Wireless Noodle Episode 13: The Wisdom of Crowds

Matt digs into the 2020 version of the Eclipse IoT survey and finds a lot of interesting data, including the rise of the hyperscalers, the growing importance of connected agriculture, fears over connectivity, trends in OS, protocols and edge compute, and something related to Tex-Mex food. There’s also time to delve into the recent Transforma Insight report on IoT Application Enablement Platforms as well as a bit of a follow up to the IBM discussion from a few weeks ago. 

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The full transcript of the podcast is available below. 


Welcome to this week’s Wireless Noodle. It’s a short one this week. I’m delving into the recently released Eclipse IoT Developer’s survey. Always a fascinating read. But, as I discover, the wisdom of crowds rather depends on the crowd. And I have a plug for a report and a couple of webinars.


The Eclipse Foundation is a community aimed at encouraging adoption of open source software. Every year they run a survey looking at trends in IoT adoption. You can find out more about them and their Eclipse IoT Working Group at IoT.eclipse.org. Obviously the respondents are a little bit skewed towards those that prefer open source solutions, but nevertheless the survey provides some interesting insights. Here’s my take on the findings, but I do recommend you download and take a look at the findings.

The first finding related to vertical sector. Of all the various areas in which IoT is deployed, agriculture emerged as the #1. Now, it wasn’t by much, and I suspect it’s not a statistically significant finding as there are quite a few verticals with similar levels of focus, but it was certainly up substantially compared with last year. One of the findings that we highlighted on the Transforma Insights webinar on 2nd November was the growth of mobile private networks. Lots of people are using that as the way to generate revenue from 5G. Certainly it’s flavour of the month. And which would prove to be the #1 vertical in private networks over the next 10 years? Agriculture. Our expectation was that it would take a while to materialise but it’s certainly a strong opportunity. There is also a Covid 19 element to this. Let’s face it there’s a Covid element to everything at the moment. But automation to cope with shortage of workers or distancing is clearly a consideration, as it is in manufacturing. Although interestingly industrial automation is only up a little year-on-year. There are some who would have you believe that IoT is all about industrial. In terms of value it’s tremendously important, but in terms of volume it’s really not that great. Check out the Transforma Insights free webinar from the 2nd November for more details. Link on the Wireless Noodle website.

The other vertical which is perhaps underrepresented, and declining, is connected home. Still a bit of a mess that sector with bad behaviour on the part of hardware developers across the board, bricking products and generally doing what I refer to in my book The Internet of Things Myth as applying software practices to the hardware world, when it comes to product end of life, or words to that effect.

Next up is Operating System. Open source tops the polls, with Linux and FreeRTOS. Probably a reasonable reflection of reality albeit a bit heavy given Eclipse respondents will likely be a bit more keep on open source than most. In fact one of the questions was about using open source, and 2/3 of respondents said they did. Not sure that’s exactly representative.

What’s interesting though is that Windows is up from 20% adoption to 31%. I’m sure that includes Azure IoT Edge, Azure Sphere, Windows Embedded, IoT Plug and Play and so on. The key thing is the extent to which Microsoft has been successful at getting into the edge device, which is all part of its strategy for expanding on its cloud services position to what we call ‘cloud-to-edge’. 

There are a few more questions about edge, including what are the top edge computing workloads. Very surprisingly AI pips ‘Control Logic’ by 30% to 29%. If find that almost impossible to believe. Control Logic is surely THE edge workload. But maybe lots of the things we’d naturally think of in that category is being AI washed.

There are also the usual questions about biggest concerns. Security comes top, as usual. But a surprise at #2, and up quite considerably, is connectivity. In fact it looks like most of the concerns are up. Could be that Covid has generally added to everyone’s anxiety levels. But the uptick in concerns about connectivity is noticeable. It could be the issue I’ve written about and spoken about extensively. Connectivity has become more complex in the last couple of years. 10 years ago you stuck a SIM in a 2G modem and it would work anywhere in the world. In the interim, we’ve had 2G and 3G switch off, with more to come, 4G roll out, 5G just starting to arrive, new LPWA techs, both licensed and unlicensed. Navigating that little lot to work out what technology will be future proofed enough to support your connected widget in 20 countries for the next 5 years, or 10 years or 20 years, but at the same time without busting you will a huge additional bill of materials cost, must be exhausting. 

The survey report rather hopefully assesses the growing importance of ‘performance’ as being an indication of the market getting past PoCs and into optimisation. Could be.

