The Internet of Things (IoT) is widely used at technology industry events and the media, often as a driver for improving products and services and reaching an increasingly mobile customer or employee. This phenomenon of increasingly connected devices that speak to each other via data and apps has led to new industries growing up around the IoT: ‘smart homes’ and ‘smart fitness’ to name just two. The market is growing quickly with Intel finding that the amount of connected devices in the world has grown 6.5x since 2006.
Expectation for the growth of the IoT is high. But, are developers – those responsible for delivering and enabling the IoT – as hopeful about its future? A recent survey of 675 application developers worldwide, conducted by Harbor Research and commissioned by Progress, found that they expect new markets including healthcare, urban usage, and automotive applications to benefit from the maturation of IoT. However, developers also stated that they will have to overcome a number of challenges in order to deliver on expectations; particularly those surrounding privacy and data integration and management and the lack of the right tools to manage data related issues.
In fact, when the data is broken down, half of the developers surveyed commented that they did not have the necessary tools to develop for the IoT. Meanwhile, nearly a third (30%) said they experience data overload and feel overwhelmed when managing data sets for contextualised IoT apps such as location-based apps. To further complicate matters, just under half (45%) stated that they do not have the specific technological tools to gather, analyse and use contextual data from sensors.
These challenges are compounded by the fact that there are often ambiguous definitions around IoT leading to ‘IoT myths’ and hype around what can be practically achieved. The pressure to educate others on development realities has taken a toll on developers, and, interestingly there is a substantial resistance to the term ‘Internet of Things’ itself with almost half (48%) of developers considering it to be misleading or confusing.
Yet, despite these challenges, developers are cautiously optimistic. Out of the IoT applications already being developed, 65% are revenue-generating which points to a very real opportunity to monetise apps. What’s more, as the market matures, developers predict the proportion of revenue-generating applications to reach as high as 80% in just 2-3 years. The good news is that as the market matures there is a reasonable level of confidence that general integration and data management challenges will be resolved in 5 years with 55% and 45% respondents respectively answering positively.
So how do developers predict they will overcome the data and technology challenges they face in order to maximise the potential of the IoT? Over half of the respondents (57%) believed that a focus should be placed on service based business models (for example, charging for a service rather than a single download), instead of devices, to realise even greater revenues.
The respondents also pointed to commercial vendors (31%) and open source communities (24%) as having the greatest power to help them solve interoperability and data management issues. Yet, despite the governments’ focus on the digital economy in its election manifesto, only 7% of developers believed that the government would play an active role in enabling the IoT.
Commercial vendors and the open source community can alleviate developer concerns by providing the necessary tools, libraries and repositories for developers to be able to rapidly and effectively develop. By ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ through using these often freely available or affordable tools that make it easy to connect and integrate disparate pools of data in real-time, developer time is freed up to concentrate on strategic planning and management of IoT apps.
You can’t build a house without the right tools so why would it be the same for anything else? If commercial vendors, working with the wider community, are able to provide these then there’s no reason that we can’t all be fully optimistic about the future of the IoT.
By Mark Armstrong, VP & MD EMEA of Progress