Six key trends in the IoT developer economy for 2016.
By Stijn Schuermans.
Every company should master developer ecosystem skills. Our new IoT Megatrends 2016 report sheds light on the state of the art in the IoT developer economy, distilling the major data points and insights from our research into six important trends in IoT.
Software is eating the world. Access to developers has become a competitive advantage in every industry. Today a business in media, games, finance, or transportation, can only compete by using software to improve productivity and efficiency through every part of the business. Businesses in healthcare, construction and agriculture now find they need to use software developers to remain competitive.
As the Internet of Things takes hold and more and more traditional products get a software component, this trend only accelerates. Already, over 5 million developers are active in the Internet of Things in early 2016. This year, we estimate that their number will grow by 800 thousand developers. That’s about the population of South Dakota, Macau, or Cyprus. By 2020, there will be close to 10 million Internet of Things developers.
6 key trends for 2016
In our 60+ page IoT Megatrends 2016 report, we highlight 6 key IoT developer trends for 2016.
Developers are more and more the center of commercial strategy. If you’re not into developers, you’re not doing it right. If you believe that the Internet of Things is only about making new, stand-alone devices and solutions, then think again. More and more key players in every IoT market build their strategy around developers who can extend the product beyond what it was when it left the factory. From Amazon and SmartThings in the home, Apple and Pebble on your watch, and Ford and Automatic in your car, all the way to ThingWorx and IBM in industrial settings, 3D Robotics and DJI in drones, and Oculus and Microsoft on your virtual reality headset – developers are key to success in the marketplace. And it’s clear to see why. Our report offers four ways that developers can extend a business: as innovators, customers, extenders, and distributors.The trend towards placing developers in the center of commercial strategy is in full swing. For example, Industrial IoT counts almost as high a percentage of professional developers as the mobile ecosystem does, while the smart home sector trails behind.
Battle of the Smart Home Hubs. Every major consumer technology is vying to become the hub of your home nowadays, from Amazon (Echo) and AT&T (Digital Life) to Xiaomi and Xfinity (by Comcast). It shouldn’t surprise then that with 1.4 million developers, the smart home is the most popular IoT sector. Smart home hubs compete on three axes – new touchpoints, new interaction models and developers – each of which raises important questions for the future. Touchpoints like voice control, next-generation remote controls, apps, and messaging are the core of the user experience, but most solutions don’t come from the maker of the smart home hub itself. Who will control the customer relationship in the future, harvesting user loyalty? Conversational platforms (voice, chat) in particular are coming up strong. Meanwhile, the rise of artificial intelligence fundamentally challenges the central role of developers as creators of use cases. Will developers go extinct? For now, key players still count on developers to drive value creation, also in AI-driven conversation platforms.
The 4 frontiers of wearable platforms. Innovation in wearables is in full swing. Wearables move from consumer electronics devices to being unobtrusively embedded in clothing, which make the technology more and more relevant for traditional fashion companies. Soon, brands will compete on digital identity – an opportunity to create a powerful connection with users. Smartwatches and AR/VR platforms will compete on who has most apps. In smartwatches, Android Wear is under pressure from new platform challengers. On the one hands, Chinese internet companies build their own Android derivatives for wearables. On the other, victims of the Android smartphone strategy build direct challenger platforms based on Tizen or webOS. Finally, our research shows that data-centric apps are more lucrative than simple smartwatch apps or new wearable devices, but that few developers go that way today.
From Connected Car to software-defined transportation. The innovation focus in Connected Cars is shifting from the dashboard to vehicle data, and in the future to data-driven transportation platforms. Car makers struggle to keep control over and to gain access to the necessary supply chain, expertise, and data to be leaders in this evolution. Will car makers miss automotive computing just like Microsoft missed mobile? We’ve explored this trend in depth here.
Consumer and Enterprise technology converge. Consumer and enterprise technology are increasingly converging in most industries. The smart home of today will become the smart office of tomorrow, as smart locks turn into access control and smart TVs into meeting room equipment. The equivalent of wearable-sensor-driven health apps in the enterprise are people analytics, such as the Humanyze platform. And Jeff Immelt, head of GE, famously said this about data technologies developed at Amazon, Google, or Facebook making their way into the industrial world: “If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up this morning as a software and analytics company.” Consumer, and not enterprise technology will be the foundation for the converged future. Why? Consumer markets offer much faster product evolution and validation with customers. Consumer-grade ease of installation coupled with enterprise-grade security will be the future. Developers from their side will be increasingly mobile between consumer and enterprise markets.
The hottest business models in IoT. The prevalent business models in the Internet of Things are moving from product sales to recurring revenue, and from products to services. Industrial IoT technology creates opportunities for vendors to sell access to assets like jet engines or locomotives as a service, rather than selling the machines themselves. In the home, smart appliances (e.g. washing machines) are becoming an e-commerce point of sale for consumables (e.g. washing powder). Companies like Nest, Oscar Health Insurance, or Automatic have paved the way for moving from a ‘consumer pays’ model to a ‘consumer gets paid’ model, subsidizing devices with other revenue streams like insurance or energy company rebates.