The internet of things reached the mainstream consciousness in 2018, moving from a geeky technical topic to something your relatives might discuss at the dinner table over the holidays. As consumers, we all gravitate toward connected home IoT devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, but the hype around this technology and its possibilities has graced media headlines and started to enter boardrooms. Analysts and IoT pioneers alike have promised a world of opportunity filled with smart clothing, advanced health trackers and digital assistants that will make our daily lives easier. But the truth is we’re just not there yet. IoT has not yet reached its full potential — but that’s about to change.
New advancements in low-power wide area (LPWA) wireless are making it easier for developers to create connected products. Only a year or two ago, limitations of connectivity and hardware scale would have made the idea of a connected electric scooter — let alone hundreds of them filling our city streets — completely unimaginable. But we’ve reached a tipping point in IoT innovation where connected products are limited only by developers’ imaginations. By solving key developer issues and lowering barriers to entry, industry leaders are unlocking new possibilities that will usher in a new era of IoT.
Roadblocks to a connected world
IoT is an inherently complex industry, with unique challenges for developers that make innovation about much more than building an app. One challenge that has held up IoT progress historically is that experimentation has been very expensive. After all, experimentation is the prerequisite to innovation. IoT hardware is unique, costs of manufacturing vary widely based on the device or system you’re building, and there are numerous carriers and connectivity options to choose from. It’s difficult for developers to innovate while navigating the complex interplay of hardware, software and connectivity.
Creating new IoT devices has never been as simple as “build once and deploy globally.” Since cellular areas and operators change drastically around the world, both software and hardware must be tweaked based on the region it’s being deployed in. It has been a challenge to manage IoT devices seamlessly on a global scale. These factors have made it difficult for new developers to enter the IoT world and be creative with the technology, but new advancements are solving for these roadblocks.
The impact of new technology
New wireless communications advancements are making the IoT developer experience more seamless by lowering cost and barriers to entry. One major factor has been the optimization of cellular networks for low-power devices that don’t require a lot of bandwidth. LPWA wireless does what it says in the name, providing low-power connectivity that uses a low bandwidth connection and is optimized for devices that transmit small payloads of data. This advancement means that batteries last longer. It also lowers the overall cost of IoT development by helping reduce the costs of modems and minimizing the burden of replacing devices.
The result has been to open up even more possibilities for IoT. Longer battery life can unlock a whole new set of use cases for devices that are away from a power source and not regularly serviced. Meanwhile, with networks starting to branch out and optimize for low-power, low-cost, low-battery use cases, billions of new devices have begun to come online. These advances mean that developers can experiment with new devices without high entry costs. This kind of experimentation is the only way we’ll reach the full potential of IoT innovation.
A new message for IoT developers: The sky’s the limit
What do these changes mean for developers? It’s time to get creative. Use your imagination to build the future of connected devices. Two years ago, some developers saw the opportunity to connect scooters to the internet, and we’ve all seen the impact. What will be the next everyday device we see become connected? I can’t wait to find out.
It’s truly an exciting time with more possible than ever before in IoT. While it’s up to developers to come up with the next IoT use cases, the industry must continue to provide them with the tools they need to experiment and create. Solving future barriers and making the developer experience more seamless will empower the next generation of innovators to experiment with new capabilities and fulfill the true potential of IoT.
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