We continue with a fourth and final installment of insights from our most recent publication, IoT Developer Megatrends – a short publication on the most important trends for IoT. It’s clear that the Internet of Things will be a big opportunity. But how exactly will we find that killer app? Or rather, how can we build an engine that turns out one killer app after another?
Apps like Instagram, WeChat, Uber or even Angry Birds have created entirely new, multi-billion dollar markets that were not even imaginable before. We concluded in the previous trend that the consumer market is the bigger IoT opportunity because it similarly offers more opportunities to explore new and completely unexpected use cases: a crucial driver of demand for IoT products.
To find those opportunities, innovators need to be given free reign to experiment with unlikely ideas. They also need to get every opportunity to present their products to users, without having to get permission from a conservative gatekeeper. Only in this way can we collectively find the hidden gems.
Already we’re seeing IoT platforms emerge that consider developers as first-class ecosystem citizens. [tweetable]Developers are not your new customer, contractor or partner. They are your resellers[/tweetable]: they drive demand for your product.
Ford, for example, has attracted over 11,000 developers to its platform for car apps. Similarly, the advent of Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are awakening the desire to develop apps for cars in thousands of developers. This is a strong break with the current practice where only a handful of select partners can work with car makers on in-vehicle infotainment. Smart Watch platforms like Pebble, Razer, Android Wear or Apple’s WatchKit open up the wrist to new innovation. No longer do you need to develop the watch itself to provide the service. Already 25,000 developers flocked to the Pebble platform and created 6,000 apps. The same pattern emerges in the Smart Home, where platforms like SmartThings and Apple HomeKit enable developers to combine data from all the connected devices around the home into clever scenarios, which then attract more users.
And the winning platform is… (*drumroll*)
All these platforms enable developers to orchestrate data streams into valuable scenarios for users. Soon, this will become so easy that everyone can be a “developer”. Then, the true innovation potential of the Internet of Things will be unleashed.
Indeed, developer interest in the Internet of Things is picking up fast. Already, 53% of mobile developers are involved in IoT development. This data point from our Q1 2015 Developer Economics survey of 4,000+ IoT developers implies that there are well over 3 million IoT developers active today. All of those people are looking for new and interesting innovations. 45% of them are professionals, seeking to build or grow a business out of IoT.
The platform that succeeds best in empowering developers and connecting them with users will be more powerful than any single killer IoT app or product. That platform will have a solution for every need, and will therefore unlock consumer demand beyond its wildest dreams. Because every user and every developer will look at that platform first to find or market a solution – the much lauded network effects – it will be impossible for other platforms to compete. [tweetable]A winner-takes-all outcome – that’s what’s at stake in the Internet of Things[/tweetable].
We can get even more specific. We predict that by 2020, Apple, Google or both will have built a dominant IoT platform that makes head-on competition impossible.
Established technology companies like IBM, Cisco or GE, and incumbent IoT specialists like Jasper, PTC or Sierra understand the enterprise IoT market very well. But they are not specialists in connecting developers with users. Google and Apple on the other hand have built ecosystem empires with well over 5 million developers combined. Already both companies are active in every major IoT vertical. Our survey shows that their nascent platforms are the most popular and attractive to developers.
For Apple and Google, IoT is an extension of their current efforts, not the creation of an entirely new business. This puts them in pole position at the start of the IoT platform race.