Is it worth pursuing the Internet of Things (IoT) as a career?
That’s a question on the forefront of many tech pros’ minds. Although the hype surrounding IoT is strong, consumers haven’t exactly rushed out to integrate smart devices into their homes. And while many businesses have publicly voiced support for IoT, far fewer have built strategies around such initiatives.
Indeed, every time the IoT industry seems to gain momentum, something slows it down. For example, when Google purchased smart-devices manufacturer Nest Labs for $3.4 billion in early 2014, some tech pundits assumed that the combination of Nest’s exacting design aesthetic and Google’s software engineering would result in a strong portfolio of ultra-smart devices that everyone wanted to own. But the acquisition failed to unleash that promised revolution in IoT; more than three years later, Nest seems mostly devoted to iterative improvements to its existing lineup.
In addition, IoT has something of a mindshare problem. In mid-2016, only 6 percent of American households had a “smart device” in their house, according to analyst firm Forrester (via The Economist). Even worse, Forrester expected that number to increase to 15 percent by 2021—not exactly an explosive adoption rate.
While the consumer market has lagged, commercial firms have taken an interest in wrapping their hardware in sensors and software. For the past few years, General Electric has advocated hard for the concept of an “Industrial Internet,” in which everything from factory machines to jet engines “talks” via sensors and analytics to human managers. The reason for business uptake of IoT is simple: it makes things more efficient, which ultimately saves (and makes) money.
Analytics firm Utopia recently released an infographic (drawn from various sources) breaking down how IoT might evolve over the next few years. Based on these data-points, there’s reason to be optimistic that the commercial and public sectors might make up for some softness in consumer IoT. For example, some 93 percent of utility and energy companies increased their involvement in IoT-related projects; within two years, some 30 percent of local and regional governments will leverage IoT in the service of infrastructure.
What does this all mean for tech pros? Although the consumer IoT market might be a little bit too anemic for some developers’ tastes, there seems to be more upside on the commercial and public fronts. And given the size of those latter two markets, there’s likely opportunity for tech pros of all types to get involved. Check out Utopia’s infographic below for more data on the IoT market: