The Internet of Things (IoT) has been around as a concept for quite some time — this is not the first year it has been featured on a list of trending niches with a promising future. Along with big data, AI, and several other popular and booming industries.
But in recent years, the IoT has begun to actively infiltrate our daily lives, and the number of innovations in this area is constantly growing, a fact reflected by the emergence of an increasing number of new job openings for IoT developers. And this is where this topic becomes interesting, since most IoT coders use Java as their main programming language in this niche (which is not surprising, but more on that later). In terms of its popularity in the IoT programming world, Java far outstrips other languages, such as C, Python, and C ++.
IoT — Moving from a futuristic concept to everyday life
Today's article is devoted to Java's use in the Internet of Things, how Java developers can increase their IoT competitiveness, as well as the latest IoT trends. But first, you need to understand why Java is so popular in the IoT world. In doing this, it won't hurt to remind you generally what the Internet of Things is all about.
The Internet of Things is a system of interrelated everyday appliances and consumer electronics, from washing machines to tea kettle, which are computerized and connected to the Internet. This opens up various new possibilities: in particular, IoT devices make it possible to collect and analyze huge volumes of new data, adapting themselves to each user.
The IoT is being actively implemented, along with several related technologies, such as home automation, video analytics, and artificial intelligence. For example, in the medical field, the IoT niche is gaining popularity through the introduction of innovative devices that can monitor patients in remote locations.
A feature of the Internet of Things is that each device or data sensor needs embedded software to implement IoT functionality. And programmers prefer using Java to create these embedded applications.
It's as if Java and the IoT were made for each other
In fact, this is precisely what Java was originally created for, so it is not surprising that Java is so well suited for creating IoT applications. In the early nineties (the language began being developed in 1990, and the first version was released in 1996), Java appeared as a language for writing applications for PDA (personal digital assistant) devices, the ancestors of modern smartphones. Then, over the decade that followed, Java gradually transformed into a more universal platform, because it turned out that the language is great for creating applications that run on many modern mobile devices.
One of the reasons Java and the IoT make such a great pair is because Java applications generally require few resources. And the reality is that devices in the nineties and early aughts had limited amounts of RAM and little computing power. Many times less than current devices. Java was created specifically for use in this resource-limited environment that requires useful applications that demand minimal processing power. This undeniably admirable feature has been preserved in the language to this day. Consequently, Java-based applications for the IoT have very modest requirements, getting by with minimal computer resources and memory.
Experts: the key to successful IoT development lies in flexibility
As homes, cars, offices, refrigerators and coffee makers become "smarter" and "smarter", i.e. as the IoT infrastructure grows, so does the need for qualified developers who can ensure that these devices operate correctly and securely. This opens up a lot of opportunities for Java coders — you just need to send out your resume.
What knowledge and skills should be boosted by anyone who doesn't want to miss this opportunity and intends to become a respected and, more importantly, a highly paid IoT developer? Unfortunately, there's no simple answer, since the term "IoT developer" has a very broad meaning today.
"There are a lot of discipline areas that are in play, including security, networking, systems engineering, cloud programming, and hardware device programming. It pays to be multilingual so that you can be flexible and play many different roles in the team," advises
Greg Gorman, Director of IoT Developer Ecosystem at IBM.
According to Karen Panetta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University, unlike other developers working in the IoT field, it is very useful to have at least a basic understanding of sensors and wireless communications.
"Beyond computing, IoT will take you into the world of mechanical and civil engineering as sensors gather physics data. It's very difficult to be a 'deep' IoT technologist--you have to be naturally curious about the world and a renaissance person at heart," said Bryan Kester, head of IoT development at Autodesk.
Practice on the Raspberry Pi and other microcomputers
Elliot Schrock, founder and chief developer at Thryv, advises coders to practice running projects for Raspberry Pi devices.
"Raspberry Pis are very inexpensive, tiny computers, and are often employed in proof of concept IoT projects. They're also a great way to learn how to solder together simple circuits, and link those circuits with software," he said.
Other experts agree with him. Suz Hinton, Microsoft technical evangelist, has also noted that practical knowledge of hardware is often very useful for IoT coders.
"Using a device like the Tessel 2, or the Particle Photon, or even the humble Raspberry Pi can get developers fast on their way to learning how hardware ticks and the new skills required. Writing for IoT is really just learning how to write for smaller, slower computers," she said.
An IoT developer must be "obsessed" with new technologies
Other experts agree with the idea of maximizing versatility and constantly studying innovations in order to become a truly successful IoT developer.
According to Eli Dow, an IBM researcher, knowing one platform and having one specialized set of skills is not enough. "The platform you write for this week will often be obsolete within 6 months to a year. Sensors will change, single board computers or other embedded platforms will continue to evolve, and you have to have the flexibility to adapt as platforms change at a blistering pace," he says.
"Successful IoT developers must be tech news junkies--they should know everything that is going on in the industry, what's hot, what's old news, and what could be the next great thing," Essex said. "This will provide the foundation needed to tinker with technology and make whatever is being built, the best it can possibly be," adds Erin Essex, Creative Director at Webonise.
If we follow the experts' advice and start studying trends in the IoT industry, we'll be convinced that they know what they are talking about. The Internet of Things is developing really rapidly, and is actively finding application in new fields. Let's talk about fields where the IoT is just starting to gain popularity and which may not be the first things that come to mind when the Internet of Things is mentioned.
Business intelligence and data collection
Contrary to popular belief, the IoT is not just consumer electronics. The Internet of Things covers almost all areas of business. Accordingly, it is important for developers to understand how companies can use IoT devices to collect data and then analyze it. Depending on the type of device and its sensors, the data may come in very different forms, from geolocation data to heart rate information or food preferences.
Data collection using the IoT is definitely an important trend that is just starting to gain momentum. Therefore, it is important for developers to understand the processes responsible for collecting, processing, storing and subsequently using this data. Special systems are being developed for data collection and analytics, which will be difficult to understand without at least basic knowledge of business analytics.
Machine learning and AI
Another trend in the near future. Although not all IoT devices use machine learning today, a constantly increasing number will do so as time passes.
Machine learning is an area of application of artificial intelligence (AI), which involves giving computers with access to data that they use to learn.
Since IoT devices are capable of collecting a huge amount of data, they have huge potential for machine learning. There are a lot of ways to use this technology: from simple personalization, i.e. adapting devices to a specific user, to more global solutions such as smart cities.
IoT security is not new, but it is gaining importance. Since IoT devices are connected to the Internet and form a single network with other devices, they must be secure. Security is one of the main obstacles to the mass adoption of the Internet of Things, because IoT devices often have access to a lot of data about their users' daily lives.
Therefore, many experts recommend that IoT coders focus on self-education in this area. This includes not only protection against hacks, but also concepts such as data ethics, privacy, and responsible handling of personal information. All this must be taken into account when developing IoT applications, so that later you don't encounter problems and incur the righteous indignation of end users.
Summing up, IoT developers' general recommendations can be boiled down to the well-known directive: "study, study, and study again". The Internet of Things is a rapidly growing field in which a qualified Java developer will be a hot commodity. Moreover, while this niche is relatively underdeveloped, the IoT opens up huge prospects for self-realization. But to reach them, you need to not only to stay on the cutting edge, tracking all the news and latest trends, but also deepen your practical knowledge, studying various aspects of this niche, not limiting yourself just to code.