IoT (Internet of Things) Product Manager

What Product Does an IoT Product Manager Oversee?

Consider how many different products now connect to the internet. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) predicted in recent years that there would be more than 50 billion IoT devices by the end of 2020. As a result, there is a demand for IoT managers.

Additionally, IoT includes products across more industries than most people realize. Just a few examples:

  • Connected kitchen appliances (smart refrigerators and microwaves)
  • Wearable health devices (the FitBit and iWatch)
  • Smart security products (the Ring doorbell and WiFi-enabled baby monitors)
  • Connected thermostats (Google’s Nest)
  • Public health devices (air-quality sensors and portable weather stations)
  • IoT factory devices (steam-pipe leak detectors)
  • Connected automobiles (Tesla’s self-driving cars)
  • Smart farm equipment (yep, that’s a thing too — such as John Deere’s AI-powered tractors)

How is an IoT PM Different from Other PMs?

Daniel Elizalde, who created a popular course for IoT product managers and is also a ProductPlan contributing author, points out that IoT demands more from product managers than the PM role requires in most other industries. Here are some examples of why:

IoT product managers are responsible for more moving parts.

Daniel notes that the technology stack for most IoT products includes five layers:

  1.     Device hardware
  2.     Device software
  3.     Communications
  4.     Cloud platform
  5.     Cloud applications

Think of a simple IoT device. For instance, a factory sensor placed on a steam pipe. This device monitors the nearby air for sudden temperature spikes. Then it alerts personnel via a wireless signal over the internet if the device senses a leak. (Note: such devices might be placed every few feet along a facility’s steam pipes. This means thousands may be installed in a typical factory or chemical plant.)

This device might be straightforward. That is to say, without many components and has a single function. The function is reporting real-time temperature data over the internet. But the product manager responsible for driving the development of this product. Likewise, they must consider how all layers in the IoT tech work together to make it perform.

IoT (internet of things) product managers are product professionals who drive the business strategy and development of products connected to the internet. You might also know IoT products as smart devices or internet-enabled devices. The role is in a wide range of industries.
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IoT PMs have to manage partner relationships closely.

IoT products cannot succeed in a vacuum. So, they rely on partnerships with other technology companies. That is to say, IoT product managers coordinate with other products in the larger ecosystem.

Returning to our factory-sensor example above, the product manager needs to coordinate the team’s work with many providers. They’ll need to partner with a wireless communication provider to ensure the sensors can reliably transmit their real-time temperature data to the factory’s servers and personnel’s mobile devices. They’ll also need to work with a cloud-storage company. They do this to make sure the sensor data is saved and archived for later review and analysis.

IoT PMs must prioritize data security.

IoT products continuously send data over the internet. Because of this, product managers responsible for these products must focus on the confidentiality of that data.

Think of the video signal sent over the web from a WiFi-enabled nanny cam or baby monitor. This data is sensitive. Thus it must be secure at all times.

Additionally, the IoT product manager has a regulatory responsibility to ensure the security of data.  An example of regulatory information is medical information. This could be heart rate transmitted from a patient’s wearable device to their physician for a product.

This is yet another aspect of IoT product management that can make the role more demanding and complex than product management in many other fields.

Related Terms

product manager,technical product manager, platform product manager, portfolio product manager, product analytics

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