A lot of tech companies have made very big investments in the Internet of Things (IoT). Take Google, for example, which shelled out a cool $3.2 billion for connected-devices developer Nest in 2014. Or General Electric, which has pivoted its corporate strategy to focus on the “Industrial Internet,” where machines of all types come studded with sensors feeding a constant stream of data to analysts.
But is the Internet of Things just a lot of hype? According to Argus Insights, consumer demand for so-called “smart” light bulbs and other devices is dipping at a rapid clip. (Hat tip to InfoWorld for the original link.)
“Based on our review of consumer interest, the state of home automation in 2015 is not looking good for anyone who sells or makes these devices,” John Feland, CEO and founder of Argus Insights, wrote in a statement accompanying the firm’s data. “Even though Google and Samsung made big purchases in this space by buying Nest thermostats, Dropcam and the suite of SmartThings products demand is stagnating.”
If you take the firm’s analysis at face value, relatively few consumers are interested in thermostats controllable via iPhone or a networked smoke detector that talks. But not every analyst firm believes the Internet of Things is a dud.
For example, Gartner issued a report in late 2014 that suggested more than 25 billion devices will be part of the Internet of Things by 2020. While the majority of those units will be consumer-focused, it predicted, industry and the enterprise could have a significant presence in the space. Governments and utilities will also rely on sensors and smart devices to make services and energy grids more efficient.
If you choose to believe the hype, or if the idea of working on networked devices interests you enough to pursue a career in the segment, adapting to the Internet of Things will require a strong mix of hard and soft skills. Building connected devices (and the networks that support them) involves work from multiple disciplines, meaning anyone who gets involved in the market will need solid collaboration skills.
In addition, because the Internet of Things involves very public-facing technology, pros working in the space will likely need to explain the core concepts in ways understandable by anyone—i.e., consumers, managers, and others.
The Internet of Things will demand data scientists who can wrangle massive amounts of unstructured data produced by interconnected devices. It will also present opportunities for app-builders and software developers who build the smartphone and PC dashboards that control and monitor IoT networks.
Security pros will find work protecting these networks from vulnerabilities; in the case of the Industrial Internet, patching vulnerabilities and discovering system weaknesses is especially important, given the dangers inherent in a malicious actor seizing a real-world system.
Hardware designers may find the most opportunities. As connected devices evolve, there will be constant pressure to improve battery life and the capabilities of sensors. Those pros who specialize in minimizing hardware and building embedded systems will certainly profit.