It’s an exciting time to be a developer. As the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) accelerates, companies are looking for experts to help them create apps and services that take advantage of real-time data collected from millions of connected devices.
More than 5 million developers are active in IoT, according to Stijn Schuermans, a senior business analyst at VisionMobile and co-author of the report IoT Megatrends 2016. By 2020, that number will double to 10 million, VisionMobile predicts.
But building apps for IoT comes with a unique set of challenges. Gartner warns that three out of every four projects are likely to face schedule extensions and cost overruns, suggesting an unstable ecosystem that may linger in adolescence for some time.
Here are three major challenges facing developers working in the Internet of Things:
1. Hardware Vs. Software: The biggest difference between traditional app development and development for the Internet of Things is the “thing” that gets connected. Many developers have a pure software background and must learn how to manage different combinations of hardware. “Hardware is a conundrum for most software developers,” Schuermans said.
He expects developers to soon realize the potential of hardware engineering skills and learn a broad range of devices. It might also make sense for them to build apps on top of a cloud platform that receives and organizes the streams of data coming from these devices.
2. Fragmented Ecosystem: IoT is still in its early stages and is fragmented at several levels. Diverse things connect over different transport layers, use a variety of protocols and support several configuration options. There are no central IoT standards and no real oversight over development. That makes developing for these connected devices so much tougher than developing for phones or tablets with clear and well-defined ecosystems.
According to Schuermans, the problem is more than the support to create apps. “IoT development suffers as there are no platforms like Android and iOS. It’s not just about technology, but these platforms also connect developers with a user base,” he said.
3. Security Considerations: New security and privacy considerationscome hand-in-hand with the way IoT is deployed, and the type of data it generates and consumes. Gartner estimates that the risk from the black market of fake sensor and video data could be worth more than $5 billion by 2020. Schuermans explained why: “Most developers realize that security is important but end up trading it for other features offered by various platforms.”
This could have serious implications. By 2020, addressing compromises around IoT security will push security costs to 20 percent of overall security budgets, compared with less than 1 percent in 2015, predicts Gartner.
Growing In Leaps And Bounds
Gartner also predicts more than half of “new major business processes and systems” will possess some element of the Internet of Things by 2020. But not all IoT markets are created equal. Industrial IoT is nearly as mature as the mobile market, according to the VisionMobile report. Yet the smart home is still in its infancy, dominated by hobbyists. Data-centric solutions are among the most lucrative.
“For instance, returns are the highest for app makers who use sensor data from a device and then use that data to provide you a service,” Schuermans said.
Despite the challenges posed by the immaturity of the Internet of Things, developers will not be deterred from chasing success in this area. Schuermans expects 800,000 new app developers to start working in the Internet of Things this year alone. And meeting the new challenges brought by the technology will just be part of the fun.