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IoT is an exciting emerging technology. As with all emerging technologies, the early adopters are usually the ones that benefit the most. 

It’s a fact that the world is becoming more and more reliant on internet-connected devices. They’re popping up everywhere, from home appliances to manufacturing assembly lines. 

As IoT technology expands and more and more sensors, devices, and gateways are built there is a growing demand for powerful software and apps that integrate seamlessly with the IoT system and server. 

The major mission of an IoT app development is to interpret the incoming data, analyze it, and present it in a way that is useful to the user, which is a really important part of the overall IoT system. 

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? 

The Internet of Things describes any device or equipment that connects to the internet using embedded software. 

Adding IoT technology to an item or device makes it more “intelligent” as it enables real-time digital data communication with other devices and systems. This creates the opportunity to add useful features to devices and optimize processes and operations.

Sometimes the IoT app will be responsible for using the data to feed into other systems or control other devices or machinery, especially in industrial settings.

The Rapid Growth of IoT Technology

The IoT is growing at a phenomenal rate in our rapidly advancing technological world. IDC research predicts that almost 56 billion IoT devices will be online by 2025, with growth across all sectors including industrial, automotive, smart-home equipment, and wearables.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is another big growth area that covers technology such as RFID warehousing, industrial robots, smart assembly lines, additive manufacturing, CNC machining, semiconductors, and electronics, plus many other areas. The IIoT is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.3% over the next 7 years.

Most research and market projections conclude that IoT solutions will be a major economic force over the coming years. Top consultancy firm McKinsey forecast an IoT market value of between 4 and 11 trillion USD by 2025. In other words, IoT is going to become a large sector of the economy over the next few years and will present lucrative opportunities to those involved in device innovation and IoT app development.

Anatomy Of An IoT System

Before going into the specific details of an IoT application development, it’s a good idea to understand the components of IoT solutions and how they connect with each other. 

In general, there are 4 main components of a typical IoT system.

1. Sensors and Devices (Hardware)

The first component of an IoT system is the input device or sensor(s). Sensors collect relevant data such as temperature or a video or audio feed. 

A device often has a group of sensors that gather and share data from the surrounding environment. For example, a smartphone is a device that has multiple sensors – GPS, accelerometer, microphone, camera, etc.

2. Cloud Connectivity (Networks)

Once the data has been collected, the next step is to share it with the cloud infrastructure and store it. 

To do this, the IoT system uses a data transport network such as Wi-Fi, satellite, cellular, wide-area networks (WAN), as well as many other types. 

Each network has different advantages such as efficient power consumption or increased bandwidth allowance. Decisions must be made about which properties are most important to your system and desired outcome before choosing which network to use.

3. Data Processing (Software)

Once the data reaches the cloud, it is processed by a software program, to collate the data, analyze it, and prepare it into a useful format. 

For example, a smart heater in your home will collect temperature data, transfer it to the cloud, where the software will analyze the temperature and decide whether it’s warm enough or too hot. The data is then forwarded to the user or used to automatically control the heater.

4. User Interface (App)

Once the data has been processed by the analytic engine, it is synced with some kind of user interface, usually a mobile app. 

Often there will be a user dashboard that allows people to see the data clearly at a glance. The app can also notify people when certain data is collected. For example, if an intruder breaks into a home fitted with an IoT security system, a motion sensor triggers an alarm and notifies the house owner with a smartphone message. The user can then open the app and get live stream video footage from their home, via the cloud.

IoT app development for medium and large businesses

For a more detailed look at the components of an IoT system, check out this article.

Factors to Consider During IoT Application Development

With exponential growth forecasted in the area and the growing trend for IoT solutions, it’s pretty clear that IoT innovation and application development will play a pivotal role in business success over the next decade.

A good, well-designed, and reliable IoT app is critically important to integrate with IoT devices, as customers will only buy the device if the app is up to standard. 

Let’s take a look at some of the main factors (apart from UI/UX) that will determine the success of your IoT application 

1. Plug Security Gaps

One of the main problems with IoT systems is that they lack common security protocols. The lack of security leaves IoT systems wide open to hacking and cyber attacks such as DDoS attacks. The Dyn cyberattacks of 2016 infected IoT technology such as printers, webcams, baby monitors, and other devices with malware which was used to execute the attacks, causing major problems worldwide.

The best way to prevent hackers and cybercriminals from exploiting the inherent vulnerabilities of IoT is to build apps that plug the gaps and protect the transfer of data. Many IoT app developers these days are building communication layer security such as TLS or DTLS into their apps. There have also been some advances in the application of blockchain technology to encrypt data in IoT apps. 

