IoT developers: Specialized generalists please apply

While there is no single, clear path to becoming an IoT developer, there are avenues into it through programming, engineering and similar tech-based trades. Find out what skills businesses are looking for.

November 2, 2017

4 Min Read
Training and Development on the Mechanism of Metal Gears. in the design of information related to business
Training and Development on the Mechanism of Metal Gears. in the design of information related to businessThinkstock

By Jackie Roberson

While those familiar with the Internet of Things might argue that the tech has existed for nearly a half-century, the truth is IoT devices remain relatively new to most consumers. Though the first networks of automated devices began appearing in the 1970s, those relied on old-fashioned radio frequencies and required complex installation to function; streamlined, Wi-Fi-enabled appliances, wearables and similar devices have only started gaining traction among consumers within the past few years. Thus, only now is the demand for

Unfortunately, there is no single, clear path to becoming an IoT developer. Because the field is burgeoning, there are few avenues into it — including through programming, engineering and similar tech-based trades. While some IoT companies may differ, most looking to hire IoT developers search for a hodgepodge of . And when it comes to specific knowledge bases, IoT companies are prioritizing skills in the following areas:

Data analysis

Accumulating the right data and analyzing it properly is important to nearly any venture, but the IoT, which is so firmly rooted in devices people use and functionality they need, is especially reliant on accurate and precise information. Data surrounds every aspect of IoT creation and maintenance; the devices themselves generate an abundance of data that is sent back to developers, who use it to improve their devices in meaningful ways. While some devices collect, send and store data as a historic requirement, some require real-time analytics from developers, who must be able to work with data competently to improve their devices. Plus, a massive aggregation and understanding of data can vastly advance the capabilities of the IoT as a whole, not to mention systems not yet addressed by IoT devices.


A massive 2015 McKinsey study on the found that more than 40% of the value derives from its operability — meaning the ability for systems to remain in reliable functioning condition and be compatible with other systems. IoT devices that automatically perform their functions, automatically connect with networks and devices, and perform other operations without user input are more advantageous than non-automated devices. Therefore, IoT development firms are likely to invest heavily in automation in the coming years, and developers well-versed in automation techniques will be in high demand.

Machine learning

The ultimate goal of data analysis is the ability to understand patterns and predict outcomes. is imbuing tech with the human ability to learn from accumulated information and alter behavior based on expected outcomes. Most IoT devices employ some kind of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows them to accomplish tasks. Eventually, the complexity of machine learning will allow devices to assume more responsibility, making them more valuable on the market. Foreseeing the importance of this field, many online engineering programs make AI and machine learning courses integral to attaining advanced degrees.

IP networking

Like the true internet, the IoT is dependent on devices’ ability to connect and interact with one another. Thus, IoT developers must be certain the underlying network is stable, clear and secure as well as capable of managing an enormous amount of traffic. Network engineering is not a new field, but it is one that is essential to the IoT; developers should be familiar with the OSI stack, connectivity protocols and the latest standards in IoT communication long before they begin designing their first IoT devices.

Hardware programming

At its most basic, an IoT device is merely hardware running software. Thus, the ability to program hardware is a fundamental skill most IoT developers should have. Nearly all developers know programming for at least one operating system — typically Linux — as well as one embedded system, such as Contiki. However, understanding how to program interfaces is a near guarantee for IoT career success.

Interface design

If no one save an IoT developer can use a device, the device is a failure. Users must be able to comfortably and confidently navigate a device’s controls, meaning interface design is a vital component of IoT development. Responsive web design, or creating dynamic visuals that respond to screen size, orientation and platform, and service design, which is remembering the objective of the device and the goals of the end user, are invaluable skills.

Information security

Thus, IoT developers will increasingly be tasked with building secure devices and apps in the future, making information security a vital skill for those eager to enter the IoT field.

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