The Internet of Things is growing… but who’s making it happen and where are the hotbeds of development and innovation today in 2016?

Are we building the Internet of Things (IoT) better and faster now? Are we bringing more IoT functionality, interoperability and connectivity to bear? Are we actually progressing and forging ahead in terms of our software application development capabilities with regards to the IoT as of 2016?

The naysayers say no, but then they always do. The optimists and the futurists are arguably too flaky, but that’s their role and they enjoy it. The realists (ah-hem, that’s where we’re aiming here) are looking to macro-level trends with an air of sceptical buoyancy.

A global IoT developer population

Analyst house Evans Data Corp produces a Global Developer Population and Demographics Study. The 2016 report suggests that this year, the number of developers currently working on IoT applications has increased by 34% (since last year) to just over 6.2 million today.

Okay 33% would have been an easier figure to digest and given the rule of lies, damn lies and statistics, one can only wish that the Evans team had massaged the figures slightly more roundly. So are there specifics we should look at here?

Digging deeper, Evans Data says that the increase of development for mobile devices in 2016 is up 14% since last year. This figure extrapolates to the assertion that, “Smartphones are the most commonly connected IoT platform.”

Many would argue that this suggestion may be flawed and that the so-called Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will ultimately be the bigger beast… but hey, this is ONLY a survey.

Director of Research for Evans Data Corp Michael Rasalan is specifically and factually upbeat saying that transition (for software developers) to programming for the IoT, while not without barriers, may often be rapid. But why?

“Because developers are able to leverage existing knowledge and expertise in complementary technologies like cloud and mobile, to create entirely new use cases. We’re also seeing developers branch out from concepts centered on wearables to applications for more complex tasks, seen in the industrial space,” said Rasalan.

Right, but that’s kind of what we were suggesting with our industrial IoT vs. smartphones comment above Mr Rasalan. One could reasonably argue that we will see more industrial applications accessed on smartphones (as opposed to the tablets and desktops the often think of first) and so that’s where the two ideas come together. Again, research is often flaky, so let’s remember that.

Where is IoT development happening?

In general terms, there are more IoT programming geeks bringing us developer goodness from the APAC region than EMEA. Again this is a slightly difficult stat to work with as neither APAC nor EMEA actually includes America and Silicon Valley. Regardless, the general feeling is that growth in India and China are predicted to keep APAC’s IoT developer population the highest globally for the next several years.

So what will save us now? Who will develop the software for the IoT?

Datamation points to the fact that smart devices are being built on the shoulders of open source. Why is this so? Because in early 2015, VisionMobile’s survey of 3,700 IoT developers indicated that 91% used open source in their work.

According to Datamations Bruce Byfield, “This figure suggests that, without open source, the development of the IoT would be much slower if it happened at all. If nothing else, the use of open source and open standards helps to reduce compatibility problems between manufacturers’ devices.”

Byfield’s argument rests on the proposition that open source often helps manufacturers develop products quicker. It also helps (in some cases) make profitable products that would be impractical if they were researched and developed from scratch.

So there is still much to do… but we need to flesh out and bash out the details of where constructive IoT development is happening at the coalface so that we can identify the good and the bad and move forward.

 


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I am a technology journalist with over two decades of press experience. Primarily I work as a news analysis writer dedicated to a software application development ‘beat’; but, in a fluid media world, I am also an analyst, technology evangelist and content consultant. As the previously narrow discipline of programming now extends across a wider transept of the enterprise IT landscape, my own editorial purview has also broadened. I have spent much of the last ten years also focusing on open source, data analytics and intelligence, cloud computing, mobile devices and data management. I have an extensive background in communications starting in print media, newspapers and also television. If anything, this gives me enough man-hours of cynical world-weary experience to separate the spin from the substance, even when the products are shiny and new.