2. AI Data Analysis

The basic workflow of an IoT system is made up of five steps: create, communicate, aggregate, analyze, and act. The sensors communicate data through a network that is aggregated (gathered) in the cloud. The next stage is data analysis which is performed by an IoT app and can be enhanced with AI and machine learning technology.

Building an AI engine or machine learning algorithms into an IoT app allows device creators to get data insights rather than just raw data. The data insights can then be used to improve workflows. 

For example, on a manufacturing assembly line, robotic arms can be fitted with IoT sensors that feed data to an IoT app. The AI can interpret and analyze the data to find areas where production slows down or where efficiency improvements could be made in terms of energy usage, for instance. These insights can then be used to change the assembly line operations for the better.

3. Opportunities for Business

Investing in custom IoT application development creates the following business opportunities:

  • automation of business processes and services;
  • optimize productivity;
  • improved data sharing across businesses;
  • enable more productive remote working;
  • rapid response to changing circumstances;
  • leads to cost reductions.

IoT solutions shouldn’t be considered as a static investment to solve technical tasks, as they can grow with time and develop into a separate ecosystem, managing many different processes and workflows.

For instance, imagine a business that makes machine-milled parts for the automobile industry. By developing an IoT app that links with their assembly line and CNC machine sensors, they can get real-time notifications of any machine problems or failures. This allows them to respond to problems, rectify them, and get production rolling again much more quickly. It can also help to automate tedious processes – quality control can be done using IoT sensors coupled with AI instead of visual inspection, for example.

4. Create A Continuous User Experience 

The development of a custom IoT app allows you to embrace the agile methodology of Continuous User Experience (CUE).

CUE involves getting data and information from anybody that uses your app. You can analyze all of this data and learn exactly how users interact with the data. This helps to improve and refine your app based on user queries, making it user-friendly. Optimizing your app in this way allows you to build customer loyalty and get ahead of your competitors.

Stages of IoT App Development

Creating an app to integrate with an IoT ecosystem takes careful planning and design. It is recommended that you follow the 5 Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Stages that follow.

1. Plan the Framework of Your App

The first stage is to plan the architecture of the IoT app, decide what features will be needed, how the UX will work, how the app will interface with the device system software, and how to transfer data between the devices and IoT app. Attention must be paid to taking control of security and encrypting the data using communication layer security within the app such as TLS or DTLS. 

2. Design the App Based on User Journeys

IoT app development for medium and large businesses

At this stage, we design the app. In other words, you need to plan for future security systems, overloads, and design the app to align with user journeys. 

In order to accurately define the user journey(s), you need to do some research. You need to talk to the end-users or customers and discover exactly what they want from the app. 

In cases where there is more than one type of end-user, you should take the time to research what the differences are – maybe one type of user just wants raw data, e.g. an operator wants to plug the data into a CNC machine, whereas another user may want data visualizations and insights, e.g. a factory manager.

It is highly critical that the IoT app has a top-tier UI and UX. The last thing you want is for users to get so confused by a complicated interface and abandon it within the first few minutes. To achieve a good UI/UX, you need to make sure that all the different sensor responses and various features and services are presented in a way that is intuitive and easy to use.

The most important thing to consider when developing the interfaces is user-friendliness. A good app is one that can be used with little to no training or explanation. Ideally, users should be able to open the app and get exactly what they need within a few clicks.

Once the user journeys have been identified and mapped out, you need to decide upon the main features and services – dashboard, analytic displays, alerts and notifications, QR or barcode scanner, messaging features, preferences, and controls, etc.

3. Develop, Implement, and Deploy the App

The next stage of IoT app development is to actually build an IoT app. It is a stage of project implementation where all the previously alleged concepts of app architecture and its designs are realized. At this stage, we develop a functional app and receive the exact interface with all the actionable menus, lists, and forms. 

The major challenges while creating the app are its correct merge with all the selected IoT devices, third-party services integrations, and implementation of the security management system and security protocols. The team of developers should ensure all the data is properly transferred and stored. 

It’s not correct to determine the required tech stack and team members, without defining the scope of your project, to get more precise information contact our experts.

For an example of what the creation of the app architecture looks like in NIX practice, take a look at this article on IoT monitoring and analysis.

Buyer's Guide

4. Testing & Integration 

Once the app has been deployed it needs to be fully tested to make sure that all the features and services work as desired, there are no bugs or glitches, and the user experience is good. Various test cases should be applied and test data examined to make sure that all user journeys perform well. 

Once the testing has been completed and any problems ironed out, it’s time to integrate the app into the overall IoT system. This usually involves setting up the cloud gateways and networks for the transfer of data and meshing them with the app’s communication layer security protocol. 

