Is IoT really DIY with a little help from your friends?

Let’s start with a controversial statement: the adoption curve of the IoT has been disappointing.

There, I said it. Doesn’t it feel like that’s true from where you sit? But maybe that sentiment is changing.

In the past several months, a persistent lower-level question has been bubbling up to the top of thinking in the sector. How can the acceleration of achieving business goals with IoT technology be achieved? Let’s spend a couple of minutes of today thinking about precisely that.

See also: Are telecoms being overlooked in IoT deployments?

Technology is moving swiftly, powered by plenty of ideas. To derive real business benefit, innovation has to be brought to bear on the problems that technology is trying to address. And of course, to innovate, the cost of failing must be as low as possible. That is a topic for another day.

More to the focal point of this post, today’s toolkits to support goal-oriented IoT creators have implanted certain attributes: real-time interaction with devices and the data they’re producing; exposure for APIs within the stack’s various components, allowing for greater control and creativity through access; and perhaps most importantly, a much greater focus on self-service.

Power to the user

The vast majority of the IoT development to be done in the coming years will be done by what had been traditionally labeled the “software community.” With more self-service options on the hardware side, the development process for IoT is getting closer to what software-skilled makers are comfortable doing. It’s not that the custom SoC (ASIC) is dead, it’s just that the IoT won’t be dominated by them.

Established boards with a range of accessible and programmable features have now, reduced the reliance on hardware and manufacturing expertise in early-stage development, shrunken development cycles, and generally made developers more comfortable. Things like trusted boot, onboard management, and storage are available on many of the entry-level IoT board options on the market today.

The products they’re going to rely upon aren’t “hiding anything” or going to trap them with “gotchas” in a part of the solution stack where they’re less versed.

Furthermore, developer community boards freely share code snippets that make creating sensors from “recipes” or pre-designed approaches much simpler than ever before. Code-limiting hardware is a red flag.

Connectivity that provides transmission of data at or very near to cost, and without the telco gotchas that have hampered ROIs in the past, now exists.

The punchline is that following a “stovepipe” development stack – an exercise in discarding trust for the developer – is clearly no longer necessary. Do it yourself, with a range of standard and swappable components, is within reach.

Business over technology

Once a product starts to scale in terms of hardware units, or hit limitations in terms of power-constrained operation (much more of a concern in LPWAN and BlueTooth environments, even now), then designing PCB and custom SoCs/ASICs becomes an imperative. But an early-stage product trying to address an initial market has a much more pressing concern – proving out the business logic.

In a sense, with the freedom to “think about the business logic” by importing packages into simple development environments that do what needs to be done, developers are facing a significant drop in the cost of failure – said another way, iteration in the IoT is much more possible now than ever before.

For example, makers and product developers in IoT are now able, using well-established toolkits and cheap, secure, simple connectivity, to work on features and iterate without having to pull devices back and work on them “on the mother ship.”  With a tighter loop comes faster product iteration. Clouds have also made strong advances towards the physical world by adding features that allow IoT early-stage makers to access its agility, horsepower, economics, and scalability in a way where it wasn’t before.

All that is to say – the adoption curve may have been disappointing thus far, but now, with a little help from trusted and objectively verifiable friends, the DIY approach to IoT is well and truly going to help accelerate the market.

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