MWC in Barcelona last week was awash with Lego. Several booths from some of the biggest brands at the show used the plastic building bricks to illustrate use cases for the Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything if you’re Qualcomm or Cisco.
Build a Lego car, make it go, build a Lego robot, make it walk and so on. Lego is relatively inexpensive and to the mostly mobile crowd it served well as a decent metaphor for ‘what could be done’ with the much quoted but not yet widely commercialized, or even understood, Internet of Things.
But, moving forward, Lego may be a little too simple. Many developers who are now starting out building applications on an Arduino board or Raspberry Pi are disaffected mobile applications developers. Realizing that the mobile race is run, the app stores are too crowded, big players dominate the app charts, breakthrough hits are becoming rarer and rarer, they have moved on to the new new thing, the Internet of Things.
However, serious development here looks like it will more complex than merely publish and pray on the mobile App Store. No clear leader currently exists in IoT, and whilst this is a fantastic opportunity for the platform players themselves it makes life hard for the developer, knowing which horse to back.
And here’s why Lego may be oversimplifying it a little, technological dumbing down if you like, the most lucrative IoT solutions of the coming years are likely to involve hardware of some kind, and hardware beyond just a chip and a board. Wearables, for example, by definition, require something that is actually wearable, putting the Thing in the Internet of Things. Sure it needs smart software but whether it’s a watch, glasses, jacket or shoes, someone needs to integrate the software into the kit itself. And that is likely to be way more complex than snapping Lego bricks together.
Of course platforms will emerge that will make pure play app or software development a viable option in the Internet of Things, Google Nest, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto for example. But these will quite quickly become the new home of the app lottery that the dominant app stores have become today.
True opportunity exists for developers who can match software skills with hardware partners to make truly innovative Internet of Things products whether it be for consumer or enterprise.