What is the Difference Between Proof of Concept and Prototype
Are you a very innovative person with a lot of ideas? Have you ever thought about making your own product or even just wanted to improve some products in your company?
Then you have probably heard about proof of concept and prototype.
But you might not be so sure which one is more advanced and what would you need to create first.
Well, fear not!
The cavalry is here!
In this text, we will explain what both proofs of concept and prototype are, what are their differences and what could you do with them in order to turn your idea into the product.
WHAT IS PROOF OF CONCEPT?
Proof of concept (POC) is used to test the idea of a certain technical feature or the general design of a product and prove that it is possible to apply those ideas.
It could be used to test something on just one part of the product before it is tried in practice with making a prototype.
You can think of this as a pre-prototype version of the product, but it is not even that since POC shouldn’t have all the features as the final product, not even as the prototype.
The main goal of POC is to prove that it is actually possible to develop that idea and include it as part of the final product.
If you want to learn more on how to present proof of concept in the right way, check the interview below, conducted at Dell World in 2014.
WHAT POC MEANS IN DIFFERENT FIELDS?
Now that we defined what proof of concept really is, let us examine what the term is used for in several different fields.
1. Film Industry
In the movie industry, directors often make short films to test certain features, like clothes and some special scenes they want to introduce, but they are not sure if those scenes would fit in with the rest of the movie plot.
Sometimes those features end up in the movie, sometimes they don’t. It depends on whether directors think they are good or not.
This is just one example of how proof of concept is used in cinematography and why it is important to do it.
It allows filmmakers to test some interesting ideas they have without having to endanger the entire movie content that has already been accepted.
If the additional content turns out to be fine, it usually ends up in the movie, sometimes as an additional feature, sometimes as a whole part of the movie, like a prologue etc.
When it comes to engineering, term proof of concept is often used for a very rough prototype for some specific new idea, because it could be used as a mean to gather some money for the necessary research and specific stages of the product.
So, for example, you want to upgrade your product with something new, but you don’t quite have the money.
Well, you can make a proof of concept to present your idea and make a fundraiser campaign to fund that specific project.
That way you will both test the feature you want to add and see if it works, and at the same time, you could gather enough money to fund the upgrade itself.
If the feature works, you could upgrade your proof of concept into fully working prototype later on, since, as we said, in engineering, POC simply signifies a very rough prototype.
In business, proof of concept could be used to help the company to get a bit of insight into what people really expect from the product.
The company could offer couple or group of people to try out the product and then send some feedback about their impressions, so the company would know what to change and what to add before fully releasing the finished product on the market.
It would also help them to see how the product would react outside the testing facilities, by receiving feedback from the people about possible technical problems.
All of this is very important because every bit of information could help the company with designing the product, lowering the costs of production and improving the product to fit people’s preferences.
Further on, that is crucial for the process of making decisions as well.
If proof of concept does not turn out to be as profitable as previously thought, it could be shut down and a lot of money could be saved because building a new product is not cheap.
When we talk about the field of security, proof of concept is used in a bit different manner here.
Term POC is used in this regard to demonstrate how specific security measure or system could be compromised or upgraded to offer some additional protection.
What is worth mentioning is that this test can be done without even making the necessary upgrades or wasting money on building a completely new system that would represent these changes.
This can really save a lot of money, especially in this field, where everything is very expensive and requires a lot of thinking and potential manpower to implement.
Proof of concept in software development can represent not just one, but a couple of different processes that all have their own separate objectives.
It can be used to give a feedback of whether one additional feature or even one part of the system works as it is supposed to work and if it does, then the company can move on and turn that proof of concept into a fully working prototype.
There are several versions of POC in this regard:
- Steel thread – which is POC that concerns all parts of the product and then it aims to find the solution to their issues if there are some;
- Proof of technology – it focuses on just one or couple of parts of the product and its goal is to find the solution to issues that part might have, or for example, to check if two separate systems can work together. Apart from that, it could be used to test a certain feature and check if it is viable to do some specific tasks that are required of it;
- Pilot project – this is something similar to the business POC concept, where an unfinished version of a product is released to a group of people, who are then tasked with testing it and giving back the feedback needed to complete the product.
