businesses. The corporate partners could be harnessed as
sponsors of a project to enable maximum collaboration and get first right of refusal to the
ideas that are generated (a model used in academia).
Two models are proposed to put this process into practice. The first is to take the approach of
aiming to develop a high resolution prototype using as many existing resources as possible.
This could be by taking a cohort of 30 or so participants and getting them to work on a
particular brief during a fortnight or so.
They would spend the first week in the CPS, spending their time between information
sessions giving access to new skills and coming up with ideas, a business case, doing some
user research and designing a solution which they’d like to spend time on. They would then
pitch at the end of that first week to the sponsor & other industry guests (possibly investors as
well) their initial thinking and receive feedback. The second week would be spent offsite at a
local hackspace developing a prototype. By the end of the week, the team returns to present
their idea again to a more senior stakeholder inside the sponsoring company and a number of
other relevant industry guests. This type of format would mean the rapid acceleration of
exposure of an idea to the right conditions to turn it into a sustainable SME (team, corporate
partner, user feedback).
The second format would be by positioning the CPS to be a change agent for corporations
looking to use connected products technologies. A corporation would come in for a few days
(similarly to Hyper Island Master Classes12
which address digital challenges within
organisations) and work on an internal brief with a carefully curated group of vendors &
entrepreneurs. They would work in teams and outcomes could include paper prototypes and
ideas around possible products that could be developed internally considering available
resources and internal processes. Even if this format doesn’t aim to aim for the development
of high resolution solutions, it would still take advantage of the Connected Technologies
Library in the CPS in order to inform the corporate stakeholders of what is available out there
and put them in touch with appropriate vendors and smaller partners.
The pain points addressed with this process
The real outcomes of this model focus on creating a collaboration space for all 3 audiences of
the CPS and the rapid incubation of ideas and businesses in a short period of time. There
would be a real focus on taking advantage of an isolated period of time to both educate
participants as to what is possible, and turning that learning into business opportunities that
are possible to test because of the network available to participants.
Connecting hardware & software partly
Developing a proof of concept yes
Doing user research / reaching to potential customers no
Finding corporate partners yes
This model really focuses on bringing value to corporates and vendors more than startups
which implies that the financial aspect of this model would be easier to manage. This
innovation process is much closer to existing models of outsourced R&D which major
corporations have been using for years. Finding such corporations within the CDEC’s existing
network should be within reach. This also makes use of the CPS’s space and networks in a
flexible yet intense which adapts to the professional lives of entrepreneurs & vendors. The
CPS needs to be seen as engaging with existing resources and this model connects the dots
as it were. There is great strength in creating a cohort attitude to this type of activity. Teams
do well when they interact with each other in an intense environment and under strict
deadlines as the first scenario hints at. This cohort attitude should be encouraged and
maintained throughout the CPS’s activities.
Making sure a good mix of vendors, entrepreneurs and internal stakeholders is key to the
success of this model as it would be easy for one vendor to take over the conversation if the
mix isn’t curated adequately, leading to participant frustration. The outcomes of this model
entirely rely on the quality of the brief given by the corporation which implies that a lot of work
should be done to make sure these briefs are generally attractive to the right kind of talent in
the network. Guaranteeing the quality of the output is also difficult as this relies on team
dynamics which cannot truly be tested so the expectations of the corporate should be
Creating a pilot program for these innovation processes should be examined carefully. During
a period of pilot of no less than 6 months, there could be an opportunity to:
o Build up the Demo Space & Library with a minimum of 10 vendors for hardware
and 10 vendors for software over the course of a couple of months before the
pilot is launched.
o Build up a program of Seminars with industry leads over the same period of
time so that a minimum of 1-2 workshops / topic is offered during the 6 month
period. This would allow a community of startups and entrepreneurs to pick the
workshops they can sign up to in advance and plan to spend some time in
London. The exact timing of these Seminars should be examined carefully and
appeal to startups that aren’t based in London.
o Run 1 Showcase Event every month for startups that already exist and might
already be at a more advanced stage of prototyping. This will enable a
community of possible customers, investors and corporates to take the
opportunity to attend and take the time to come to London for it.
o Run at least 1 Design Workshop with a corporate to test the model, the
outcomes and the level of engagement from vendors and entrepreneurs. This
will take some time to put in place, but will be a more lucrative way to finance
the CPS’s activities.
