How does an IoT start­up stand out against a sea of competitors? Looking in new directions and finding those profitable IoT niches is one way.

The Internet of Things is everywhere. A report from VisionMobile found that there are 300,000 developers in IoT today, and that number will grow exponentially by 2020. There will be some 4 million developers in the world. So how does it keep growing?

New markets. Much like the push behind android and iPhones, consumers will provide the fuel for these new markets. One of the more intriguing jobs related to IoT are IT Solution Architects. Given just how complex connected systems can be, these architects connect the business needs and the technical system, taking responsibility to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It’s a big job, and it requires a thorough understanding of every aspect of IoT. This means both specialized technical skills and an understanding of the overall, business goal. Similarly, unearthing new markets will require a great deal of creative thought as well as knowledge.

Customers are, of course, central to understanding your product. It is impossible to know what problem you are solving if you don’t have the customer in mind. One of the first decisions to make is whether you want to work with big companies or consumers. Furthermore, there are several different aspects of IoT usage. IoT ­related jobs don’t just involve sensors. They involve data analysis, machines, and even marketing. In fact, much of the real money isn’t just in the physical tech but in the services that connect them. Moreover, there is never just one way to realize an idea. There are a multitude of outlets and possibilities. While pop culture might take better notice of trendy start­ups, like those focused on wearables, the real money, according to many, is elsewhere.

Security is one of the biggest concerns among consumers and designers as the IoT continues to expand. It causes several problems that need to be addressed in order to make the field safer, and to help customers feel secure. Not everyone has been jumping on the smart gear bandwagon due to fears of what connected tech (and those behind it) might do. With IoT expanding into other fields of tech, all kinds of IT employees are going to have to become comfortable with cyber security. One great aspect of the security field is that it has so many options. Physical or cyber, corporate­sized or individual­ personalized solutions, it offers opportunities everywhere something is connected. Skills in Java, JavaScript, Android and CSS are good backgrounds for jumping into this field. Being highly skilled in this area is a very desirable quality, as security and IoT will only become more complex over time. Cisco’s 2014 Security Report found that the world is already short some 1 million security professionals. Finding the right people to manage a highly connected world will be a big job with lots of open doors.

Industrial IoT is already home to the popular yet seemingly mythical Smart Warehouse. Industrial Data Scientists, engineers and designers will become vital as companies make the move to connected warehouses. Whether you want to design the smart robots that pick things up and put them down, or work to create connections that keep vehicles online, the logistics industry will be a booming place for IoT. As the system can be incredibly fragmented, with different companies using different standards and styles, it is an open opportunity for developers. Echoing several other papers and companies, a study by IoT Analytics and Boston Consoling Group found that “Germany for example would see a net increase of 350k (+5%) Industrial IoT jobs over the next 10 years.” We already know that manufacturing is a booming hotbed for IoT. The industrial internet of things is hardly a niche on its own; it’s the multitude of moving parts that offer plenty of opportunities to those willing to look.

3D Printing. For many, it’s a novelty. You can print toys and D&D dice, but what else? The biggest use of printing isn’t in the home, but in the tech world. It is vital for prototyping new technology. Speedo, Nike, Ford, NASA and two­ thirds of the top manufacturing firms rely on 3D development and printing. This also means that prototyping IoT tech can be done in much less time than before. Printing means faster models, faster changes, and moving to market faster. Of course, it is also used regularly in the medical field. This field requires a bit of creativity and the ability to really appreciate the cross­over between two technologies. One example is the BOOMcast, a 3D printed foot cast embedded with electronics. It not only behaves in a way that helps the wearer feel more comfortable, it can communicate how the patient is doing to their health professional. The real beauty of these oddly practical maker­driven ideas is that they highlight the importance of cross­over. IoT does not exist in a vacuum. Combining tech with other fields, and also other skills or areas of knowledge, lead to the discovery of undeserved niches. Plus, the result is always interesting.

Agriculture and IoT may be the route for those looking to combine business and helping the world. Earlier this year, AgTech raised $2.06 billion in funding. According to numbers on CrunchBase, Precision Agricultural Technologies have blown up this year, raising $400 million in the first half of 2015 alone. Compare that to the $276 million raised in all of 2014. Using IoT to gather data and make better decisions makes farmers’ lives easier, can cut expenses and, of course, create more food and better practices. With the world population growing, there will be push to update the farming system. While this area may not sky­rocket quite like logistics, it is a field with a lot of money, consumers and, most importantly, needs. Pairing connected tech with the right data capabilities might just be a golden ticket.

Still can’t find that niche? There are plenty of other areas to consider. The ever­ popular wearables, smart grids and smart homes are major fields that aren’t quite ready to go away. Much like security, cloud specialists will be a necessity in the future. Consider the quirky and strange Netflix Switch that hooks up to your house, and let’s you have the popular “Netflix and Chill” experience. It orders take out, dims lights, and the internet is going crazy for it. Not every IoT idea is a web of sensors and life­ altering programming. It’s creativity.

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