Meet Your (Everyday) Maker
According to Hackster.io, 53% of electronics makers have direct experience creating Internet of Things technology. This is one of the insights from a survey of 3139 people from 104 countries performed by Hackster—one of the biggest electronics maker sites on the Internet, which has the support of 25 partners including industry giants such as Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services.
Read on for a summary of the survey—with insights from the Hackster.io co-founder and CEO Adam Benzion on the survey results.
1. Most Electronics Makers Have Experimented with IoT Projects
There is a growing number of home-brew Internet of Things projects on Hackster.io, including custom home automation systems, text-to-speech applications, and monitoring devices for pets, gardens, and even teenage drivers. As we mentioned above, that figure stands at 53% in the survey but Adam Benzion, Hackster.io CEO, says that he foresees many more experimenting with IoT projects in the near future. “Maybe in three years, we’ll see around 90% of people who will dabble in IoT projects,” he says.
There is also a corresponding surge in popularity for hardware that supports connectivity. “There is almost no interest anymore in hardware that does have not radios built in. While we used to see 90% hardware that just computes locally, now the percentage is inverted,” says Adam Benzion, Hackster.io CEO.
While data exchange is an essential element for the Internet of Things, another is its ability to create new interfaces. Thanks to services such as Amazon Alexa and Google Cloud Speech, voice interfaces are now popular, Benzion explains. “Why should you use just apps or sensors? You should have the most natural language interfaces,” he says. “It is almost like IoT became the foundation—the electricity—and people are really taking advantage of it. It is maturing really, really fast.”
2. The Vast Majority Are Male
It is no surprise that many technological tinkerers are male. But it was startling just how few makers identified as female—just 6.6%.
“I am super disappointed with the lower number of females in this survey,” Benzion says. “Overall, we were surprised at how low it was.”
One factor is that Hackster has seen a surge in the volume of members from traditionally male-dominated cultures. Of the 209 people who identified themselves as female in the survey, only about two dozen came from outside of the United States or Europe.
Still, women have been making inroads into the broader tech industry. The analysis firm 500 Miles found that the percentage of women working in the tech industry increased from 30.5% in 2011 to 33.5% in 2016 among startups.
In addition, companies like Intel have been supportive of getting more girls involved in science and engineering by inspiring them to take on hands-on maker projects.
3. Hackster Users Are Getting Older
While there was a significant age range among the makers in the survey, there were few makers that were especially young or old. Only 1.5% of participants were 14 or younger, and just 1.66% were 68 or older. Meanwhile, at the center of the bell curve, nearly 30% were 26–36 while more than 25% were 37–48.
The audience demographic used to be slightly younger based on previous survey results, Benzion explains.
4. Most Developers Do Both Hardware and Software
Nearly 2000 of the 3139 survey participants—62.5%—said they were comfortable with both hardware and software. The figures for hardware versus software specialists were virtually tied with 17.78% and 16.28%.
5. More Pro Developers Are Sharing Their Projects Online
Online maker portals have traditionally catered to young audiences made up of many hobbyists and students. That is changing as more professional developers are coming to the sites. “We see that the mix is getting a lot heavier on the experienced developer, which is good because they tend to contribute great content. It’s very thorough, great code, and good design,” Benzion says.
71% of participants in the survey describe themselves as hobbyists and 21.60% identified themselves as professionals.
There was also a healthy number of survey participants—56.1%—who are interested in creating hardware they can sell. Only 5.61% of those polled, however, stated that they are currently selling products.
Hackster.io is planning on launching a new marketplace to help meet this need.
6. Home Automation and Robotics Are the Most Popular Projects
More than two-thirds of participants—67.98%—said that they were most passionate about developing hardware and electronics for home automation projects. This was followed by robotics, with 56.07% (participants could pick more than one technology); wearables (with 35.20%); and drones (with 33.23%).
Many users—23.80%—wrote in custom responses to this question. The most popular custom answer was “IoT.” Other responses ran the gamut, including everything from art to musical instruments to woodworking.
7. Being an Electronics Maker Isn’t Necessarily Expensive
One does not evidently need very much money to be an electronics maker. 43.9% reported spending $25 or less each month. Only 11.15% said they spent more than $101 monthly to support their electronics development projects.
“After you get started and you have the tools you need, it doesn’t have to be very expensive,” Benzion says. “You don’t have to buy a new Raspberry Pi for every project. You can repurpose boards.”
Another factor is that the boards are becoming so powerful, it is possible to buy a board with Wi-Fi functionality of about five bucks.
8. C and C++ Are Still the Most Popular Programming Languages
9. Arduino and IFTTT Are King
More than 70% of respondents stated that they used an Arduino operating system for their last hardware project. The next most popular response was Linux.
In a separate question related to cloud data exchange and data storage services, IFTTT was the most popular choice with almost 20% of replies. “You see a lot of Hackster projects with IFTTT integrations rather than hardcore coding,” Benzion notes.
The next most popular was Microsoft Azure for IoT with 13.09%, followed by Amazon AWS for IoT with 12.71%, and then Particle Cloud with 11.66%.
“It’s impressive that Particle, which is a startup in San Francisco, is so highly ranked,” Benzion says.
Below are the figures for the data exchange and storage services:
10. Fundraising Is a Key Challenge
While developing electronics is certainly not easy, fundraising is arguably tougher. Just under a quarter of participants (24.5%) selected funding as a key challenge.
Benzion can relate: “I got into this whole business because I had a hardware startup. I had to liquidate my 401(k). We got lucky because somebody bought us but it is hard to realize how hard it is to raise money when you are early in the game.”
“Getting prominent placement at Amazon or Bestbuy is the most difficult thing you’ll do because you can’t control it and because there is often a lot of competition,” he says. “And with hardware, the margins are low, which most people don’t understand until they ship.”