The tools available for Connected Technologies Library would include working, set up
examples of 5 basic component categories in any complete IoT solution – see diagram below.
There is also an optional 6th one (if the WAN is not IP). Some systems may not require a
Gateway (or it may be an existing device e.g. a mobile phone). The Sensor and Application
will generally be delivered by the team taking part in the workshop, but we want generic
components between them.
In the above picture, it is not what’s inside the components that matters, but the connections
between them - that’s where standards matter. CDEC is in a position to choose the “right”
standards (which will evolve over time ), and enforce their use amongst suppliers – and it
should do this to help drive ecosystem critical mass.
Interface standards that CDEC might enforce
We have suggested standards that CDEC could choose to support. The exact numbers can
be found by surveying the market and optimising for Constrained Choice: enough functionality
to allow most apps, but requirements limited-enough that many vendors can meet them,
therefore giving choice.
If we ensure that there are competitive solutions for each component in the chain, we should
also do end-to-end, reference implementations. These could be demonstrable at the Library.
If we get the interfaces right, it should of course also be possible to swap these parts about,
There exist connected product solutions in the market which provide several of these blocks in
one monolithic chunk. There are advantages of this (less parts for the product owner to worry
about), but also disadvantages (lock-in caused by lack of standards-compliance). We should
be pragmatic about this and allow monolithic solutions, whilst giving a strong steer to
innovators and suppliers that using standards at the interfaces is a good thing.
The role of the Connected Product Studio is to make available to innovators the knowledge
required to take a connected product to market. Our goal should be to encapsulate this
knowledge within our chosen Components as much as possible, so that they can be used like
Lego bricks without any specialist understanding of how they work.
However in reality, the innovator will always need to:
1. Make informed choices between Components
2. Have some understanding of implications of their choices in terms of functionality,
manufacturability, cost, lock-in etc.
3. Write a little code to configure things (sometimes just a page or so of high-level code in a
In everyday professional electronics development, when an engineer decides to use a
component such as a chip, they can avail themselves of the advice of the chip vendor’s
Application Engineer, who understands the “ins & outs” of the component and can advise on
its best use. I believe that CDEC needs a member of staff in a similar role, but vendor-neutral,
who understands how to take all the Components through their paces, including having the
right firmware images loaded onto the hardware, and how to tweak example code, and the
pro’s & con’s of each choice.
I think the tasks of the CDEC Application Engineer in their first 3 months ahead of launch
should be to:
· Make final hardware selections
· Reach out to vendors to gain their support and co-operation
· Order hardware
· Bring-up and hardware and join into several end-to-end solutions
o (should only take a day or two per. Abandon/Defer choices if they prove harder)
These end-to-end solutions then form out-of-the-box reference implementations that
innovators can use as-is, and easily modify.
The worked examples below illustrate typical paths that a CDEC customer (an innovator)
might take in interacting with CDEC’s catalogue of Lego-like components. The examples are
chosen to illustrate a spectrum of customers – from those with no technology knowledge, to
those with reasonable technical skills but no knowledge of how to launch at-scale product. In
all cases, CDEC’s goal is to get the innovator to the point where they can have sensible
conversations with investors and/or with scale-up experts to help with buying/manufacturing &
(based on the author’s direct experience of developing a
The Good Night Lamp team has been looking at how to efficiently and cheaply connect
their responsive lamps for global families. After many months of trying to scope a radio
then wifi solution, they settle on the idea of an M2M provider. With no real sense of
what a price structure for that kind of development looks like, they go to the Connected
Technologies Library to have a look at some GSM modules on display and collect the
name of vendors. Once on site they also sign up for a 2h workshop that their CTO can
sit in on so they know how to talk to those vendors and if what they are trying to
achieve is beyond the scope of what GSM is capable of offering. They also get a
sense of the cost of the modules and data for 5 years which is what they plan to offer
their beta customers for their first batch of products.
Fred is a clothes designer. For this year’s London Fashion Week he wants to launch a
new range of high-fashion dresses which incorporate panels of e-paper, allowing its
appearance to react to the mood of global events. He’s got a very simple electrical
prototype where he can make the panels change by connecting them to a battery, i.e.
electrics but no electronics. Fred is referred to CDEC by his alma mater design college.