Once connected and integrated, further tests should be carried out to make sure that data integrity and security is maintained throughout the system. Depending on the industry, applications may need specific tests to be complied with, for example, HIPAA in healthcare.

5. Maintain and Improve

The final stage of the SDLC for an IoT application is the maintenance phase. Maintenance involves checking and adapting the software, system hardware, and technical specification to improve overall performance. 

One of the main areas for attention during the maintenance stage should be security. If vulnerabilities are found or appear due to system changes, they need to be addressed quickly and effectively, ideally without disrupting operations.

During the maintenance phase, it’s important to have a solid change control or change management process in place, to make sure that any app enhancements or modifications are done properly, without causing disruption or damage to the overall IoT system. 

Use Cases of IoT Apps & Technology

In this section, we’ll spend a bit of time digging deeper into the main business areas that can benefit from IoT technology.

Manufacturing

One of the most exciting growth areas of IoT technology (or IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things) is manufacturing. Manufacturing companies use a lot of machinery, devices, and sensors already, so it makes sense that IoT systems are a perfect fit for their operations and business processes. 

Well-designed and implemented IoT systems can seriously boost the productivity of a typical manufacturing business.

Within the manufacturing industry, older technology such as Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication already involves the transfer of data between machines and devices at various stages of the manufacturing process. IoT technology can be integrated within this ecosystem to optimize production capacity and processes.

There is a demand for IoT applications and software that help to streamline production activities, provide enhanced quality control, improve asset management, and help to manage equipment more effectively.

Transportation & Logistics

In the logistics sector and transport services, efficiency and timeliness are key concerns. IoT systems help to track and monitor data, allowing logistics companies to react and optimize their operations.

For example, a delivery business can use passive or active RFID tags fitted with GPS to track the delivery of goods using in-vehicle IoT sensors. The company needs to hire a team of developers to build an IoT app or platform to build software that will analyze the data and provide useful insights to the user.

Smart Homes

In the world of consumer goods, smart home gadgets and appliances are a huge growth market. Almost all systemic elements of a home can be enhanced by IoT technology – lighting, heating, water, security, and resource usage, plus many more solutions. IoT systems within a smart home range from remote-controlled lighting to automated heating systems that adjust to the owner’s preferred temperature settings.

All smart home systems have a complimentary mobile app, which can control multiple smart home elements from one dashboard. 

Retail

Retail is another area of the economy that is opening up to the potential of IoT systems. Background processes such as supply chain management and quality control can be enhanced with IoT technology and apps. In-store features such as click-and-collect management, pricing, and customer services can be optimized by IoT. 

For example, IoT beacons can be placed at strategic locations in the store that send a notification to the shopper’s mobile phone making them aware of special offers within that section of the shop floor. It can also be used to automatically direct staff to locations where customer support is required or where cashier queues are building up.

Healthcare

As biomedicine and healthcare technology advances rapidly, IoT systems will become more prominent in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare services, as well as at home. IoT sensors and devices can help to speed up diagnosis, assist with patient monitoring, allocate resources, and direct treatment.

IoT devices can be used to monitor patient’s health statistics, both in healthcare settings and remotely. Patients can be given a wearable to monitor heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, for example. This means that they don’t need to be physically present, but they are still getting the doctor’s supervision that they need.

The Cost of Developing An IoT Application

According to research, the cost of IoT app development typically ranges between $80,000 and $250,000, depending on the complexity and scope of the app.

The cost of developing an IoT application depends on many factors including:

  • How the app is going to be used;
  • The complexity of the features;
  • Operating systems to be used;
  • Scalability;
  • Staff costs – developers, data scientists, project managers, designers, etc.;
  • Design and functionality priorities.

The best way to minimize costs is to outsource the IoT app development to a team of experts who have the experience to build high-performance apps in a short space of time. 

Key Takeaways

We hope that this guide has helped you to realize the potential opportunities that IoT systems present. 

Here is a quick recap of the key concepts covered in this guide:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a system of sensors and devices that link up and transfer data with an app, via the cloud;
  • The IoT industry is forecast to be worth between 4 and 11 trillion USD by 2025;
  • The 4 main components of an IoT system are: hardware, network, analysis software, and app;
  • Security and data-handling systems are important considerations when developing an IoT app;
  • A well-designed user interface helps to make your app more effective;
  • IoT apps are used in a variety of areas, including manufacturing, logistics, retail, smart homes, healthcare, etc.;
  • The cost of developing an IoT app ranges between $80k and $250k.

Whether you’re planning to create an IoT device or already have it, now is the right time to begin planning how to integrate IoT into your operations. Early adopters are the ones that will gain the most in terms of competitive edge and brand reputation.

To discover how Nix United can help you to create and develop an IoT application that will provide dozens of benefits, get in touch today.

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