How to Develop an App for the Internet of Things (IoT)
Connectivity plays a crucial role in our lives today. It makes our routines simple and organized. Smartphones have a massive part in making this possible. It is because of various mobile app technologies and trends that our lives have become this interconnected today. One such technology is the Internet of Things (IoT).
The internet of things is a revolutionary innovation that is changing the face of several industries. Agriculture, automobile, smart homes- IoT is carving a niche everywhere! It is becoming a core concept in mobile app development today. The IoT market is growing tremendously and expects an investment of $6 trillion by the end of 2022.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)
The internet of things is essentially a network of interconnected devices. This system of devices communicates with each other to perform various tasks. They collect and transfer data among multiple “things” over the “internet.”
It simplifies data management, data accessing and helps to automate several processes. In a business environment, the prospect that IoT has to offer is very bright. While helping to improve efficiency, it will also cut down various operational costs and thereby serve to increase the revenue of businesses. And not just in a corporate environment, IoT finds application in homes and other personal spaces too.
The growth of IoT in the past decade can be attributed to several factors, such as
- Accessibility and affordability of sensors
- Advancements in connectivity
- Progress in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Widespread use of cloud
What are the Major Components of IoT
An IoT ecosystem consists of several components or units that carry out different functionalities. These components are the building blocks of the IoT system. They are Cloud, network, hardware, and software. Let us take a look at each of them.
The data storage requirements of an IoT system are high. Conventional storage methods such as hard drives are very limited for their application. The solution to this is the Cloud. It collects data in real-time, processes the data, and stores it. It further facilitates the transmission of data as and when required. Since the Cloud is highly scalable, there are no limitations to storage. And it does not need physical resources either. Thus, the Cloud is a valuable component of the IoT system that facilitates its smooth operation.
Hardware refers to all the physical “things” in the Internet of Things. These include the devices in the system that are interconnected to each other, sensors that connect to the network, and the mobile device that acts as the control point of the whole IoT ecosystem. Any object can be made a part of the hardware, like a bulb or a toy. Some companies also develop specialized hardware devices for IoT.
Software is the application that manages all the IoT devices in a system. The software ensures device integration, data collection, stability of communication, etc. The various protocols associated with inter-device communication, their settings, etc., are handled by the software component of the IoT ecosystem.
The network is the link between all the various components of the IoT system. It connects physical components to enable data exchange between them. It also simplifies the working of the IoT system by creating a systematic arrangement of mixed-up data.
What are the Challenges Associated with IoT
Before going to create a mobile app that utilizes IoT technology, it is important to understand the challenges associated with IoT. Having an idea about challenges helps you address concerns and implement solutions accordingly.
Let us take a look at the four main challenges of IoT.
Connectivity is the engine that keeps an IoT system running. As the number of IoT devices is increasing, the problems associated with connectivity are also rising. Unstable connections can completely wreak havoc on the IoT ecosystem. Thus the challenges of wireless connectivity are something that needs to be addressed in the IoT environment.
An IoT system has several layers associated with it. So it is very susceptible to security threats at various points. Hackers can make their way in from various entry points. It could be that the hardware is in danger of threats, the software is outdated, or the connection isn’t secure. This increases the vulnerability of IoT systems.
3. Lack of standardization
There are no strict regulations to follow for implementing an IoT system. This results in a lack of standardization among different IoT ventures. It poses a security concern, particularly in industries like finance, healthcare, etc. This lack of standardization also creates a big headache for businesses while making decisions.
4. Technical inconsistencies
Different devices in an IoT system may be manufactured by different companies. This creates a challenge in an IoT ecosystem as there may occur communication issues between devices having standards. This challenge of technological inconsistency limits IoT development to a large extent.
How to Create an IoT Application
Apart from the usual mobile app development process, some extra steps are required to create an IoT application. Following a mobile app — architecture is vital to developing a successful application. Depending on your mobile app solution, you have to find the appropriate architecture that will suit your needs.
Let us take a look at the five stages of creating an IoT application.
1. Define hardware requirements
In the earlier sections, we saw how hardware is an important component of the IoT system. It is also one of the major challenges developers have to consider while creating an IoT app.
While choosing hardware for your IoT solution, the vendors must be selected after research. The device makers should be reliable, and the products must be of good quality. Otherwise, it will affect the entire IoT system. Also, if you are choosing hardware from different vendors, you need to make sure that the devices can communicate with each other. If you can select hardware from a single maker, it will reduce the technical inconsistency issue. It is also possible to custom-develop your own hardware.
2. Decide the platform
For developing an IoT app, you need to choose an IoT mobile app development framework. The choice of the platform must be done with great care as they play a major role in unifying the IoT system. The technical inconsistency challenge that we discussed earlier can be reduced to a large extent if the right platform is chosen.
There are several platforms available for IoT app development, like IBM Watson, Android Things, Apple Homekit, Oracle IoT, etc. Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Android Things are popular and reliable platforms that are trusted by IoT app developers worldwide. Creating an app with these platforms promises universal usability
3. Create an excellent UI/UX design
UI/UX design is an integral component of every mobile app. The IoT application you develop should have a simple UI and UX. The user should be able to perform the control operations quickly and not get stuck at any point in time. It is, in fact, as important as the hardware, connectivity, and other key parts of an IoT ecosystem.
To create a good UI/UX design, you must first identify the target industry for your solution. Then, study your target audience and find out their expectations and requirements. Doing extensive research on the competitors in the same field will give you a good idea about how you can approach your UI UX design. Also, deploying the latest mobile app development trends is a great way to attract users to your app.
4. Focus on app performance
When it comes to app performance, IoT apps have to perform much when compared to a normal mobile application. This is because even a millisecond lag can result in a drastic outcome.
Let us look at it through an example. Suppose a manufacturing industry implements an IoT ecosystem where a user controls a certain device through an app. If the app performance is slow, and the user cannot start/stop an operation of that device instantly, it could lead to disastrous results.
This applies to all IoT systems, though the extent of results depends on the different industries. Like, in smart homes, a millisecond lag might not result in a drastic outcome like in the manufacturing industry. However, it affects the entire user experience.
5. Ensure security
IoT deals with a lot of data. And often, the data is of sensitive nature that their security is a major concern. And as we saw before, the threats can come through various points. Security of all four components of the IoT system has to be ensured, that is, the hardware, network, development platform, and cloud.
It should be one of the top priorities while developing an IoT app. And the larger your IoT system is, the more advanced your security measures should be.
There is no doubt about the fact that IoT applications are rising in popularity. It is a useful and innovative technology that will bring a lot of ease to every process. However, it does have some challenges like security, inconsistencies, etc. Several kinds of research and discoveries are still happening in the field of IoT, which promises more growth for the technology in the future. IoT app development is going to be an integral part of mobile app development.