He outlines his requirements in a 1-hour consultancy session with a CDEC expert,
and they quickly identify the following requirements: Smallest possible electronics on
the dress, designed-in-for-life An internet connect to collect newsfeeds, which works
Based on these requirements, the CDEC expert recommends using a Bluetooth Smart
dongle in the dress, linking to an App on the consumer’s Smart Phone, i.e. phone-as-
mothership-and-skyhook As it happens, there is a “Bluetooth Apps” cohort about
to run through CDEC, so Fred joins it, and learns about the hardware options, how to
design for maximum battery life, and who can help with developing his iPhone and
Android Apps. London Fashion Week is a great success. Fred is the talk of the town,
with his demonstrations to journalists working flawlessly. His designs are optioned by
Vivian Westwood and ASoS offer mass-market distribution, based on his volume price
projections. The manufacturing consultant he’s engaged advises him to buy existing
pre-licensed Bluetooth modules, and he enters volume production.
Jill is a barista in an international chain of coffee shops. She tinkers in her spare time
and so has hobbyist-level electronics and software skills. She notices that customers
often want a coffee refill (for which they’d pay) but don’t want to queue to place their
order. She sees a win-win opportunity – a coffee cup which signals the staff when it’s
empty. Jill takes advice from the British Library about how to patent her invention. She
then lashes-up a very basic prototype using a proprietary short-range unlicensed radio
module from Maplin, and gets permission from her manager to test it in one of her
shops. It is a huge hit. The chain wants to roll it out across all their shops, trial it in
other countries and even license it to other chains. Jill knows that her lash-up needs
“professionalising” – it will need to be CE-marked, and use a radio frequency that is
legal across multiple countries. Her local Makespace puts her in touch with CDEC.
In a 1-hour consultancy session, Jill and the CDEC expert identify that the following
technology choices make sense for this application:
o A WiFi end-point in the cup, since the shops already have WiFi coverage and it
gives sufficient range
o A cloud-based application which integrates with the shops’ existing online tills,
to place repeat orders.
The CDEC reference WiFi implementation shows Jill a likely choice of module, so she
can start working with industrial designers on the final size & shape of the cup. CDEC
put her in touch with a server-side expert who writes a scalable application in the cloud
to support her application. The coffee shop gradually finds more and more value in the
data they get from their cups, and their profits rise.
Scandi Industries’ CEO Soren Lorenson has a problem. Her range of networked Street
Lights and Litter Bins have been selling well, but now her customers in city councils
have started insisting that her products support Open standards, so that they can
connect other pieces of street furniture such as signposts, air-quality and flood sensors,
and not be locked-in. Her technical team don’t know much about modern technology
and they aren’t stepping-up to the challenge. So she books a 1 -hour appointment
with CDEC, which she’d first got to know when she attended their gala opening
With the help of the CDEC expert, Soren identifies that the following choices are
likely to fit her needs:
o 6LoWPAN as an IP-to-the-edge wireless standard to network between each light,
and to other street-furniture
o A Gateway from 6LoWPAN to cellular on every 100th
In two months there’s a CDEC Cohort scheduled on “Industrial and Commercial
networking”. Since this is important but not urgent, Soren decides she can wait so
she books-in her CTO to attend. He learns about the value of IP-to-the-edge, and
realises that he can’t be an expert in everything – this is something they should buy-in.
As part of the cohort he’s introduced to several vendors, and over coffee during a
break develops a good relationship with one vendor in particular. The vendor helps
him integrate their off-the-shelf module, using a simple re-spin of their existing
PCBs. Scandi go on to become the global leader in connected street furniture.
Big Bold Buildings is one of the world’s most successful Managed Office Space
providers. But they have a growing problem because their customers are not booking
shared meetings rooms properly, which leads to inefficient use of space and annoyed
customers. Their COO is tasked with finding a solution. Googling doesn’t show him
any off-the-shelf solution, but he does note CDEC’s website which advertises expertise
in connected products. He’s noticed that all the building’s lighting is motion-sensitive,
and wonders why these sensors (already in the meeting rooms) couldn’t also help to
detect when they are occupied. He approaches the manufacturer, who admit to having
had similar ideas, but a lack of knowledge about how provide the connectivity. Buoyed
by this confirmation of need from a customer, and having been given the CDEC
contact, their CTO consults a CDEC expert.
In conjunction with the CDEC expert, they work out that for this application the right
o ZigBee to connect the motion-sensors, because they want compatibility with other
ZigBee profiles such as Light Link
o A gateway plugged into the corporate intranet, talking to their online room-booking
The CTO invites the CEOs of both companies to visit CDEC for a demonstration of
connected products. The concrete examples he sees there give them both confidence
that the problem can be solved, and simply. A ZigBee module manufacturer is
identified, and a consultant engaged to help them modify their hardware and software.
