The Internet of Things, it seems, has been 80% hype and 20% real products and services. That’s going to change in 2016. The technology is mature and reliable. Security is getting better. APIs to access and leverage data from IoT sensors are becoming more commonplace. And, most importantly, IoT, so far largely a consumer novelty, is expanding from the home to the industrial sector.
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This is all great except for one thing. There aren’t enough developers with enough technical ability in IoT combined with an understanding of business principles. At least not in the United States.
It is an issue that ETwater has been dealing with for years. The company, based in Novato, Calif., designs cloud-based IoT smart lawn irrigation systems for the consumer, industrial, and commercial sectors. It builds Wi-Fi hardware controllers that manage the multiple zones of a typical lawn sprinkler system. It also does billing of customers and provides a breadth of reports about water usage and savings. In the middle is an integration analytics engine that calculates when and how much to water, based on dozens of factors pulled in via APIs from a variety of sources. These include weather forecasts, humidity levels, what type of plantings are in each sprinkler zone, time of year and day, sun and wind conditions, sensor readings of soil moisture levels, and a whole lot more. It’s not the kind of application that comes to mind when I think IoT, but, when you look at all the pieces, it’s an exquisite blend of data that results in specific actions.
But, there’s a problem, according to CEO Lee Williams. He can’t find enough qualified developers with expertise in IoT. Call it an IoT talent shortage or gap. The company develops its hardware, software, and analytics with a co-located technical staff, consisting of a primary engineering team located in the Ukraine, two development teams in India, and a group of architects and user experience designers in the San Francisco area.
Williams told me, “It is difficult to find talent in the U.S. that is as sophisticated and capable as what some of the European teams can do in radio and wireless technology in particular.” And he was even more blunt about developers specializing in cloud-based mobile apps. “I would not say good senior mobile developers are widely available in the U.S. where I do feel they are available elsewhere.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to label this an indictment of how we grow our talent on these shores, but, it should serve as something of an alarm. The U.S. is not alone; the talent gap exists in Europe, too.
What is your experience in finding qualified developer talent to work on your company’s IoT, mobile, or cloud-based projects? Are you able to fill your open positions? Are you forced to hire expensive outside contractors for temporary help? Or are you turning to offshore technical expertise to get the job done? Share your opinions and experiences; we’d like to hear from you.