There is a bit of confusion when it comes to defining proof of concept in medicine because there are two more very similar terms that are often mistaken for one another.
- Proof of Mechanism – It is used in the very early stage of developing a certain drug, even before the clinical trials. It shows the interaction between the drug and other chemical elements, that could be found in a human or animal body;
- Proof of Principle – this term is used in the early stages as well, but this one focuses on the treatment of some specific markers found in known diseases;
- Proof of Concept – POC in this manner is used in three different stages that are tasked with showing how the drug can affect the human body, health system and would it be successful to treat the diseases it was made for.
WHAT IS PROTOTYPE?
The prototype is a nearly unfinished version of a product, which contains all the basic functions or the appearance of the final product and is used for testing the included features, so the company would get the general idea of whether the product is ready for the release or not.
In that regard, it serves its purpose of finding out and solving all the possible problems related to any of the included content, so it would be balanced and fixed prior to the release.
There are several versions of a prototype, so let us examine all the listed categories.
1. Proof of Principle Prototype
It is used to show us what the main aspects of certain product design are, and to introduce us to the basic functions of a possible product.
While it has most of the functions as a basic product, it does not contain all the features, but instead, just the basic functions that the final product should have.
2. Working Prototype
A working prototype is the version of the product which has almost the exact content as the final product, just need to be a bit polished.
It is often used for pre-release testing, so the company could get proper feedback on whether the product is ready for the release or not.
If everything works properly and the testing phase is completed without any problems, then the working prototype is upgraded to the full product, which is followed by the final release on the market.
3. Visual Prototype
The task of a visual prototype is not to represent all the basic functions of the product, but instead, to show how would the final product look like.
It can be used in early stages to show just a basic design, which could later be improved with different colors, logos and everything else that is visually appealing to one’s eye.
4. User Experience Prototype
This type of prototype is used to give feedback about what do customers and users think about it, how they feel when using it.
Hence, it has to have all the basic functions of the final product, as well as most of the intended look which the final product would have.
That way, users could test the product and its basic functions and give proper feedback on whether it is good enough for the release or not.
Sometimes it requires a bit of tweaking, so it is better to test it before the release.
5. Functional Prototype
A functional prototype is used to represent nearly finished products. It should look almost the same as the final product and have all the basic functions as well.
What could be different is some visual or technical features, which developers wanted to test, so they might want to get feedback for some type of look or for the user’s opinion on whether to include a certain function or not.
6. Paper Prototype
This is used in very early stages of development and it should represent all the basic functions and appearance drawn out on the paper.
Basically, it is just a sketch of the possible product, with all the intended functions.
It is very useful for the presentation of your ideas about new products because it is much cheaper and cost-efficient than making a proof of concept or simple prototype.
If approved, then the company can move on and make other types of prototypes, depending on what they need.
HOW IS PROTOTYPE DIFFERENT THAN THE FINAL PRODUCT?
Creating a prototype is not the same as creating the final product.
Both processes contain different things to do, so let us see what the difference is.
- Material – the final product is usually made of higher quality material, compared to the prototype. The reason for that is, of course, because that type of material is often much more expensive and since the prototype is only used for testing, it would not be cost-efficient to use high-quality material to make it.
- Making process – the final products are usually made in a mass-production process, which is not possible when it comes to making a prototype because, first, it wouldn’t be cost-efficient, since you wouldn’t need too many units and second, it is much easier to modify specific parts by manually working on it.
- Verification process – before releasing the final product, it has to be subjected to a lot of tests, in order to determine whether it contains all the necessary features that were presented before it was produced. Prototype, on the other hand, is a test subject itself, because it will probably be subjected to a lot of changes prior to the release of the final product.