A year later, their customers are happier and their room-booking fees have increased.
The UK, because of its mix of technical, corporate and creative industries is in a unique
position to give life to the CPS. It’s rich academic and informal (hacker / maker friendly
spaces) spaces for startups to develop connected product ideas is very much already
established. Helping support the next steps in that development is the key role the CPS
should undertake. It should tread carefully in allowing all stakeholders to get involved in
shaping its activities so that collaboration is at the heart of its values. Key recommendations to
emerge from this report include:
o Support the connection of the technology vendors with startups very early on in
the development process. Connect with the environments more likely to support
such ideas such as design & engineering colleges, hacker/maker spaces, and
consumer goods corporations. We propose to do this through resources available in
the CPS (Connected Technologies Library, Demo Space, Seminars) and these should
be physically and digitally very easily accessible.
o Support the market validation of ideas The quicker a startup is able to present its
ideas to a community of either early adopters or the general public, the more easily it
can validate its idea. The CPS should support this at all costs through networking and
showcasing of ideas at whatever stage they might be. Offering these types of platforms
can save a startup from the delusion that their product might be fit for market and can
allow them to “pivot” quite quickly.
o Support the whole ecology Corporations in the consumer goods area are also
interested in the implications of connected technologies on their business but rarely
have the right talent at a strategic level. The CPS’s secondary aims should be to allow
them to connect to startups and vendors they can learn from (Design Workshops) or
acquire further down the line. These could be lucrative enough for the CPS to allow it
to offer startups more reasonably priced services.
None of what the report proposes exists in the UK and abroad, the US is leading the way with
a rather short-term approach to startups in the connected products space (rapid incubation).
The CPS’s potential is to see the support of startups as a long-term activity which will grow an
ecology of businesses that will make the UK a leader in this exciting market.
Supply rails are 3.3V and all I/O can comply with this.
§ 2? channels, rail-to-rail, 1Hz?
§ 5? Bits
§ 1? Channel, rail-to-rail, 1Hz?
§ 5? Bits
Permissable to have bidirectional pins too, provided they can be easily configured.
A choice of:
1. Bluetooth Smart (aka LE or 4.0)
3. 6LoWPAN (IP to the edge)
4. ZigBee (especially SE1.2 for UK Smart Metering)
For consumer applications, WiFi & Bluetooth may be good choices, whereas for Industrial and
Commercial applications, 6LoWPAN probably the emerging winner.
Should always be IP, except where the WAN is non-IP (e.g. Weightless)
A choice of:
1. Ethernet (presumed to go over Broadband, or corporate LAN)
Always use these:
This is a great place to make the API machine-readable, so promote HyperCat, SenML etc.
(but not mandatory)
This is not the last word in component selection1415
, as the landscape is in constant flux.
For each component type, the Inputs and Outputs of the Component are shown, so that one
can see how to chain components together into an end-to-end solution (based on standards).
In each case, the emphasis is on off-the-shelf, i.e. something that works with no other
hardware, and with no wiring or soldering (at most, a plug-on daughterboard).
These are all small, low-cost, battery-powered wireless modules whose memory and
computational power are limited. They sense the world and forward the readings, generally via
a wireless LAN to a gateway.
For some uses, some of these choices would be the only hardware required.
Inputs à Module Outputs
60 OTS Sensor boards Libelium Waspmote Cellular, 802.15.4, ZigBee,
WiFi, Bluetooth (pick just
one or two of these)
ADC x7, USB, UART etc. SolderSplash WiFI
DipCortex (mBed + cc3000
GPIO, ADC, UART Arago WiSMote mini
or Zolertia Z1
6LoWPAN on 802.15.4
GPIO, ADC Telegesis ETRX3 ZigBee SE 1.2
Each of these needs to be loaded with a firmware image to make it support the given output
standard. This code then has to be adjusted (in some cases by editing source code and
recompiling, in other cases using a “configurator”) to select which input channels are to be
For some uses, some of these choices would be the only hardware required. They are
general-purpose computing platforms with a proper operating system (usually Linux) and
require mains power. They all “output IP”, i.e. connect to the internet, via a broadband router
or corporate gateway. Generally using wired Ethernet, but WiFi can generally be added with a
£8 plug-in dongle. Some are “open hardware”.
