Like it or not, the Internet of things (IoT) is here to stay. These are the earliest of days. And a lot has to be done before it goes mainstream. But while the train hasn’t yet left the station, the engines are revving up. If you have ambitions to be a successful miner in the IoT gold rush to come, it’s time to get onboard with your own great ideas, products, and services.

There is a lot of potential in IoT. But so far, that potential has been mostly squandered with the trivial. Bad ideas have been paired with bad design, poor compatibility, lax security, and needless complexity. Most of this could have been eliminated with an IoT application platform capable of pulling together all the necessary parts for a more customer-centric IoT launch.

Starting out with such a platform will help you make a product that stands head and shoulders above the rest. But if you are going to go it alone, here are the 4 key characteristics you will need to make a successful go of it:

1. Useful

One of the biggest obstacles to mainstream success is coming up with genuinely useful devices. There is not a lot of reasons to control a light with a smartphone when a light switch works perfectly well. A gas meter that you can monitor with your smartphone, on the other hand, may well be useful for many people.

Right now, IoT makers are just stuffing inexpensive wifi chips in everything they can think of, most of which make no sense whatsoever. NFC is suffering the same fate. Witness the NFC payment sunglasses. If you want your IoT efforts to be successful, start with a really useful idea.

2. Secure

Right now, IoT devices are so insecure, security experts are wondering aloud if those devices should be banned. It’s like exploding hoverboards, except for IoT devices. And they are not exploding. They are letting hackers easily create bot nets and take over other devices like smartphones.

The difference is that people can see explosions. They can’t see insecurity. But people are starting to realise that almost all such devices are inherently insecure. If you don’t want to be painted with that broad, but so far, very accurate brush, you have to make security a priority by putting in the extra effort. If security doesn’t come in the box, don’t bother shipping it at all.

3. Simple

Another fatal flaw of current IoT devices is that they are overly complex. It requires more steps to turn on a connected lightbulb than anything that came before it. The process has become so complicated, the connected lightbulb makers had to come up with a genius solution to the problem: You guessed it – a light switch.

If you want your product to have mainstream success, you have to come up with a real solution to a real problem that is actually easier than the problem before your solution. While that seems obvious, few IoT makers have figured out how to do it. The problem is that few IoT devices actually start as a solution to anything. It can be done, so it is done. Your product will be more successful if you start out with a problem, then solve it with your device.

4. Universal

Perhaps the biggest show-stopper for IoT right now is that everyone is competing, not with great products, but with incompatible standards. Apple’s HomeKit is an excellent platform, one of the best. But devices have to be specifically HomeKit compatible. All the other platforms are the same.

You can put any connected lock on your door that you like. But it may not play well with your security cameras and security lights. When you tell your smartphone to crash the compound, your doors may not lock. Until the standards wars have been won, connected devices will never be as universal as the unconnected variety. Make sure yours are compatible with as many standards as possible.

IoT is headed for the mainstream. But it isn’t there yet. There is still time for you to get in the game and even dominate. Do what your competitors haven’t: Make products that are useful, secure, simple, and universal.