Posts tagged developers

Petnet’s failure is a warning to IoT developers


News sites  and social media has been abuzz the last few days with the situation that the Petnet automated pet feeder was experiencing system failure raising significant questions about the reliability of connected devices.

The situation unfolded on Wednesday when angry PetNet owners posted a email from Petnet to Twitter which advised them:

“You may experience a loss of scheduled feeds and failed remote feedings. Please ensure that your pets have been fed manually until we have resolved this issue”.


The Petnet is a smart pet feeder with features including ““intelligent sensor technology, learning algorithms, and processing power that assesses the dietary requirements of a pet” and a custom feeding schedule via a corresponding app with alerts to pet owners when their pet has been fed and reminders when food supplies are running low.  It’s usage scenarios may include when an owner is late home, wanting to avoid an early morning or of course on holidays. Thus, it’s understandable that pet owners have met the situation with outrage.

According to PetNet’s CEO, Carlos Herrera, the third-party server service, that the company rents from Google, had been down for around 10 hours and did not have redundancy backups, further claiming that PetNet was preparing to roll out a workaround to the problem, as explained to The Guardian. Herra further claimed that about 10% of PetNet users were affected, and that the feeders can operate on previously set schedules without this particular third-party service, though users lose the ability to feed remotely or change the feeding schedule.

The rise of the connected pet


Connected pets are nothing new as the era of wearables and connected technology mean pet owners are able to gain greater insight into the needs and health of their furriest family members. Automated pet feeders of old are becoming replaced by digitised versions that claim to (depending on brand) not only supply feed and water on a regular basis but also check the quantity of food and water consumed;  notify you when pet food is running low; provide camera shots and video footage of your pets; enable you to talk to your pet via your phone or laptop and distinguish your cats from each other through facial recognition technology. You can even get specific RFID tagged devices to stop your pets from stealing each others food. At any time there’s an abundance of pet products on the market including at the time of writing, over 150 connected devices on Kickstarter seeking funds. But until this week the notion of what happens when the technology fails, placing our beloved pets potentially at risk has been notably absent.

Lessons from the PetNet’s failure

It’s been a while since I heard the term ‘internet of stupid’ but a number of people on twitter have assigned it to the IoT sector in light of this situation. Inherent with connected hardware design are possible failure scenarios like problems with internet connectivity, wifi, a residential blackout or the system needing a reboot/restart. These all should have been anticipated. Surely the possibility of system failure or even a failure in internet connectivity should have been anticipated in the design phase with worst case scenario plan available such as a back up feeding schedule connected to the local unit in case of such situations?

It’s noteworthy that whilst PetNet has been able to resolve their server problem in a reasonable time frame, the stress of the situation on holidaying pet owners cannot be underestimated. It really is a great opportunity for opponents of IoT to post pictures of vulnerable kittens and puppies waiting at home, alone for their dinner. A few twitter and facebook updates and an email does not do much to reassure people. However it is commendable that the company is contacting consumers directly to ensure their system is up and working.

The biggest lesson for consumers, is there need to read the fine print associated with any connected devices they purchase, especially where at risk scenarios may result. There are some interesting limitations of service that effectively ensure that PetNet is not held responsible for any service failures:

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 14.20.36

The situation also raises the bigger issues about the viability of automated pet feeders as devices in themselves.  Few accommodate multi-pet families where different diets for different breeds or species are required, making the product impractical for many pet owners. Then there’s the real life realities of pet ownership. Food is a useful training tool for pet owners, especially for cats that typically employ disdain to any training attempts. Animals need regular human contact, affection and play and in the case of dogs, regular exercise. Are we going a step too far placing the nutritional needs of our animals at the mercy of the failure of connected devices?

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Employers aren’t picky when it comes to developers

Profile of concentrated young software developer eating pizza and coding at home

Given how consumed the world has become with big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, one would think employers would be laser-focused on hiring people with those skills. According to a new Dice hiring report, however, employers seem to want generalists, not specialists.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t demand for IoT-focused developers. As VisionMobile highlighted two years ago, there is a desperate need for millions of IoT developers to help build the future. But when the job reqs start flowing, employers want generic “developers” or “software engineers” to the tune of 66%.

What’s your strategy?