Inputs -> Gateway -> Outputs
ZigBee Raspberry Pi with RaspBEE
WiFi Arduino Yun IP (Ethernet)
6LoWPAN Libelium Mote Runner GA IP (Ethernet)
Bluetooth 4.0 BeagleBone Black with
Each of these needs some simple software loaded to make it talk to a particular service. This
could be literally be a page or two of code, using examples from the service-provider.
These are all cloud-based, providing storage, a Web UI and a RESTful HTTP API to connect
Inputs -> Service -> Outputs
HTTP, MQTT Xively HTTP, MQTT
HTTP, MQTT Libelium/IBM HTTP, MQTT
HTTP, MQTT 124816
Monolithic end-to-end solutions
The above Component approach is ideal for “constrained choice”. An alternative approach is a
monolithic one, where a single vendor provides the whole chain i.e. “electrical signals in, web
changes out” - though with the risk of being locked-in to the service.
Inputs -> Monolithic end-to-end
GPIO, ADC, UART Electric Imp
GPIO, UART Neul Terminal HTTP
The author declares an interest.
List of wearable devices / components (by Vandrico inc) http://vandrico.com/database
General kit for hackers & makers (by Mark Chevreton)
First written at http://designswarm.com/blog/2014/01/the-process-of-connecting-products/
Last December, I was asked by the Connected Digital Economy Catapult to help them out
scoping a possible Connected Products Studio. This is great fun for me as I have tangible
experience of building connected products for installations, industrial applications and now the
The first thing Maurizio Pilu, the Catapult’s Director asked me to do is put together a
consultation workshop where, instead of working in isolation, we would reach out to the
possible audience or contributors to such a dedicated space. We ran this workshop last week
at the Royal Society of the Arts and were extremely lucky to have attendees from the entire
landscape of #iot in the room. I reached out to many friends of course and so did Pilgrim
Beart who is helping shape the feasibility report with me.
Consultants (Tom Armitage, Ben Ward, Lee Omar, Graham Hitchen, Georgina Voss, Nick
Hunn, Paul Tanner), startups (Radfan, MyJoulo, KNRY, BleepBleeps, bergcloud), incubators
(Bethnal Green Ventures), maker spaces (DoesLiverpool), SMEs (PAN
Studio,Codasign, Soda, body>data>space, Flexeye, 1248.io, AlertMe, Xively) and
corporations (Intel, Cisco, BBC R&D, Ogilvy Digital Labs, SapientNitro) came together and
very generously spent the day with me teasing out what the key pain points were in
developing a connected product. We then took those and tried to offer possible solutions with
the skills in each of the teams. I’ve been to quite a lot of these workshops back in the days of
the IOT Special Interest Group and wanted to live up to the work Graham and Rachel
Jones had done.
Maurizio, Pilgrim & I worked on a shortlist of pain points that someone would encounter if they
were building a connected product and we put this to the community in a questionnaire via the
usual social media channels. They were:
• Coming up with an idea
• knowing what hardware to use
• paying for that hardware
• knowing what software to build with
• paying for that software
• connecting the software and hardware in a scalable way
• developing a web/mobile service for the product
• access to space
• access to prototyping facilities
• developing a proof of concept
• doing user research
• reaching out to potential customers
• finding co-founders
• finding corporate partners
• finding manufacturing partners who can help with small quantities
Through the a morning session conversation the top 5 emerged as:
• Connecting hardware & software
• Developing a proof of concept (specifically access to the right expertise)
• Doing user research / reaching to potential customers (access to experts in user
research was also part of this)
• Finding corporate partners (this related strongly to being to plan the route to market)
The crux of this landscape of pain points felt like it was a lot about meeting the right people at
the right time in the process of commercialising a connected product which got me thinking
about what a typical process looks like at the moment. I’ve also highlighted the opportunities
that were brainstormed that day that felt like they might be totally new and not trying to
replicate existing services. All these thoughts will go and feed the report I’ll be writing up for
the CDEC in the next month or so. Fun times.
Make Space Cambridge
Maker Space Newcastle
Access Space Bristol
Electron Club Glasgow
091 Labs Galway, Ireland
FabLab Ellesmere Port
Ironbridge Gorge museum Trust
Colchester Maker Space
Open Shed, Penzance
Farset Labs, Belfast
London Scultpture Workshop
Institute of Making, London
Building Bloqs, London