Internet of Things

Internet of things is a container term for many applications and systems which owe, at least for a part, their usability and functionality to connectivity (usually via wireless connections). Connectivity has become so intertwined in our society in the 21st century that it seems to many students an obvious resource. The engineering challenge of insuring connectivity is often overlooked (or considered trivial). However in the context of a ULL there is room to investigate next to the technical challenge also the societal and economic aspects (impacts) with an aim to optimize next to the hardware and software also the USE aspects of any innovation relying on connectivity.

The IoT ULL is aiming to take the students on a journey of innovation via connectivity. The ULL is constructed along the theme “from product ideation to product launching”. We believe that the impact of USE can best be appreciated by letting students explore and experiment with USE related aspects of innovation by applying them to their own engineering projects. Understanding concepts such as user experience and minimum value proposition (MVP) can only happen if the students are required to engage with actual users of their innovation. 

Why is it special?

The uniqueness of the IoT ULL is that it allows students to experience the thrills and challenges of setting off to develop a novel technological solution with a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship. Innovation which is solely built on “technology push” is doomed to fail commercially. In this ULL students will be constantly challenged to answer the question, who will use my solution? Who will purchase it? (Surprisingly not always the same entity!) And who are my competitors? These inquiries will be supported by external parties (investors and business angles) who will accompany the student team on their journey.

What do I learn?

The purpose of this use learning line is to get students to work in groups on a technology project related to IoT. The students will work in groups (as small “start-up” companies) and experience and learn the process starting from idea creation to product launch. The main focus of the learning line is on the USE aspects of such activities. It is therefore expected that students taking part in the course will experience the following:

  1. Idea creation – Creative brain storming and the giving and receiving of constructive feedback
  2.  Idea “validation” – in the first course, students will go through an ideation stage, validate their ideas in patent literature and in use cases and then expose their ideas to the other students in a “marketplace”
  3. How to define product features? Understanding the concept of minimum viable product (MVP) 
    1. Technology exploration
    2. Technical feasibility study; technology readiness of components of the concept
    3. Platforms and infrastructure for connectivity
    4. Etc.
  4. How to make a business plan? What level of freedom-to-operate is there on the technologies involved in the product/service concept? What is the (added) value proposed? Who are involved in the adoption decision?
  5. Doing market research and understanding adoption factors and the buying process
  6. Design-based on user experience and user interfaces 
    1. Contextual exploration
    2.  Creativity in the product design process; What parts of the product/service concept can be protected by IPRs?
    3. Value-based methods in design
    4. Prototyping experiential artifacts
    5. Etc.
  7. Product Marketing strategy

How is it organized?

Student work in interdisciplinary groups of 4. The interdisciplinary aspect is guaranteed via applying strict quota of registration per three of the main target departments (in the first year 25 students per EE/ID/IE&IS with additional 15 places reserved for students from all other departments!)
Student work in groups and have weekly challenges (most of which are formative – do not count for the final grade). The activities will take place in the Innovation space. You will be supervised by TU/e staff and by external business partners and entrepreneurs.

The Learning Line in more detail

Quartile 1: From idea to a blueprint
The first course in the ULL aims to install/awake in students the entrepreneurial spirit. This will be done by allowing the students to spend considerable time on idea creation as well as idea analysis and peer review/feedback (like small “startup” companies). Through this group process, we expect student to become more engaged with the eventual technology challenge they will chose to tackle and put the required effort to push its development in an accelerated process to a blue print by the end of the first course.

In this course the students will be first split into groups of 4. Lectures will be given on fundamental aspects of design and a general set of technical criteria for all projects will be laid down. Also lectures on ideation and constructive feedback will be given . To help with defining the viability also aspects of entrepreneurship and business will be touched upon.  

Quartile 2: Concept vs reality – Is there a business behind the idea and can we make it?
The core of the ULL will take the groups from the concept to a working prototype which has been carefully designed and is clearly supported by a market and a business case. Aspects of design and business will be intertwined with technical sessions which will require fast pace development of the right features into a product ready for validation. A focus on MVP and critically separating the nice to haves from the essential will lead to an improved product offering/working prototype. At the end of Q2 the teams should have a fully working prototype(s) of their product ready for validation by potential users/customers in Q3.

Quartile 3: Validation to sales
In the 3rd and last course comprising the IoT learning line the focus would shift from idea creation and validation to the operational aspects of bringing new innovation into the market. The groups will need to consider what the buying roles and process typically consist of and what the adoption factors are for those involved in the process. This marketing research is the start for defining the marketing strategy, that is to be complemented with market information and data gathering on the market segment, target groups and perceived positions of rivalling products/services in the target market. Analyses need to be based on basic concepts and models for marketing planning (as introduced and explained n common text books on strategic marketing (planning). Their media campaign and is to be designed on the basis of these analyses on industry (competition; supply side), market (demand side), distribution and customers (consumers and/or organizations in B2B segments). How to create a slogan/visual to promote your innovation? How to increase awareness of your products? What are the most relevant features for subsequent adopter categories? The main message about the product/service differs over the product life cycle and therefore, marketing communication needs to be adapted over time. 

A second major theme in the 3rd course is financing. The marketing potential of the product/service as future revenues needs to be translated and related to the total costs over first few years of prospected operations in order to determine break-even point and pay back on the venture proposition. How to get money to run the venture as a company? The elevator pitch/ sales pitch. Experts on crowd funding, VCs, etc should provide most of the content here. Students therefore need to develop an investor’s perspective of their product/service concept in order to increase likelihood of success to get it financed. Sensitizing knowledge of entrepreneurial finance and a basic understanding of investor’s perspectives is focal in this part of the ULL.

At the end of Q3 a large event will be organized where the different teams will be able to present their innovative solutions and pitch them to possible investors which will be invited to join the event.

Course team:
•    Oded Raz (ULL coordinator)
•    Mathias Funk (responsible teacher - From idea to a blueprint), Minha Lee, Renee Noortman
•    George Exarchakos (responsible teacher - Concept vs reality)
•    Ed Nijssen (responsible teacher - Validation to sales), Gizem Korpeoglu, Jan Milleman

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