What will the next year bring for developers?

AI, application platforms, and IoT will continue to change the tech landscape for software developers, according to Twilio.

The top 3 programming languages developers actually use Companies are seeking developers with strong programming skills rather than traditional education, according to a Triplebyte report.

Developer roles exist in a near-constant state of flux, as programming language popularity rises and falls, and new tools catch companies' attention. One thing remains the same, however: Developers are among the most in-demand tech professionals in the marketplace, and flexibility with coding languages and tools will only increase their job opportunities.

But what will the year 2019 bring for developers? Here are seven predictions from experts at cloud communications platform Twilio.

SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)

1. Customer service agents will play a more strategic role

As machine learning-based applications become more widely adopted, developers will increasingly work to build effective customer service agents, said Devang Sachdev, director of product marketing at Twilio Flex. While these chatbots currently get a bad rap for reading a script or transferring customers from person to person without a resolution, 2019 will see progress in advancing this technology, Sachdev said.

"In 2019, as machine learning is applied and AI becomes integrated into contact center technology systems, customer service agents will be able to focus on having more intelligent, authentic conversations with customers, rather than performing rote actions," Sachdev said. "Rather than being replaced by presumed artificially intelligent technology, human agents will be critical members of the broader team bringing interactions to life."

2. Application platforms will grow in use

Application platforms will give developers a new way to customize enterprise software, Sachdev said. These platforms deploy like a Software as a Service (SaaS) application, integrate like an on-prem solution, and iterate at the pace of an API-based platform, he added.

"With application platforms, developers benefit from the low cost and scalability of the cloud but are no longer limited like they are with SaaS which cannot be customized for specific business needs," Sachdev said. "We expect an explosion of new ideas from developers, starting in the contact center industry, who finally have the tools they need to innovate enterprise software."

3. Businesses will be more visible on messaging apps

In 2019, businesses will increasingly use messaging apps like WhatsApp, Apple iMessage, and Facebook Messenger to communicate, Sachdev said.

"Whereas these apps are still predominantly used for consumer to consumer communication, especially in the United States, 2019 will be the year when business use will accelerate as these apps open up to developers," he added. "Businesses will use these apps as new channels to engage customers into conversations with richer experiences such as Instagram-style stories."

SEE: The Power of IoT and Big Data (Tech Pro Research)

4. More "Things-first" startups will appear, with lots of funding

Next year will see an increasing number of well-funded "Things-first" startups, said Evan Cummack, head of the Internet of Things (IoT) at Twilio. In 2018, we saw significant valuations and acquisitions of Things-first companies, particularly in the transportation area, with startups like Lime Bike, Bird, Uber, and Lyft growing.

"This success spurs developer and investor interest," Cummack said. "As more connected devices transform your daily routine in 2019, expect once again to be asking yourself 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

5. Smart city applications will spread

Some of the most popular IoT verticals of 2018 included manufacturing, transportation, and utilities, which primarily collected data for relatively simple use cases, Cummack said.

"It made sense to start here, but in 2019, expect to see 'ambient intelligence' driven by complementary sensor capabilities," he added. "We will see early examples in the smart city—digital billboards, shared bikes and street lights could provide cities with air quality, traffic, noise, and even crime data."

6. Demand for IoT-specific talent will increase

As the number of IoT devices continues to grow globally, IoT will become a true specialization for engineers and developers, Cummack said. We will likely see more IoT-specific university courses and professional-level online trainings spring up this year, he added.

7. Security concerns will continue to rise

Despite the increasing number of cybersecurity breaches in the news, security will likely continue to be left behind in 2019, said Nils Puhlmann, Twilio's chief trust and security officer.

"With the emergence of driverless cars, connected medical devices and artificial intelligence, security has been sacrificed for the sake of speed," Puhlmann said. "The conversation around data breaches will need to shift from 'who had a breach' to 'who is managing their risks effectively.'"

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Image: iStockphoto/DragonImages

By Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.