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Developers influence technology decisions

March 04, 2021

Coding the Future: How Developers Embrace and Adopt Emerging Technologies
byRichard MuirinAnalysis

As the popularity of a technology ebbs and flows, so does its impact, and when it comes to software development practices, few recent technologies have exerted as profound an influence as DevOps. This technology has become truly mainstream, seeing widespread adoption across software sectors, industries, and roles. We are delighted to say that, for these reasons, DevOps has matured out of our emerging technology tracker and instead has been replaced with several new and exciting technologies that have the potential to reshape the world. Here, we’ll use developers’ engagement with and adoption of these technologies to help us understand just how this might come to pass.

We have tracked developers’ engagement with and adoption of different technologies over six surveys, spanning three years, endingQ1 2021. To measure engagement and adoption, we asked developers if they are working on, learning about, interested in, or not interested in different emerging technologies, whilst adding to the list as new innovations appear. We classified each technology according to whether its engagement rate is above or below the median-high/low engagement-and whether its adoption rate is above or below the median-high/low adoption. 

Robotics, mini apps and computer vision are taking the lead as emerging technologies developers are most engaged with

After graduating DevOps from our emerging technology tracker, robotics, mini apps – apps embedded within another app – and computer vision head the table for those emerging technologies with which developers are most engaged. Around half of developers say they are working on, learning about, or interested in each of these technologies, and, whilst mini apps are most widely adopted by professional developers, hobbyists and students are most interested in robotics. However, of the developers engaged with mini apps, nearly a quarter are currently working on the technology. For computer vision, this drops to 15%, and for robotics, just 10%. Despite engaging developers in similar ways, it’s clear that the practical applications of mini apps are widely recognised by developers-in fact adoption increased by four percentage points in the last twelve months, one of the largest increases we saw.

Nearly 30% of actively engaged developers are learning about cryptocurrencies

Almost three in ten engaged developers are learning about cryptocurrencies, the most of any technology – though other blockchain applications are close behind on 26%. The academic interest in these technologies has yet to translate directly into adoption-only 14% and 12% of engaged developers are actively working on projects using these technologies. More than 40% of them are professionally involved in web apps / Software as aService (SaaS), and a third are involved in mobile development as professionals. This said, adoption did increase for both cryptocurrencies (+5 percentage points), and other blockchain applications (+4 percentage points) in the last twelve months-developers are continuing to find practical applications for these technologies. With giants such as Maersk incorporating blockchain technology into their logistics management systems in the last few years, more widespread adoption is inevitable.

Quantum computing and self-driving cars still lag in adoption

Quantum computing and self-driving cars continue to languish near the bottom in terms of adoption, but continue to spark some developers’ imaginations – more than two in five developers are engaged with these technologies. However, of these developers, fewer than one in ten are actually working on each of these technologies, and whilst engagement with these technologies dropped over the last twelve months, adoption increased for both – though more for quantum computing (4 percentage points) than self-driving cars (2 percentage points). There is a similar story with brain / body computer interfaces, which is a new technology that we added in the most recent survey-many developers are engaged, but, unsurprisingly, given its bleeding-edge status, very few are actively working on the technology.

We also recently added hearables, DNA computing / storage, and haptic feedback to our list of emerging technologies. Engagement is low with these technologies; on a level with fog/edge computing-between a quarter and a third of developers are engaged. We see that around one in ten engaged developers are actively working on these very nascent technologies, and two in ten are learning about them. Though the engaged audience for these technologies is small, there is a core of developers contributing to their continued progress.

Each of the emerging technologies we have covered encounters different barriers on its path to widespread adoption. For many, the barriers are technological-the advances needed to bring quantum or DNA computing to the mainstream are many years away, but there are also social, cultural, and even legislative barriers which will impede progress. Though important, developers are only part of the puzzle.

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