The Internet of Things is clearly not just a fad, and there are many indications that its uses and applications are going to grow in the next few years. International Data Corp., for instance, forecasts that the IoT market will reach $7.1 trillion by 2020, up from only $1.9 trillion in 2013. With that forecasted growth, it is no wonder that app developers would find the IoT a goldmine of new ideas and new markets they can tap into.
Here are four new application markets that app developers might consider targeting.
Apps that control and manage your smart homes
Most of the smart products that we are seeing now are individually controlled by a mobile app. But as more and more products in the home become smart, users will have a hard time managing all those individual apps. Development that allows a user to control, and even automate, various aspects of her or his home through a single interface will be of great interest.
Consumers and home owners will want to be able to unlock their doors using smart locks and have the smart locks then turn on the air conditioning and the lights all around the house. They may also want to turn on the TV as soon as they step into the living room. All of these would be managed using a single app to maximize user convenience — something not available today.
Careful timing for development of such an integrated app will be necessary, however. A unified app will be increasingly achievable as interoperability issues are ironed out and more and more device manufacturers start adhering to standards. Timing things to minimize development effort and be among the first to market will be important.
Apps that crunch the data so that it would make sense to the decision-makers
One of the benefits of implementing the Internet of Things in a business is that you start tapping into unconventional sources of data, such as foot traffic combined with weather data. All of this data would be useless, however, without thorough analysis of the data so that it can be turned into reports and forecasts that are easily understood and lead to useful action. These types of apps would be a godsend and would be very much in demand.
Developers have to understand, though, that most business people are not techies and need developers to turn all these numbers and information into something that business people would comprehend. Further, the situation will not be like what you are seeing now wherein you only get data from your own device. App developers will need to be coming up with apps that incorporate data from different sources.
Custom development would be the key. For example, a restaurant could take a look at past sales, weather information, and availability of ingredients to handle its inventory. An app developer could come up with a program that would forecast each day’s sales, determine what vegetables, fruits, meat, and other ingredients are best to buy for that day, and what specials to offer. This will help the restaurant owner serve only the freshest food, avoid food spoilage, and maximize sales for the day.
Apps that help manage public infrastructures
Cities are getting into the IoT in a big way. San Francisco, for instance, currently has a system that detects empty parking spaces in the city. Drivers can check a mobile app to see where the nearest parking slot is, reducing the time and frustration involved in trying to find a parking space in a busy city.
Boston is having residents report on potholes and bumps using their smartphones. They just download an app that makes use of a smartphone’s built-in accelerometer. When the app detects a bump or a pothole, it sends the information to the city. London is implementing a system that allows it to change speed limits depending on sensor reports of road conditions and the amount of traffic on that road.
App developers can create a more encompassing application to help public infrastructures make sense of such data, both for government and civilian use. For example, an app that would take weather reports, road conditions, traffic situations, and even data taken from traffic lights, then map the shortest route to the destination could help save gas through more efficient travel.
Governments are gathering increasing amounts of data and then making it available to the public for their own use. That means the public no longer has to rely on third-party data and reports from other citizens to make it work. But they will need apps that allow them to work with this up-to-the-minute public data. Again, app developers should plan on dealing with different sources of data.
Apps that amp up security
One of the biggest issues facing the IoT is security. With the explosion in the number of devices you have connected to the Internet, it will be very difficult to secure them all. Yet most manufacturers will design their devices with an eye to how they would perform better or how to cut down costs. Security often takes a backseat, if it is considered at all.
That is the bad news. The good news is that this practice opens a whole new window of opportunity for app developers that have experience with security, even if it is in traditional IT setups. For example, they could come up with an app that not only allows users to manage and control their cars remotely, but is able to send secure messages. Machine-to-machine communications would be protected.
Admittedly, security for the IoT is a new area, so there’s a lot of experimentation and discovery involved. Nevertheless, this area is where the new killer app might come from as all IoT devices and components need to be secured, or else risk disruptions and data theft.
These are only a few of the many possible markets for app developers that will emerge from the Internet of Things. The key will be turning the data from multiple sources into correlated information providing easily understandable insights and single points of control.