Jump to content
Andrew at MEA

What does it take to be an IoT engineer?

Recommended Posts

End Game in the IoT

It’s been a long autumn and winter effort completing development of a CAT-M1-based on-farm data logger for release in the southern Spring, now only two days away.

These product development sprints are a long litany of small crises that are surmounted and left behind in the rear-view mirror.

When you’re stuck in the middle of it, it feels like crawling over broken glass.

But we have early orders, some stock on the shelf with more next week, and rudimentary field trails conducted that have already thrown up a weird software bug in the ultra-low power state that this logger depends upon to keep energy consumption within budget. A software work-around nipped that in the bud before it got released into the wild.

Our marketing department have been on the road, talking up the benefits of a completely new Internet-connected data logger that’s attractively priced and robustly packaged. This new product offering has been enthusiastically embraced by our key agents.

Great technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In this case, much of the excitement would appear to be generated by the simplest part of this technological wizardry: the coloured light behind our Green Brain symbol. This indicates CAT-M1 network connectivity, data transfers and GPS fixes to the guys with the muddy boots working under primitive conditions out in the field.

834872259_20190816_165456(1).thumb.jpg.47bca34e2a7b15c2dc3886a0840671c5.jpg

This is MEA’s third IoT development in eighteen months, with two more key projects beginning as soon as this new technology is properly bedded down.

I’ll lead the product development team through the coming Spring and Summer, until my 67th birthday next March.

So, the real end-game in this IoT race is actually to invest the next generation of MEA engineers with the spirit of the sprint, a ‘can-do’ ethos and the sense that with hard work, anything is possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cash-flow in the IoT.

Even for a mature company like MEA, the expensive business of IoT product development can be a scary process.

It’s always a race against the clock, as one burns cash reserves against the promise of returns from early sales of new-to-market products.

More companies go broke from cash-flow crises than anything else.

Just a few weeks’ delay in product launch can invoke such a cash-flow crisis (unless you have extraordinarily-deep pockets).

This is especially true in a seasonal business such as irrigated agriculture – late to market can be disastrous. What might well have sold a month ago must now wait a further eleven months to be of interest to customers. If – that is – some competitor hasn’t gained the upper-hand by then…

However, when all that risk pays off, it’s a true delight.

Cash flow turns positive and management breathes a sigh of relief.

These last few weeks before product launch of MEA’s CAT-M1 on-farm IoT data logger have had all those elements of tension, suspense, crisis and fear. Last-minute software bugs, production issues, field trial feedback, creation of extra test jigs and finally, ramming product through the new production line – all these things added to the pressure.

As Engineering Director, it’s my job at these times is to stay outwardly calm and cheerful, buffering an engineering staff beset by technical problems from marketing staff beset by an agent network clamouring for product delivery.

Today – just a few weeks after product launch – we’re well on the way to selling out of our entire first production run of 100 units. Funds expended in their manufacture will now flow back into the company coffers.

Now we face new challenges to our cash reserves; we have to swing into full production, investing in greater numbers of units while seasonal demand lasts and before the rapidly dwindling existing stock of these new loggers runs dry.

Such is business.

1497510515_TablegrapeGBL-C.thumb.jpg.0e11ae53ef657c882b1258ac597c6f8f.jpg

A brand-new MEA solar-powered CAT-M1 data logger for soil moisture monitoring, deployed in table grapes in the Victorian ‘Riverina’ region. Neatly installed at the foot of a wooden trellis post (in the foreground), the GBL-C logger is safe from farm machinery and foxes and hares that chew exposed cables.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...