Being involved in IoT development means honing and maintaining a versatile skill set, which requires familiarity with both the hardware and software side of things. You should not only know the intricate details of the hardware used —connectivity and compatibility are two major components, but you must also be able to craft and deliver the software experiences too.
Take a connected or smart TV for example. On the hardware side, to be truly "smart," a TV must have an embedded Wi-Fi card that allows it to sync up with local networks. However, to be alluring to customers, it needs to include both an operating system and app ecosystem that enable users to interact. You need to make it easy to access, browse, install, access and use the various apps that create the user experience.
Getting back to basics, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a swath of internet-connected devices and platforms that can store information and exchange data. Many IoT devices — especially in the industrial market — have embedded sensors that work with software algorithms to react and carry out various actions. Aside from the internet access, what makes them "connected" is the fact that they can communicate or sync up with other smart devices.
Say, for instance, that you have a smart thermostat, a smart light bulb and a smart power outlet in your home. These devices could all interact, syncing up to turn on or off on a user-set schedule or at times that an algorithm determines will be the most cost-effective.
IoT is a huge deal, not just in the consumer world (smart homes), but in many other sectors too. In fact, when 2017 wrapped up, there were 8.4 billion connected “things” in use.
So, the IoT and "smart" things market is massive. But, how do you get involved and what kind of skills and experience do you need?
The most important skills that you should possess to start your career in IoT is that you should be a developer, creating platforms, systems, software and even hardware. Your job is essentially to ensure that whether all the necessary components are in working order and that your customers have the power to control and interact with the related devices.
Remember the compatibility bit we mentioned in the introduction. It is also your responsibility to ensure that any devices, hardware or platforms you develop are compatible with a variety of other systems. In many cases, this calls for recurring, continuous development through released software and firmware updates.
Online courses — such as this one— often recommend a proficiency in at least one coding language including Java, C, Python or Swift. But you'll also need to understand and know how to assemble the hardware, which requires lots of practice. Luckily, tinkerers and beginners can build their skills with devices like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino electronics kits.
Many people wish to change or redirect their path at some point in their career. Advanced to intermediate developers, in particular, might want to get into IoT to stay relevant, because, it offers a more competitive and enjoyable experience.
Whether you're a beginner or an expert, the initial training is still the same. Here's what you'll need to know:
IoT’s Potential: 82% of companies and organizations will be using IoT hardware and software for their business within the next two years. Furthermore, two-thirds of all consumer-centric devices will be “connected” or IoT-ready . That means, within the next few years, IoT technology will be in just about every home and business around the country, if not the world.
As a developer, it's important to understand the vast implications of the systems and technology you're helping to flesh out. In the case of IoT, these devices have the potential to improve lives, work conditions and efficiency for most businesses.
History: IoT or "Internet of Things" was initially introduced by Kevin Ashton in 1999 and has become the premiere term of related technologies. Before delving in, you should know why it came about, when and how it was created and, more importantly, where it's going.
You’ll also want to stay on top of industry trends and patterns, which requires a familiarity with the industry’s history.
Know the Players: The list of major brands and organizations involved in the IoT sector currently is huge. You'll want to keep up to date with what's going on with the big players like Amazon, Cisco, Google, AT&T, Oracle and IBM, iRobot, Qualcomm, and Samsung.
If you're going to enter the market and work as a developer, you'll want to know the companies and teams you're going to be working alongside. Remember, IoT devices are also "connected" and require interconnectivity with other hardware and software.
Understand Limitations: Technology, as we all know, is not perfect. IoT devices have limitations and restrictions, which you'll want to be familiar with as a developer. The "connected" functionality of a system or device, for instance, is useless when the internet is down. You'll want to create and develop the technology, so that it's as operational as possible when experiencing connectivity problems.
Another often forgotten limitation relates to the average consumer, who is not tech-savvy or knowledgeable about complex technology. You'll need to consider this demographic when developing your systems and devices. How can you make your products user-friendly without losing functionality?
The good news is that once you understand most of the concepts and have the skills discussed here, you can dive right in and begin working in the IoT field. Because of how widespread and prevalent it is in today's world, there are many ways to get involved, not all of which are costly or time-consuming. It will be an added advantage if you already have development and coding experience.
Overall, it's not a bad idea to expand your horizons and get involved with IoT and "connected" devices now. They are already taking the world by storm, and it won't be long before they're as common as the beloved smartphone.