What types of tools are IoT developers actually using?

By Stijn Schuermans*

IoT platforms were on the cusp of reaching the peak of inflated expectations in Gartner’s Hype Cycle from August 2016. Not surprisingly — there are literally hundreds of them, and counting. Also, the word ‘platform’ is used for anything, from network infrastructure to hardware components to cloud services. In the end, IoT owes its boom in popularity to more and better tools becoming available for developers. In this article, we shed some light on the types of tools that IoT developers are actually using.

The IoT tool market is still underdeveloped and heavily fragmented.

If you’re an IoT developer you can take our Developer Economics survey to share your thoughts on monetisation, verticals, projects.

Professional IoT developers use more tools than amateurs.

The gap between professional and amateur use is virtually non-existent in hardware platforms such as single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi or prototyping boards like the Arduino or Intel Edison. These microprocessors and computers have become so cheap and accessible (i.e. easy to use) that everyone with a minimal technical background can play around with them and put them to productive use. Even wearables toolkits and middleware show signs of this level of accessibility.

We also don’t see the amateur-pro gap in high-level, integrating platforms: Smart Home platforms like HomeKit or SmartThings, smartwatch platforms like WatchOS or Android Wear, or voice platforms like Amazon Alexa. These are all areas (IoT verticals) that are easy to get into, easy to imagine (and design) a solution that scratches your own itch, and therefore highly popular among hobbyists, as we’ve highlighted in other reports. Attractiveness to hobbyists aside, these comprehensive types platforms lower the barrier for people to start building meaningful solutions quickly, whereas the component technologies from above are still more the domain of specialists. Even health & wellness data platforms like Google Fit or HealthKit — arguably a more specific, advanced domain — have only a small difference in usage between professionals and amateurs.

Some of the technologies in the list are specific to certain verticals: wearables toolkits are for wearables developers, Smart Home platforms for Smart Home developers, and so on. Or are they? 12% of developers who use Smart Home platforms are not currently targeting or planning to target that vertical, for example. That is a reasonably big number, even though the usage gap with Smart Home developers is indeed clear. Some of these technologies might be fairly generic, and might even be ‘misused’ for unrelated projects. In some cases like smartwatch platforms, developers might work on a smartwatch app as part of a broader IoT solution, without self-identifying necessarily as ‘wearable developers’.

https://www.developereconomics.com/reports/state-developer-nation-q1-2017

Only 20% of retail IoT developers use beacons

The potential remains enormous

Interested in finding out how you compare to other IoT developers in your country/region? Take the Developer Economics survey and get your personalised developer scorecard.

*Stijn Schuermans

As a Senior Business Analyst, Stijn focuses on understanding how technology becomes value-creating innovation, how business models affect market dynamics, and the consequences of this for corporate strategy. He is the lead Internet of Things researcher in the VisionMobile team. He has been writing about IoT since 2012.

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