Even though it’s still new, there’s a lot of money in IoT. Analyst firm IDC forecasts that firms will spend upwards of $232 billion on IoT technologies in 2016. Gartner polled enterprises to uncover IoT adoption and found that 50% of companies plan to roll out an IoT project in 2016. In total, 64% of enterprises expect to climb aboard the IoT train at some point in the not-so-distant future.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that few of them seem to know why.  According to Chet Geschickter, research director at Gartner, firms are stymied by IoT, even as they rush to implement it, largely for two reasons:

The first set of hurdles are business-related. Many organizations have yet to establish a clear picture of what benefits the IoT can deliver, or have not yet invested the time to develop ideas for how to apply IoT to their business. The second set of hurdles are the organizations themselves. Many of the survey participants have insufficient expertise and staffing for IoT and lack clear leadership.

In other words, enterprises know that IoT will be BIG, BIG, BIG…but they don’t have a clue what to do with it, and they don’t have the in-house talent necessary to figure it out. A Northeastern University-Silicon Valley survey of 200 IoT professionals at the recent Sensor World found the same: nearly 50% of those surveyed pinpoint the development of a “comprehensive IoT strategy as the biggest challenge in IoT.”

This is eerily similar to what plagued big data early on.

Just get me a developer

It’s interesting, therefore, that enterprises aren’t aggressively trying to hire IoT developers. At least, not self-styled IoT developers.

According to the Dice report, while developers are in heavy demand, with 51% of hiring managers identifying “developers” as their top hiring priority in 2016, and another 15% picking out “software engineers” as their priority. While the two are similar, a software engineer tends to be the person designing a system, while the developer actually builds it.

Data specialists (analytics, etc.) are the top priority for just 3% of hiring managers. And IoT-specific professionals? Well, that’s a rounding error.

This doesn’t evince a lack of interest in IoT. Far from it. If anything, it may simply be a recognition that great developers can apply their expertise to any number of types of applications. The key is to find a great developer, then she can learn IoT.

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IoT and Bluetooth: Winning over developers with new features


As the mobile industry begins to stagnate, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become the new market that networking giants are looking at to push them through the next few years.

Bluetooth, the open network standard, is also adapting its short-range technology to become a leader in connecting IoT devices together. In 2016, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced a range of new features critical for IoT devices.

The three key features are extended range, increased speed, and mesh networking. Bluetooth SIG expects the changes to win over some IoT hardware makers, that may have chosen a proprietary networking technology if Bluetooth didn’t invest time into building IoT features.

“Bluetooth has been adopted by countless developers and manufacturers as their connectivity solution of choice for the IoT,” said executive director of Bluetooth SIG, Mark Powell. “The new functionality we will soon be adding will further solidify Bluetooth as the backbone of IoT technology.”

Bluetooth has 4X the range

Bluetooth for IoT has four times the range, which should be useful for businesses that want thousands of IoT devices connected, without large deployment of hubs. It also has 100 percent more speed, useful for critical infrastructure projects where the network must always be online and ready to send information. It also uses a new Mesh network topology, designed for devices to be interconnected inside a network, which is necessary for a scalable IoT solution.

In a separate update, Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) made it possible for a coin-cell battery to last for months or years. The update paid specific attention to power management while idle, directly affecting IoT devices that spend a good amount of time not doing much.

If that wasn’t enough for IoT device makers, we have also heard that open standards in IoT could generate a more vibrant and competitive market in the next five years, and will cost smart cities less to adopt.

The network standard is set to play a massive role in the IoT deployment, both in consumer’s homes and enterprises. With thousands of devices already connected, it is already hard for developers to reject the network.

30 billion IoT devices could be connected in the next five years, making this the fastest growing hardware market, far outpacing mobile adoption. For networking giants, it is imperative that they don’t skip IoT.

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Developers united in their focus on IoT and AI

businessman looking to screen with matrix background

A recently published survey by the Evans Data Corporation shed light on a growing trend in the world of technology development. It showed the high-profile shift in focus of data-driven corporations towards artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things.

This survey, which included 1,441 developers, found that of all the industries impacted by big data analytics, the Internet of Things was ranked at the top with 15.1% followed closely by telecommunications and professional scientific services at 10% each.

Among data mining app developers, robotics, automobiles, and entertainment were being focused on by over half of those surveyed. The sensors used in IoT technologies offer data mining applications valuable insights that go beyond the data traditional systems could obtain.

For example, a fitness tracker or a smartwatch will monitor and track all sorts of things. Your footsteps, times of day you are most active, heart rate, diet through associated food tracking functionality, and more.

