Devices and engineers themselves must become more flexible and focused on return on investment to succeed in an era where a software-defined Internet of Things has become the new normal.
Security seems to be the only thing on anybody’s mind when it comes to the IoT from hacked baby monitors to the Mirai botnet. But there are other even more pressing issues at hand, according to new research conducted by our team this year.
Fifty-three percent of the more than 360 IoT professionals we surveyed cited business considerations, such as quantifying return-on-investment from IoT projects, as their primary challenge. It’s time that electronics engineers refocused their efforts to not only show the technical benefits of their IoT devices but also the potential returns that businesses can see by using them.
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the development of physical devices. As it stands, 55% of IoT professionals see their long-term profits coming from the sale of hardware.
While there is still significant money to be made in hardware, as the cost of single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi or even lower cost Orange Pi continues to decrease, engineers are taking a more cost-sensitive approach by abandoning custom IoT microcontrollers. This approach has been made possible by the increasing availability and functionality of single-board computers with a fully functioning IoT OS that helps improve overall margins for the finished product.
Rather than focusing solely on the development of a standalone piece of IoT hardware, today’s engineers must instead start seeing their hardware designs as a base upon which increasingly complex software-defined functions can be managed and run. As IoT devices grow ever more software-defined, engineers must also develop devices that are futureproof.
Thanks to the development of IoT app stores, vendors and even consumers now expect their devices to be almost endlessly upgradable. The days of selling a connected device with a single use case in mind are over. The opportunity for driving substantial returns on investment for the IoT is in upgradeable devices.
Our research found that 55% of IoT professionals intend to monetise their devices through on-going update fees. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they intend to turn a profit through value added services.
In preparation for this shift, engineers must start to develop their designs with a far greater degree of flexibility in mind. While demand for hardware designers remains stable, 71% of IoT professionals identify software development as one of the most needed skills in the IoT age, and a third are still struggling to hire employees with programming skills.
-- Mike Bell is the Executive Vice President of IoT at Canonical.