Leading IoT vendors understand that the traditional strategy of procuring isolated, extensible systems is no longer the right approach to building connected solutions. Instead, vendors work together within the IoT ecosystem to build horizontal solutions that stitch together multiple vertical systems. Integration can be at the hardware level, but it’s also frequently done at the software level, where systems use published APIs to share data and provide access to the system’s various features and functions.
Companies wishing to promote collaboration among ecosystem vendors can offer developer partner programs that support software development ecosystems. Such programs give software developers the ability to access development tools, such as APIs, and to collaborate with other ecosystem partners to create new applications and build integrated systems. Successful developer partner programs function as a confederation of loose contacts—more like a group of friends than a formal alliance or official business partnership. Because partners in the ecosystem have to make a relatively low investment to play, the relationship favors knowledge-sharing and experimentation.
Well-designed software development ecosystems benefit both the businesses and organizations that participate in the ecosystem and the customers of the participants. Development partners can deliver value-added solutions on top of, or in conjunction with, an IoT platform, thus complementing the solutions they are able to offer. Customers can acquire and deploy these solutions to extend the capabilities of their smart systems, while avoiding vendor lock-in.
Solutions developed by ecosystem partners who work together often guarantee interoperability via validation or certification efforts, lowering the risk associated with adopting new offers that combine data or functionality from multiple domains. And because these solutions are jointly designed and developed, they can address needs that overlap domains that have historically been separate—lighting and IT, for example, or human resources and marketing.
Meaningful benefits for participants in a software development ecosystem include:
- Building relationships with relevant players in the IoT space while improving brand recognition
- Enabling and accelerating commercialization and business adoption of smart building propositions
- Streamlining efforts to collaborate with third parties
- Improving the breadth of offerings and closing competitive gaps
- The opportunity to jointly create thought leadership content and develop new value propositions
- Learning through using and validating APIs, features, and documentation
A thriving and collaborative ecosystem that provides value to multiple participants isn’t merely a nice-to-have in the IoT solution development space: it’s crucial for rapidly and flexibly building validated solutions that serve real needs for end users.