Solution Providers Are Tapping AppDev Opportunities To Get Ahead In Growing IoT Market

Solution providers are positioning themselves for success in the lucrative Internet of Things market by bolstering their application development teams.

Channel companies bringing IoT solutions to market face several hurdles, including interoperability, security, and data management challenges - and staffing up with IoT application developers is critical for tackling these middleware issues, solution providers tell CRN.

Ron Brown, vice president of operations at Digital West Networks, a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based managed service provider, said his company is pushing IoT app development ’to a new level’ and aims to double the team next year as it dives deeper into IoT consulting and security services.

[Related: ARM Doubles Down On IoT Security, A Hot-Button Issue For Solution Providers]

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’Fundamentally understanding development really helps us on the security side for penetration testing,’ Brown said. ’If we really understand how an app is built and how it works, it helps us [find security weaknesses]. If we can use best practices in terms of secure software design… it helps us so we’re not spending months trying to find flaws – [instead] it would take us hours or days.’

Application development, as it relates to the Internet of Things, is gaining traction as a whole globally. According to a July survey by market research firm Evans Data Corp., the number of developers currently working on IoT apps has increased 34 percent year over year to more than 6.2 million developers today.

Solution provider powerhouse World Wide Technology is ramping up its application development group in preparation for IoT. Last year the $7.4 billion solution provider acquired Asynchrony, which specializes in application development.

’[AppDev] is extremely important,’ said WWT CEO Jim Kavanaugh, whose company is ranked No. 12 on CRN’s 2016 Solution Provider 500. ’I don’t believe anyone else in our space, from VARs [to] traditional systems integrators, is doing what we’re doing from an AppDev perspective. From that [acquisition] we have an AppDev group – about 240 people from Asynchrony plus another 140 people – so we’re close to 400 people just in our AppDev group. And we’re hiring at a very fast clip. I don’t see any slowdown for us in that space.’

App development presents an opportunity to monetize IoT for the channel, according to an exclusive study by The Channel Company, the publisher of CRN, which interviewed 241 channel players on their Internet of Things outlook.

The study found that IoT application development was ranked fifth in providing the greatest opportunity for channel companies – behind sales of IoT hardware and software, installation and maintenance of IoT hardware, IoT consulting services, and sales of network infrastructure to support IoT deployments.

Development resources will be needed to meet the growing demand for packaged IoT solutions for specific business processes and vertical industries, as well as for providing appdev services for clients' custom IoT development projects.

WWT’s Kavanaugh said the app development opportunity comes as IT and line of business operations are converging, and businesses are being challenged to move faster to produce business outcomes.

’How do you do that faster? Through AppDev and true management consulting [to] build those platforms and layered software, whether it’s a mobile app or IoT app on top of that platform, to deliver a business outcome for that customer,’ he said. ’Those are the things we’re uniquely doing -- helping connect the dots for the VPs and the CIOs and the IT space.’

Tim Cullen, senior security solutions architect at Adapture, a Norcross, Ga.-based solution provider, said building up a business development practice for the Internet of Things is part of his company’s five-year plan.

’Looking at our five year plan, business [application] development in IoT will be huge,’ he said. ’IoT devices have opened the market for app development, and customers are realizing they can use apps to track devices or create analysis engines.’ He said Adapture has been adding more application programmers to the company's developer ranks and has built up the staff's skills in Perl, C++ and Python programming languages.

Channel partners aren’t the only ones recognizing the significance of application development for the Internet of Things. Vendors have also set up programs and created industry standards to enable app developers to flourish in IoT.

Intel, for instance, has established a developer program for IoT, comprised of resources like an Intel-based toolkit, a cloud-based analytics platform, and membership in the IoT Developer Zone community forum. IBM and wireless sensor network hardware provider Libelium last fall jointly introduced an IoT starter kit to aid developers in building sensor-based apps.

And more than 51 vendors, including Microsoft, Qualcomm and Panasonic, are part of the AllSeen Alliance, a cross-industry consortium that aims to enable interoperability between the billions of devices, applications and services that will make up the Internet of Things.

Michael Rasalan, director of research for Evans Data Corp., said that IoT empowers developers to "branch out from concepts centered on wearables to applications for more complex tasks," creating many opportunities for developers worldwide.

"We're seeing how in the space of just a year, the possibilities introduced by the Internet of Things has attracted many developers," he said. "This transition to IoT, while not without barriers, is rapid, because developers are able to leverage … expertise in complementary technologies like cloud and mobile, to create entirely new use cases."