For a data miner, this is all absolutely valuable information. Advertisements can be targeted even more specifically and companies will be able to get a much clearer picture about who you are and what your needs are as a consumer.

This is why 45% of respondents indicated that IoT development is very important to their overall development strategy.

Two-thirds of developers expect to deploy cloud-based apps soon

The survey also uncovered that 66.9% of developers are expected to create and deploy cloud-based apps within the next 12 months. Cloud-based applications provide an extraordinary amount of flexibility and access to data. They also enable developers to add functionality on the fly without having to make sweeping changes to hardware. Cross-platform compatibility is also a chief advantage of cloud-based application development.

Now in this new era of big data gathering and parsing, there needs to be a new generation of artificial intelligence to make sense of it all. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are actively working on artificial intelligence.

The age of simple algorithms and gathering information from what a user types into a keyboard is quickly giving way to a new age, filled with devices that gather and report information about us and our lives automatically to servers housed in giant data centers we never even see.

Developers are working on technologies today that will create a more connected, more automated world.

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Most IoT developers aren’t in it for the money


Developers aren’t necessarily like you and me. You may choose to spend your free time making bird houses or watching Friends reruns. Developers, meanwhile, are trying to get Windows 95 to run on an Apple Watch (and succeeding).

This need to tinker is especially pronounced within the IoT developer set. According to new research from VisionMobile, analyzing survey data from over 4,400 IoT developers, there are eight segments of IoT developers, and just 32% of these developers are professionally involved in IoT projects, compared to 50 to 70% in other markets. What this means, in practice, is that 63% of IoT developers are just in it for fun and learning, and don’t have any interest in making you money.

This seems like bitter medicine for those IoT platform companies that hope to corral a body of developers to extend their hardware or service. Indeed, as Stijn Schuermans notes, “Key players in every IoT market build their strategy around developers who can extend the product beyond what it was when it left the factory.”

Just because IoT developers aren’t overwhelmingly motivated by cash doesn’t mean they can’t deliver huge benefits to those that are. It’s just a matter of harnessing different motivations to build up value that makes a platform enticing.

Fun-loving hobbyists

Just like the prince in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, some developers just want to sing. According to VisionMobile’s recently released IoT Developer Segmentation report, many, indeed most, IoT developers are in it for fun, learning, and personal development. A full 22% of IoT developers have zero interest in making money, either for you or for them, and another 21% of IoT developers are “simply exploring the technology without any specific use case in mind.”

Interestingly, “Fun-loving Hobbyists (31% of IoT developers) and Explorers looking for opportunities and learning (32%) form the overwhelming majority of IoT developers in 2016, a much higher number than in other sectors like mobile or cloud development.” IoT, it seems, is heavily driven by developers looking to take Raspberry Pi and other hardware into insanely cool new ground. The percentage of IoT developers that are hoping to collect a paycheck has remained static, and relatively small, for some time.

Even for the money grubbers among the IoT developer set, creativity and a sense of belonging to a developer community weigh more heavily in their motivations than simply cash.

IoT-dog millionaire?

Which is not to say that there is no money to be made in IoT, or that its fun-loving developers can’t be helpful to those seeking to build businesses. Attracting these developers early turns out to be very important, too: though 34% of IoT developers start out unaffiliated with any particular vertical, after three years of experience writing IoT code, that number plummets to 8%. That same population starts off with limited understanding of how to profit from IoT (29% of developers) to just 10% within three years.

As VisionMobile’s report uncovers, though 63% of IoT developers are Hobbyists and Explorers – developers not focused on cash but rather personal exploration – these same developers will “influenc[e] the evolution of IoT technology going forward, by making certain technologies more popular than others, and by taking those technologies into their professional lives at a later stage.” Not surprisingly, the report continues, “the Internet of Things is still a young, emerging market, where the excitement and fun of new technology is more important than money or business success in a not yet fully developed market.”

In sum, there is a land grab for IoT developers today, or should be, but it’s not about delivering developer cash. The cash will come, but today platform providers need to be thinking about how to provide opportunities for developers to explore this still nascent market.

In practice, those platforms that want to entice IoT developers must make their tooling approachable and the documentation clear enough to allow casual development. Raspberry Pi is a classic example of a developer platform that hits all the right notes in terms of giving developers an easy, cheap-to-use playground to experiment upon.

Those that can appeal to the fun side of IoT developers today will find it should translate into their business motivations tomorrow.

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