Developers and the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not a new concept. It’s a bit surreal for all of us living through it today to see connected devices continue to move into the mainstream. But how does this affect the developer market?

The core of the IoT is that things — all kinds of inanimate objects — “talk” to each other and to devices tuned to “listen.” Put less casually, these things have the ability to monitor their status or what their sensors report, and then report that data via some communications capability to databases, services and servers, most likely in the cloud.

Because of the IoT, “We are moving away from a world where companies are managing portfolios of products or services and to a world where companies manage portfolios of capabilities and relationships,” wrote Guillaume Roques, Head of Developer Relations for EMEA at salesforce.com.

And those capbilities and relationships will be driven by software: that’s where the most obvious developer involvement lies. Developers create the software that allows us to take action — or that takes automatic action based on logic or business rules — from that data.

Of course, developers will build software to correctly process this thing/sensor data. They’ll build the APIs, public or private, that allow other software to use that data. And they’ll build the software that listens to the data stream over an API — and takes appropriate action, be that another software-driven action, alerting someone, storing data, or the like.

But perhaps the most important insight from three paragraphs of stating the obvious is this:

When everything uses software, developers are more essential than ever.

There’s no way around it: developers will be involved in nearly every device or item we encounter. Another way of looking at it: software isn’t just for computers (or tablets or phones) anymore. Yes, we understand this, it’s something we have been talking about for a while. But when we pause and think about the implications, it helps us move past outdated stereotypes of software developers.

We have a tendency to think of developers in a classic “hackathon” photo, like this photo from Appery.io:

Picture-of-Hackathon[1]

But the vast majority of developers don’t fit this mold — they’re working at companies in a regular job (not spending days at a hackathon).  And the Internet of Things will increase the number of developers in “regular” companies. (Again, not matching the stereotype.)

We’ll need more proficient professional developers. And, as we’re already seeing, both the “knowledge worker” and the citizen will have more ability to produce developer-like projects, be they workflow enhancements in the office, home and life automation (see IFTTT), or just tinkering.

How do you think developers will shape this new, connected world?

PS: Another quick read on IoT trends from Radius is worth a look. It talks about the mobile “hubs” that will bring all of this together. Major cellular carriers are also working on using data bandwidth to enable this.

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