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  • Writer's pictureSlashData Team

The kingmakers of the Internet of Things

[Communities of developers play a key role in shaping the future of Internet of Things. For the first time we have the data to understand who those IoT developers are, where to find them and how to reach them.]


It’s clear now that developers and makers are the true kingmakers of IoT. In the home, Google’s Nest is opening up its API, Apple has HomeKit and Samsung bought developer-focused startup SmartThings. Every wearable and their auntie has an API, and they are now joined by meta-APIs that aggregate data, spearheaded by Apple HealthKit and Google Fit. Recent new car SDKs include Dash’s Chassis API, Carvoyant’s and Vinli’s. ARM and Intel have both released new developer tools. Relayr got $2.3M in funding to build an Internet of Things app ecosystem, among other things. Popular developer tool Eclipse got in the game with an open IoT stack for Java.

When 17% of respondents in our survey of 10,000 developers said that they are involved in M2M or IoT, we were really excited. Communities of developers play a key role in shaping the future of Internet of Things. For the first time we have the data to understand who those IoT developers are, where to find them and how to reach them.

Let’s look at a few tip on how all those programs can reach out to developers.

How many are they?

First of all, people running IoT developer programs have millions of developers to work with. [tweetable]VisionMobile estimates the number of IoT developers at 3.2 million individuals[/tweetable]. One in eight of those are focused on IoT as their primary target, prioritising it over smartphones, tablets and other screens.

In fact, [tweetable]IoT and M2M attract 36% more developers than Smart TVs, set-top boxes, game consoles and e-readers combined![/tweetable] This is even more impressive when considering that IoT is in the early stages of market development, while game consoles and set-top boxes have dominated the living room for decades.

70% of IoT developers work in small teams, most of them in startups of under 50 people. Small, agile teams dominate the search for the next killer app. That should come as no surprise: it takes a lot of flexibility to venture out in the complete unknown. Indeed, a whopping 14% of IoT developers is unsure of whether they’ll serve enterprises or consumers.

Where are they?

IoT developers are everywhere – from Silicon Valley to Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur, from small towns to mega-cities. There is no single area that dominates IoT innovation in terms of developer population. This is good news for entrepreneurs all over the world. You don’t need to be in the right spot, because there isn’t any.

It is no surprise to see [tweetable]startup clusters in Silicon Valley and New York light up for the Internet of Things[/tweetable]. There are many developers in Europe too (most of them in Western Europe), but they are scattered and seem slow to move from mobile to IoT compared to other regions.

A key cluster can be found in Canada, particularly in Toronto. There seems to be a “Blackberry fallout” – a prime source for highly experienced hardware people. Like in Canada, Finland seems to know a “Nokia fallout” and is positioning itself as an electronics innovation center.

[tweetable]4 out of 10 IoT developers live in Asia[/tweetable] (a significantly bigger proportion than in mobile). The outsourcing and manufacturing center of the world seems to be fertile ground for IoT innovation. The leaders are India and China. In India, Bangalore and Mumbai lead the dance. In China we see clusters around the major coastal centers, but also the inner cities are surprisingly well represented. The outsourcing and manufacturing hubs offer fertile ground for IoT innovation.

How can they be reached?

In the survey we also asked developers where they get their information. When breaking down the data for IoT developers, some surprises emerge. Hackathons, for example, are often one of the first initiatives that a developer program adopts to attract developers. But [tweetable]only one in five developers uses hackathons to get info[/tweetable]; their reach is fairly limited. While publications in the tech media is a good way to get brand awareness, only 1 in 3 developers that have IoT as their primary target will look there for information.

So where do they look? As usual, [tweetable]community support is the most popular source of information (over 50% of developers)[/tweetable]. This said, online forums and tutorials are underdeveloped relative to mobile, as the IoT developer space is still in an early stage.

[tweetable]Committed IoT developers seek information, not discovery.[/tweetable] Workshops are a key outreach channel. In contrast, for those involved in IoT as a side project, conferences and other events are a good way to find out what’s going on. Is this for me?

Just the beginning

This is just the beginning. First, because we’re in the early days of IoT developer platforms. Even as we have millions of developers who are actively experimenting with IoT and at the same time a lot of IoT developer programs popping up, we have yet to see the emergence of a major platform similar to Android and iOS in mobile.

It’s also the beginning for VisionMobile’s research on IoT developers. Our 8th Developer Economics survey (launching next week) will give significant attention to IoT developers. What would you ask to thousands of IoT developers? Find more information here if you want to join the Developer Economics research in this space.

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