IoT and Developers: Is reality meeting expectation?

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/Devrimb)

The Internet of Things (IoT) has successfully made the transition from futurist buzzword to a tangible reality. The wearable phenomenon and the promise of a connected fridge or toaster in every ‘smart home’ are proving to be the earliest drivers, with the ecosystem likely to broaden over time. In fact, for a relatively new market, the IoT is growing and maturing quickly: Intel has found that the amount of connected devices in the world has grown 6.5x since 2006.

There is understandably a lot of excitement around what the IoT means in terms of our everyday lives: the proposed environmental benefits, money savings and increased business efficiencies are well documented. Expectations are high, but are they being met? In fact, will they ever be met?

As the market matures, so will the applications which are being developed – with healthcare, urban usage, and automotive applications leading the way

recent survey of 675 application developers worldwide – conducted by Harbor Research and commissioned by Progress – shone a telling light on how those who will be responsible for delivering the kind of future we all expect – their concerns, aspirations and their overall outlook. The overall feeling was one of cautious optimism: there is a great opportunity to create revenue-generating apps that deliver real benefit, yet it also found a lack of adequate tools and the necessary skills which run the risk of hampering the commercialisation and benefits of IoT.

In a time when the IoT is becoming an ever more popular media term, developers are feeling under greater pressure to live up to the high expectations surrounding the industry. The often ambiguous definitions around IoT are also making it easier for hype to over-take the reality of what can be achieved. 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. The pressure being heaped on developers is reflected in 50% of respondents feeling they do not have the necessary technology today to deliver on IoT expectations.

As well as the lack of faith in the tools they have, 50% of developers also felt they did not have the necessary skills and resources to deliver on IoT expectations. Helping developers alleviate these concerns by providing the necessary tools and training is a priority for businesses if they are to retain a happy, productive team of developers.

These challenges are reflected in the monetisation levels of IoT apps. Only 65% of IoT applications are revenue-generating today. There is an expectation that as the market matures, revenue will logically follow. As greater focus is placed on services opposed to devices, significant revenue potential should be realised as more sophisticated business models are put in place (for example, charging for a service rather than single download.)

In a time when the IoT is becoming an ever more popular media term, developers are feeling under greater pressure

This expected market maturation has seen many developers predict the proportion of revenue-generating applications to reach as high as 80% in just 2-3 years. Given we are taking just the first steps into the IoT world; this is a hugely promising outlook. As the market matures, so will the applications which are being developed – with healthcare, urban usage, and automotive applications leading the way, according to the survey.

If there are very legitimate concerns about how well-equipped the ecosystem is to deliver on the promise of the IoT, who will be the heroes? In the eyes of developers, government action is likely to have little effect; just 8% of those surveyed by Harbour Research named them as having the greatest potential to help overcome these challenges, faring only marginally better than industry bodies (7%)

This is in spite of the fact that UK government, for instance, has played very regular and loud lip service to the Internet of Things and the digital economy: perhaps most notably in March’s budget announcement. To seize on the IoT opportunity, businesses need to implement technologies that already exist to ease the development process and bridge the gap between gathering data and sharing it safely and securely. This will help to reduce developer workload and allows them to maximise their skills.

Tools that bring multiple, disparate pools of data together in real-time so that developers can create apps that make use of that information to improve our lives and businesses are fundamental. Likewise, support for languages and development platforms to create apps in the fast moving environment dictated by constant change in needs.  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 factors then the IoT future we’ve put so much faith in will become a reality.

What do you feel is needed for the IoT to meet expectations? Let us know in the comments.

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