Monday, May 20, 2024

Rethinking Software Development in IoT

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Nearly five years ago, Marc Andreessen famously proclaimed that “software is eating the world,” and he is probably surprised how much of the world is actually influenced by software today. Nowhere is this more true than in the brave, new world of the Internet of Things (IoT).

No matter which market forecast you read, the commonly held view is that nearly every product and service will be connected over the next decade. And these connections wouldn’t be of much value unless there is software in place to determine what data points should be captured and what actions should be taken in response to the information being collected.

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As I’ve stated in a previous Datamation commentary, there are three primary reasons to pursue an IoT initiative – to react faster when a problem arises, to better predict potential problems before they occur, and to identify new market opportunities. In essence, these can be translated into the ability to improve the quality of products and services, increase the efficiency of business operations, and gain a competitive advantage.

While this all sounds too compelling to ignore, most organizations have been unable to launch IoT initiatives because of the magnitude of the software challenges associated with these deployments. Software commands are the critical components of every piece of the IoT supply-chain, from the sensor-enabled products or services to the legacy back-end systems. And the number of potential IoT use cases that will dictate the software specifications are too many to count or fully imagine. Even after they have been prioritized, the IoT initiatives will require a myriad of microservices to manage them.

This overwhelming reality has paralyzed many organizations. It has also fueled a proliferation of IoT platforms from software vendors suggesting they can provide an easy-to-use toolkit to create extensible IoT solutions. However, the IoT platform vendors are struggling to generate the sales they expected given the industry analysts’ IoT growth predictions. The truth is that most enterprises are not ready to make a ‘big bet’ on an IoT platform at this stage of the game.

Instead, they are more interested in testing their IoT ideas in a series of pilots by developing ‘minimally viable products’ (MVP) as promoted in the popular book, Lean Enterprise. These IoT MVPs will likely result in a set of highly specialized applications that could redefine business processes while integrating with a variety of existing CRM, ERP and other enterprise systems.

Given that IoT’s business benefits must be measured in improved products and better customer support, as well as higher sales at lower costs, the software development process must be more inclusive than the past. DevOps must now be available to everyone from the product design team to the customer support organization.

The democratization of the software development process has given rise to the ‘citizen developer’ and produced a new generation of ‘codeless’ development tools. However, enabling anyone to develop software could quickly result in chaos unless the process is properly managed.

Metavine is among a new group of vendors that are offering software development tools to address these issues. It recently unveiled the Genesis zero-code Design Studio that promises to enable anyone to quickly create and test apps with business processes in mind. The Metavine solution also enables the administrator to set rules to control the development process and ensure the security of the data. It also permits successful software processes to be automated, and includes a common library where the apps can be shared across the Metavine community.

This new class of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is being called ‘self-learning software’ by some. I suspect that others will coin their own names for this category.

The bottom line is that IoT demands new software development tools and techniques, and a growing number of companies are attempting to satisfy this need.

Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies, an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace, and the host of the Cloud Innovators Summits. He can be reached at

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