WHAT DOES PROTOTYPE MEAN IN DIFFERENT FIELDS?
As it was the case with the proof of concept, the term prototype is used a bit differently in certain fields as well, so let’s get into it.
In engineering, term prototype is used to represent the fully functional product, with the label of being an experimental version of the final product, with the need for testing and balancing certain features until it is ready to be massively produced.
This is often done in the car industry, home electronics and similar.
When it comes to the engineering of electronics, the prototype is used to describe a not fully finished product made according to certain theoretically designed sketch, which is followed with a proper tool used for dealing with bugs and similar issues.
That type of tool is, for example, Fritzing, which is used to list certain prototypes and help with their possible production.
By using this platform, an engineer could make a prototype very fast and then add the features that are supposed to be included later in order to test the product.
2. Computer Science
In computer science prototype is used to describe the product that is in some testing phase, which means that it is not yet fully ready for the official release, because it requires a lot of testing, bug fixing and dealing with the optimization issues.
As one example, we can talk about software development, which is done in certain phases.
The first phase is usually the Alpha version, which contains very basic functions, and is used to solve any possible problems that may occur with the very basic functions.
After the alpha phase, the software enters beta phase, which is a version very closely tied to the final product, and it is there to make sure that everything works fine, by allowing groups of people to test it and give their feedback.
When the feedback comes back positive and developers decide it is the time to release the product, then the beta phase is over and the prototype becomes the full product.
It could be different than the version from the early stages, but it should be more polished and user-friendly.
3. Scale Modeling
Scale modeling is a very funny and interesting field, where the various models of vehicles, planes, trains and much more are made.
The word prototype is used here to represent what is the source material used for making these models, which means that the word prototype describes the real plane, the real car that is used to make the model.
Since the beginning of 3D printing in 2014, this has become a much easier task to do and is generally very interesting to see some of the models.
We don’t talk just about cars, planes, and trains here, but also about the entire city models and similar, which could be seen in various towns across the world.
Ah, the science of measurement!
This field is very important when it comes to managing human activities because it is used to link those that can be linked and it helps us understand the most common use of units.
When it comes to metrology, a word prototype describes an object that is being generally used to represent the standard measuring unit of a certain quantity, which would allow us to have all our measurement-based around it.
And lastly, the word prototype is used in a totally different manner in Biology.
There it is used to describe the certain disease, life form or just a type of species that could be set as a good example for the specific category.
For example, it is often used to represent the most primitive form of some specific species, on, in other words, an archetype of any of those groups.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PROOF OF CONCEPT AND PROTOTYPE?
As we have already mentioned this above, proof of concept can be considered as a pre-prototype project, because it is not used to tell us how to build the feature we want to include in the product, but instead, it is used to tell us if it is at all possible to make that change and have a working product at the same time.
So, if you want to test a certain idea you may have, the best thing to do is to make a proof of concept.
It may seem to you that you would be wasting money on building something which may or may not work at all, but it is actually the other way around.
POC helps you save your money, by either approving or disapproving the idea you have.
Because if it turns out to be a bad idea, then you will not make a prototype and save your money.
And if it turns out to be a very useful idea, you could spend a bit of money to build a working prototype and polish the functions, which would grant you more money in the future.
On the other side, we have a prototype.
It is also used to help us make a decision about whether to include certain features or not, but prototype does not focus on the one specific aspect of the product, but rather on the full functionality of all included features.
It is used to test the changes included by POC and polish them before the full release of the product itself, in order to present very capable product, with as few faults as possible.
Right, that would be everything we have prepared for you regarding this topic.
The important thing is that now you fully understand what the difference between proof of concept and prototype is, when to use both of these terms and how can you use that knowledge to transform your potential ideas into fully working products.
Just remember not to be afraid to utilize your thoughts and to use POC and prototypes, because they can really be very beneficial if successful, thus earning you a lot of money, especially if your ideas are unique.