It’s no surprise that mobile apps have been dominating the market lately. According to Smart Insights, 90% of the time people spent on mobile devices was spent on mobile apps. Mobile apps have grown quite powerful over the last few years and now they have started to influence the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).
In fact, mobile apps are acting more like the bridge for forward-thinking enterprises that are trying to build smarter devices that can enhance every aspect of out lives. As a result, you can say that mobile apps have built the foundation for the rise of IoT.
How Have Mobile Apps Influenced IoT?
Currently, most mobile apps are used as endpoints meaning they’re used to stream music, locate businesses, play games, and interact with other people (social media). But mobile apps can be more than endpoints as they can also serve as gateways.
IoT is generally comprised of simpler architecture compared to mobile devices, so they essentially need an endpoint from which to send data. As a result, these endpoints are enabled to monitor events like the temperature in a room before transmitting data to services that can analyze these trends.
A perfect example of this type of IoT and mobile app integration is a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat. The mobile app, in this case, is the gateway or remote that controls the device while the thermostat is the IoT endpoint.
IoT has remarkable potential and as mobile app development has already laid the groundwork with frameworks and baselines from which developers can build, they are able to build much faster than expected as they’re free of the constraints of traditional web-browser HTML approach.
On the other hand, mobile apps can also function like sensors as you can leverage native OS functionality to collect background data and send to servers like they have never been able to do before. For example, data regarding the user’s location can be communicated in the background.
This information can be very useful for IoT in a retail setting as it will be indexed as an event in the customer’s journey. Further, from a consumer’s standpoint, it can also be a pattern that’s acknowledged by machine learning.
For example, in the winter, your heater can automatically turn on when your mobile app transmits in the background that you’re on your way home.
But recently, the tables have started to turn to a point where the things are now influencing the development of mobile apps. Not the other way around.
1. From a Development Stand Point, You Need to Choose a Starting Point
As the field is still in its infancy stage, developers often don’t know where to start from. So the best way to approach this is to figure out what the IoT device is expected to do for the end user and start from there.
IoT is going to be enormous, much bigger than most people anticipated. So software developers need to start out by learning the technology before attempting to build an app for it.
2. There Will be Problems to Overcome Through Trial & Error
It’s going to take a lot of work to build these new IoT applications as it’s really a journey into the unknown. When you’re building from scratch, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error to figure things out.
Platforms for IoT development are quite limited, so when it's going gets tough, the tough will have to keep going.
To add to all the developers’ pains, there will be problems with connectivity that need to be overcome. Developers need to figure out how the app will connect the IoT device to the internet and to itself.
Although we have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular service for smart mobile devices, we’re still unclear about the best route for IoT. Developers will have to build and integrate IoT apps with independent devices that require different connection protocols.
This is totally new ground for mobile app developers as they have never been in this situation before.
But things will get easier as more and more tech giants release software development apps. The end goal here is to make it easy for novice developers to get into IoT mobile app development.
As people start adding more and more things in their homes, you can expect more programs such as open source platforms to encourage coding.
3. Mobile App Development for IoT Needs to be Separated into Tiers
Mobile app development has already been operating in two groups and the same sort of philosophy should be followed for IoT.
But here’s the difference. When it comes to IoT, there should be five tiers and they all need to be a lot more cohesive in the development stage. This is a departure from traditional mobile app development.
The five tiers are as follows:
Take a look at this hybrid Wi-Fi / LAN based ventilation remote controller application. That's how it can be described from a five-tier perspective:
- Device - ventilation controller system installed in a large manufacturing facility
- Gateway - ZigBee
- Data / analytics - real-time telemetry, node list, provisioning, system performance (e.g. speed, fan properties, circuits), weather, environment, GPS, network; data is called on-demand (i.e. no streaming or interval calls)
- App performance analytics - Flurry
- Application - hybrid (PhoneGap based) iOS and Android app featuring a user interface that leverages information coming from the analytics tier and presents it to the user (facility engineer) in a meaningful way.
As it’s not a common occurrence to have five different tools integrated in this manner, developers need to come up with a new language to ensure that everything correlates perfectly.
4. Niche-Based IoT Mobile Development
Unlike mobile app developers who have to work across various platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows, IoT will be a unified platform.
As a result, companies need to start looking to hire developers who are more or less specialized in an IoT niche. As the industry becomes increasingly popular, you’ll probably need a team of specialized IoT developers to keep everything functioning without gaps in operation.
IoT has already started to change the face of mobile app development. Within another decade, you can expect thousands of jobs to be created in this space.
But in order to achieve the ultimate goal of making life easier for everyone, developers will first have to go through the pains of building the infrastructure and the platforms from the ground up.