Many technology fields are established, have set standards, and have general expectations of them that are universal across industries. There’s still a lot to be learned surrounding the Internet of Things. To become an IoT developer requires a diverse and unique skillset that includes knowing both the hardware and software side of development, on top of soft skills that will help communicate your projects properly. Having the skills and knowledge below will set you up to become an IoT developer, allowing you to bring your talents to the industry of your choice.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a network of internet-connected objects able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. These devices all speak to one another and connect to the internet, creating a web of smart devices constantly exchanging information. This can mean anything from a thermostat connecting to your door, or writing a shopping list on your refrigerator’s display then sending it to your phone automatically.
By the end of 2017, it is expected that there will be 8.4 billion IoT enabled devices – that means more objects than there are people in the world. Even individuals and smaller companies can now develop for IoT, as the technology is not only cheaper to obtain, but also more readily available. 5.2 billion of all IoT devices will be owned by consumers. This is creating a huge demand for IoT developers – all jobs that require hard skills but boast impressive salaries.
Once I become an IoT developer, what will I do?
Before you become an IoT developer, it is important to understand what exactly it is that you will be doing. Similar to other developer jobs, you will be deep in technology, creating platforms, software, hardware, and systems.
The difference is that you will be creating products that focus on connecting to other devices – as is the nature of IoT. Many projects will involve creating embedded software that’s cloud-compatible, enabling said product to work with other products. Coming from a background in engineering, software development, or computer science will be appealing entryways to starting with IoT-specific projects.
When you consider becoming an IoT developer, know that it will be a very technical role, requiring you to wear multiple hats in development. Expect to know various software, to be proficient in at least one coding language (if not multiple), and to know how to connect software to the hardware that it will be used for. It’s always a good idea to know soft skills to help with communicating your developments, such as technical writing and presentation skills.
Know the potential of IoT
That’s not an exaggeration – IoT will be a huge part of how we live our lives. Within two years, 82% of companies will be using IoT applications into their businesses, and roughly 2/3 of all devices will be consumer-based. This emerging technology will eventually make its way into almost every home and business in the country
IoT applications and devices have the potential to drastically improve how we live. By automating so much of what we do, people will be able to spend more time on other business projects, or even to spend more time with family and friends. IoT is more than just a platform.
Know the history
It’s always a good idea to know where your industry came from, as it will help you understand the present and how to push towards the future. For example, knowing that the term “Internet of Things” was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 is a good nugget to know. You don’t need to be a historian per se, but being able to speak to the trends and recent history of IoT is impressive.
Know the major players
IoT is huge and there are some big names involved.
- Amazon: Amazon Web Services is the largest cloud provider, and IoT uses massive amounts of data that often requires cloud storage.
- AT&T: The company is hopeful that their broadband will be a major enabler of IoT – and there’s certainly a lot of room for that market share.
- Cisco: Many devices will be using Cisco’s networking equipment to communicate, including switches, routers, wireless access, and more.
- Eclipse IoT: A company that’s providing open source technologies to make IoT development more convenient for anyone to access.
- GE: The coiner of the term ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ hopes to be on the forefront of using IoT in manufacturing.
- Google: Now the owner of Nest, Google has already infiltrated the consumer IoT market.
- iRobot: By using home-mapping technology, the Roomba creator is looking to become a leader of household IoT.
- Oracle: Oracle wants its databases and applications to be the platform its customers use to manage and analyze IoT data.
And there’s plenty more.
Understand the challenges:
There are a few hurdles that are preventing IoT from becoming commonplace still. The clear primary reason is that there are technical challenges in the way. Being able to connect thousands, millions, and eventually, billions of devices won’t be easy. This will put a strain on existing cloud capabilities.
Privacy and security come up in discussion frequently. With the hacking incidents we hear about frequently, it only makes sense for people to be concerned. IoT brings in more actors to the playing field, so make sure to make your software safe! As with the Internet in general, there are legislative and legal issues that you will have to consider as well.
As you consider becoming an IoT developer, know that there will still be a skills gap for a while. Not everyone has caught on to IoT yet, but that just means you’ll stand out more – and that’s a good thing.
Know the full IoT stack
The Internet of Things isn’t just about the technology. You will need to know the full stack of development, and that includes the end use of the product, its industry context, the business implications, and more. If you want to become an IoT developer, nothing looks better than going into an interview saying “I know how to develop for IoT, and here’s how it can generate ROI for your business.”
Know how people use your product, how it can generate revenue, how a company can benefit from it, and understand its context in the bigger picture. IoT isn’t just a device in a vacuum – it’s an enabler for a much bigger picture.
It’s all about rapid prototyping
Learning from experience is often the best way to become an expert in something. There are only so many video tutorials you can watch. Actually prototyping devices or software will allow you to experiment and test your products without having to devote significant time or resources.
Prototyping your product is a useful stepping stone to developing a finished production device. Journalists don’t go straight to writing their final product – they will outline their article and make multiple drafts and edits before submitting to an editor, and an IoT app is no different.
Becoming an IoT developer
For those that want to become an IoT developer, know that there’s more than just the technical aspect. Yes, you can become an IoT developer by just knowing the hard skills, but to stand out you’ll need to know a lot more. Being able to talk about the companies that are setting the standard, being able to communicate your products to others, knowing the full business case surrounding the product, and more, will all make you a true IoT developer. Nothing is more attractive than someone with working prototypes and being able to understand the full context of a product!
Recommended reading: 6 Tips From Hiring Managers for Starting a Career in IoT