We all know IoT is on the way to becoming a seriously big business in the next few years, with a likely annual growth rate of as high as 50 percent, taking the market worldwide to US$1.7 trillion by 2020. This growth will be based on more vendors and enterprises embracing IoT and its opportunities.
Developing for IoT is tough, but it used to be tougher. It is not easy going from being a desktop developer to developing on a device, you can’t Google how to do it, and you’re solving a problem nobody else has ever solved. Devices used not to have a driver for Linux, as they were brand new. Developers would have to read and understand the electrical specifications for the device, and write software out of that.
The process is easier now, with IoT becoming more standardized and “out of the box” code becoming more common. Embedded devices used to be too small for an operating system, but now almost everything has one. Things are steadily becoming more generic. Meanwhile, the proliferation of devices such as 3D printers and the Raspberry Pi is assisting with the development of IoT projects.
If you’ve decided you think you have what it takes to roll out an IoT solution, you need to consider three main aspects. All IoT solutions are based around the Mechanical, the Electrical, and the Software. Get these three aspects in place, and your IoT product is just another product that needs taking to market and selling.
Mechanical essentially refers to what the device looks like. What is your circuit board and compatibility going to fit into? How is it designed, how small is it, what does it attach onto? Technology is improving, and devices are becoming smaller and more manageable. There are any number of companies or freelance engineers that can build this part of your device. Even better, you can have it designed and then either you or your customers can print it on a 3D printer.
What is inside your device? What is its processing power? All IoT solutions need wireless connectivity. Many companies specialize in this area, and as noted above, with technology developing and an increasing number of devices already having operating systems, it is now possible to do pretty much 90 percent of what you want to do using off the shelf equipment.
Once you’ve got your mechanical and your electrical aspects all set, you get to the crux of the matter, the aspect which is going to set your solution aside and sell it. What does your device need to do? What capabilities must it have? How does it connect to the cloud? Is it a web app? Technological developments are steadily making building software for IoT more manageable, but it is still a specialized area not suitable for regular developers. You need to find your company, check their track record, and then explain to them exactly what your solution does and what it will be used for. You’ll also need to find out what they require from those dealing with the mechanical and electrical sides.
Once you’ve got all your ducks in a row with these three key aspects, it is simply a question of taking your product to market and selling it to consumers. How does your IoT solution play in the market? What models will you employ? Will customers pay a subscription? Or will they have to buy a device? What are your ongoing costs, such as cloud servers? IoT may be the business of the future, but once your solution is built, it is just another product. Sell it.
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Brian is a life-long software developer who loves to help others succeed. A frequent source for media outlets, such as BBC, Entrepreneur and Bloomberg, Brian also frequently speaks at universities, conferences and the like. His new book, "Unravelling the Internet of Things" will be available soon on Amazon.com.