Staying a step ahead of the curve is essential for a software developer. Those who are designing applications for the latest generation of devices won’t have any shortage of work in the future.
Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed a technological revolution, opening a broad array of possibilities that were barely imaginable just a generation ago.
We have portable phones with powerful cameras and geo-location sensors, so present-day software engineers have far more tools at their disposal when thinking about real-life applications.
On the other hand, novelty can present a problem. The introduction of new technologies fundamentally changes the practice of software development and forces the programmers to adopt new concepts and techniques.
According to Altium Design Software, the average lifecycle of a software product is shorter than five years and providers must be ready to transform their skill sets if they want to remain competitive.
There are several mechanisms to cope with the relentless advance of technology, and some of them don’t require you to exceed your R&D budget. Let’s discuss some of the options:
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1. Redesigning the Existing Applications
Whenever a new technological platform emerges, it complements or replaces the existing devices. That means many of the same functionalities need to be re-developed, often using very similar principles to the original. Of course, it still takes a great deal of knowledge and deep understanding of the new tech to do it properly, as software development techniques are evolving together with the computing devices.
Many desktop applications have been successfully ported to mobile screens more than half of all Facebook users access their accounts exclusively with a mobile device in 2016. With smartwatches and similar gadgets moving the boundaries once again, there will be a ton of work for developers capable of reshaping useful applications for the new format.
If you have a few hardware skills, you can try crafting non-standard equipment in your own garage. That will allow you to test software models that require custom hardware to run, potentially running into an idea with some commercial potential. You can also use improvisation skills to emulate an existing platform that is unavailable to you, thus extending the range of your practical knowledge.
This is an exciting way to bypass the constraints of mainstream technology and follow your own ideas to their logical conclusion. Remember, only ten years ago nobody believed touchscreen-operated computers had a future and today they are seriously pushing traditional models out of the market. You can never know which way the winds of progress will blow and which of your experiments might result in a best-selling product in a few years.
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3. Virtual Simulations
Sometimes, it would be prohibitively expensive or technically impossible to test a certain system, so a simulated model is used instead. For example, if you wanted to create software for equipment that works under zero gravity, you wouldn’t have to actually go into space to run or debug it.
It is possible to create virtual simulations that replicate all relevant conditions to the astounding level of detail, giving you a chance to work with realistic parameters from the comfort of your lab. Building a good simulation is not easy and demands a good deal of advanced equipment, but it’s certainly more viable than building the real thing in most large-scale projects.
Thanks to universal access to the internet, nobody is working alone anymore. It is fairly simple to exchange notes with a huge number of colleagues from other countries that may have more experience with the innovative piece of hardware that you need to work with. Alternatively, you can design a new app and ask strangers to test it for you and provide hints which aspects need to be improved before it can be commercially successful.
It is no surprise that top-tier companies have started using this method more frequently, relying on outside assistance to enhance their flagship products. We seem to be heading into an era of shared resources and knowledge, which can be hugely beneficial for smaller software studios. Basically, companies will be able to acquire highly specific expertise from around the world without hiring new employees.
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5. Machine Learning
True artificial intelligence has not been achieved so far, even if some efforts in this direction have produced very intriguing results. Advanced machine learning systems allow computers to process data independently and this can potentially be a valuable source of inspiration. In essence, this discipline is attempting to harness the raw computational power into a system that can complement and enhance human-made solutions.
Full implications of this concept are awe-inspiring and a little bit frightening, since it is impossible to tell how would the super-intelligent computers work and whether they would stay obedient to human commands. Regardless of those sci-fi scenarios, machine learning remains a promising field that is destined to grow over the next few decades.