There are no surprises in the programming language category. C, C++, Java, Python and Java Script dominate. C a bit more on IoT constrained devices. Java more for everything else. And I’ve not much to say about HTTP, MQTT and TCP/IP being the highest ranked communication protocols. 

Connectivity makes for interesting reading though. In the forecasts we do at Transforma Insights we estimate that around 70% of connections use short range technologies. And the assumption is that the vast majority of that is WiFi. The survey asked which protocols the developers used. WiFi did come top, with 44% of respondents using it. That seems very low. 39% use Ethernet, which seems quite high. But I guess for professional developers, there’s still a healthy requirement for using Ethernet for gateways and so forth. Cellular techs and Bluetooth are level on 37%. So, while cellular connectivity is only 10% of connections, a much larger proportion of developers need to make use. Again, intuitive. It’s part of the reason we urge caution about even our forecasts. Number of devices doesn’t necessarily reflect the importance of the tech, or likelihood that it will need to be used in any given implementation. 

Other interesting findings were that use of distributed ledger is up a lot, from 14% of respondents in 2019 to 22% in 2020. Use of MySQL is down from 40% to 31%. 

And the cloud vendors really dominate the middleware platform space, with AWS IoT, Microsoft Azure IoT and Google Cloud IoT Platform all scoring high. But in public public cloud itself, AWS leads the pack, being used by 40% of developers. Azure’s second with 31% and Google Cloud third with 26%. The headline though is that they’re all up between 6 and 8 percentage points year on year. Competence in cloud integration is clearly becoming more important. And it’s also obviously more important for the cloud vendors to be playing in the IoT middleware space so as to own that part of cloud-to-edge.

You can debate the statistical significance of all these numbers until you’re blue in the face. Half the respondents work for organisations with fewer than 100 employees, almost half have only been developers for 2 years, only 20% are based in North America, etc. And the respondents base is quite self-selecting. 

I’m reminded of a story I once heard about someone in Mexico using Trip Advisor or something similar to track down a great restaurant. The place they found had glowing 5 star reviews, but the food was atrocious Tex-Mex rubbish. And they looked around them and saw that the crowd was all coach tours from over the border. The wisdom of crowds depends very much on the crowd. 

But this survey certainly holds a mirror up to the IoT world. And the message is this: the hyperscalers are here, and you can’t ignore them. 


A quick follow up to the IBM section from a few weeks ago. I’ve since written a report about the likely prognosis for the company which you can get a copy of as a subscriber to Transforma Insights’ services. Quick summary is that it should work out well, but only if the new entity can maintain strong ties with Newco.

A couple of other things to shout about. We ran a webinar looking at the future of IoT over the next decade. Well worth a look. I’ll put a link on the website: Webinar: Forecasting the IoT Market Opportunity, 2019-2030.

And speaking of webinars, I also did one with the good folks of IoT Now, Eseye, AWS and Thales on simplifying IoT. You can also check that one out on catch-up.

Another big shout, and I mean big, for our latest Transforma Insights report, looking at IoT platforms. It weighs in at over 100 pages and looks at the likes of AWS, Fujitsu, Microsoft, Oracle and Siemens. Well worth a look. Press release came out on the 11th November, and there will doubtless be blog posts on the Transforma Insights website over the next few weeks. Without spoiling the thunder of Jim, the author, the main finding was that there isn’t an single ‘best’ IoT platform. They all do different things, frequently with particular vertical capabilities, or some other attribute that will make them great for one buyer but not so much for another. One of the key things in the report was picking apart who would be best in what scenario. Invaluable stuff for a would-be buyer. 


I was delighted after last week’s episode that when I tuned into Telefonica’s Industry Analyst event that almost the first thing that their CEO Javier Pallete talked about was humanising technology. Just what I was talking about last week. 

A request: if you’ve enjoyed the podcast I’d be obliged if you could leave a review. It’s much appreciated 

I’ve no idea what I’ll be covering next week. You’ll just have to tune in to find out. 

Links to some of the research that I’ve refered to in this week’s show, as well as a transcript of the recording, will be available on the podcast website at WirelessNoodle.com

Thank you for listening to The Wireless Noodle. If you would like to learn more about the research that I do on IoT, AI and more, you can follow me on Twitter at MattyHatton and you can check out TransformaInsights.com

Thanks for joining me. I’ve been Matt Hatton and you’ve been listening to the Wireless Noodle.