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Interesting Trends Revealed in VDC’s IoT Engineer Survey

Feb. 23, 2018
VDC Research Group’s “Voice of the IoT Engineer 2017: Survey Dataset and Analysis” summary is available for free.

Surveys are useful but hard to do, since analyzing and presenting the results takes time and insight. Case in point: Electronic Design’s Embedded Revolution survey was done last year, and it’s still yielding useful trend information.

Another source of information like this is from analysts such as VDC Research Group. Normally readers need to subscribe to their research reports for a fee, but if you are in a select group you can have free access to a number of reports through its Technology Influencer and Buyer Portal.

VDC occasionally provides summaries for free, including the recent Voice of the IoT Engineer 2017: Survey Dataset and Analysis. Users of the Technology Influencer and Buyer Portal also have access to a spreadsheet of the results and a more detailed write-up. That alone is a good reason to sign up. In the meantime, I picked out a few results that everyone might find interesting. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We all know that open-source software has had a major impact in embedded software development, but VDC’s survey results clearly highlight this trend (Fig. 1). Much of this increase is impacting non-open source commercial software. There is a slight increasing trend in commercial open-source software use but I suspect it is actually more, or should be. Commercial software, either open source or non-open source, offers significant advantages in terms of short- and long-term support that should not be overlooked. This is especially true for application areas like automotive, medical, and avionics where certification is important. Unfortunately, the benefits for less-critical applications is often overlooked because developers are often less affected by support issues once a device is in the field. That is someone else’s problem. The Internet of things (IoT) may be changing that as support issues like over-the-air updates and addressing security changes in the field become more common.

1. The trend towards open source software is clear and growing. (Courtesy of VDC Research)

One surprising result for me is the amount of code still generated in-house for embedded applications (Fig. 2). Part of this is understandable based on the requirements of an application. If the application has not been done before, or a vendor’s particular solution is relatively unique, then using third-party support does not make sense. Also, how a developer estimates what is in-house code versus commercial software can be a challenge. For example, how many lines of code are in the third-party software you are using now, and how much of that code is actually used? That is like asking how many lines of code in an RTOS is actively being used. Some linkers are able to shrink down an RTOS based on what is used, but I doubt many actually check this.

2. In-house code still makes up a significant portion of embedded applications. (Courtesy of VDC Research)

IoT is likely to decrease the percentage of in-house code to third-party code, although the overall amount of in-house code is unlikely to decrease for a couple reasons. Communication is one and security is the other. VDC’s survey results (Fig. 3) show that security is no longer taking a backseat when it comes to deployment.

3. Security is no longer taking a backseat when it comes to deployment. (Courtesy of VDC Research)

It looks like we can expect more encryption everywhere. Encrypted communication will be the norm, and machine-to-machine plus human-to-machine authentication may finally save us from some of the more devastating security breaches, at least when it comes to IoT devices.

While survey results like this are useful, seeing the more detailed results can be even more revealing. The spreadsheet I mentioned has these details, but they only available to Technology Influencer and Buyer Portal users—so check it out.

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