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What to Consider When You Build IoT Apps?

IoT app development can unlock tremendous potentials within an organization. Entire industries can be revolutionised by harnessing the power of rapid app development and deployment in IoT contexts. And this is not simply about improved operational efficiency and increasing the speed of development. The possibilities unlocked by IoT apps can bring results all the way up to product development and pave the way to a new generation of services. This is why organizations are seeking to build custom IoT apps and are increasingly looking into application enablement platforms.

At the same time, building IoT apps is not trivial. To be successful, organizations require a breadth and depth of know-how that may be difficult to harvest from local resources. You need the capability to extract and store sensor data, and potentially combine IoT data streamed from a smart device with other data to build predictive models, deep learning, and machine learning solutions. At all times, you also need specialists who make sure that you build IoT apps that are context-driven and aligned for optimal user experience at all levels. This is how IoT application development can quickly become challenging. 

Image 1. IoT App Store with industrial apps

The Complexities of IoT App Development 

All of this translates into multi-talented teams with a diverse specialist skill set. An IoT app developer may be required to not simply have a thorough understanding of the organization’s IoT cloud platform but also be knowledgeable about big data analytics and machine learning algorithms. Added to this is the need to convince business analysts and work closely with non-tech staff to meet company goals. 

Further, creating and deploying smart IoT apps requires the use of a diverse set of technologies and the consolidation of resources. Most of the time, you need to consider complex setups, heterogeneous assets (including hardware), putting together several platforms to build a seamless process, as well as dealing with data coming from IoT sensors, actuators, and other edge devices. So IoT app development and deployment can only work seamlessly if the connectivity, IoT hardware, middleware, the apps themselves, as well as the data extraction and IoT analytics capabilities, are all integrated into a seamless continuous process.

This complexity often means extended timelines for the creation and deployment of IoT applications. At times, organizations that seek to build IoT apps cannot keep up with the speed of innovation and may come up with a finished product only after the technology behind it has already become obsolete. More than ever before, speed is of the essence, and so is keeping current with new technology.

An IoT platform with application enablement capabilities is the safest bet when it comes to building IoT apps. And IoT app development services are increasingly becoming a required platform layer allowing both seasoned and less technical developers to build IoT apps, deploy and test seamlessly within the same platform. 

Build or Buy, Again 

The first decision to make is whether to build your own custom IoT software with app enablement capabilities or use an existing application enablement IoT platform. Custom building allows you to dive into the full complexity of IoT technology and learn a lot, overcoming multiple technical challenges along the way. However, building a custom application enablement environment involves a significant investment and may take up to two years. Apart from budgeting, you will have to encounter staffing issues as you will need specialists to create, deploy, test, and maintain each and every part of the IoT system. This includes server and database, APIs, security, and access management, to name a few. 

Your next option is to use one of the IoT development platforms available on the market today. Some of these offer a seamless process of building IoT apps in a cloud IDE, testing on the IoT device, and deploying and updating over the air, all in one continuous gesture. There are platforms that only provide the IoT-enabling environment where every developer can build and deploy their IoT product. But other IoT app enablement platforms are much larger in scope and come with device management and user management capabilities, custom workflows, data extraction, and data storage capacities, as well as machine learning and AI enablement. 

Since building IoT apps is part of a much larger context, you may have to consider several things. First, you need to make sure that the pricing model is aligned with your needs and that you can carry the cost of scaling. Most application enablement platforms come with built-in security features with secure data storage and end-to-end encryption but you may still want to check on these. Open source solutions, APIs and open standards should also be preferred, safeguarding platform openness at all times. 

Things to Consider Before You Build Your IoT App

Hardware. You will most probably end up using hardware from many different vendors. To avoid vendor lock-in, make sure that you are working with a hardware-agnostic IoT-enablement platform. That kind of platform should allow you to connect anything and use standard protocols.  

Data Storage. Application enablement works best when it comes with a mature data storage solution. This will allow you to stream and analyze edge device data right into the platform. Eventually, you may develop your own IoT data collection app to customize the process.

Data Analytics. Apart from collecting and storing the data, you need infrastructure that enables you to cleanse the raw data. You should be able to perform analytics on it and develop algorithms that will become the foundation of your IoT apps. 

Scalability. You need a platform that allows you to deploy and run your custom IoT application on multiple devices simultaneously. Also, you need to be able to run multiple apps on the same device. An application enablement platform with device management functionalities is an ideal option here. It makes it possible to assign tags and labels to both devices and groups and orchestrate rollouts on entire dedicated groups of remote devices. 

Security. Again, security by design is the rule of thumb in the IoT platform market. Yet it does not hurt to make sure that the fundamentals are covered. If designing consumer IoT apps, you may have to take extra steps to ensure the integrity and privacy of personal data. And if working on industrial IoT applications, then you need to safeguard organizations’ intellectual property. Regular penetration testing, two-factor authentication, and encryption are the first steps to take toward maximizing the security of your IoT solution. 

The Record Evolution IoT Studio

At Record Evolution, we have built an IoT & AI platform with application enablement capabilities so that each IoT developer can easily build and deploy IoT apps over the air. We wanted to make the process of building, deploying, testing, and updating IoT apps as intuitive, seamless, and easy as possible. Taking it from here, you have plenty of options: 

  • start building from scratch in the cloud IDE
  • transfer a machine learning model you have built in the platform’s data science workbooks and package it as an IoT app
  • use one of the many available app templates in the IoT App Store

For your IoT project, you deploy on your connected device or group of devices within seconds, inspect the logs, test, and update, all within the same venue, without having to switch between applications and vendors. The platform has already taken care of some of the infrastructural quandaries. So there is no need to perform complex backend development. This playful approach to software development invites less skilled users to experiment with IoT apps and successfully manage deployments. 

Apps from the IoT App Store

And here are some examples from the open-access Record Evolution IoT App Store:

OPC UA Client

OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is a machine-to-machine communication protocol for industrial automation developed by the OPC Foundation. This is how the OPC UA Client App looks in the IoT app store:

OPC UA Client app
App 1. OPC UA Client
  • Based on client-server communication
  • Focus on communicating with industrial equipment and systems for data collection and control
  • Open – freely available and implementable under GPL 2.0 license
  • Cross-platform – not tied to one operating system or programming language
  • Service-oriented architecture (SOA)
  • Offers security functionality for authentication, authorization, integrity, and confidentiality
  • Integral information model

GPS Reader

This asset-tracking app publishes the GPS position of the device every x seconds to the platform’s map display. The map will only display the current position of the device if the device has an active network connection. Additionally, the app also gets the date and time from the GPS and sets it as system/Raspberry Pi time.

This app observes the /shared folder of a device and uploads files, written into /shared folder, to a user-specified Google GCS account. In terms of hardware requirements, you can simply use a Raspberry Pi connected to the platform. The Raspberry Pi needs a working Wi-Fi connection, so you can control it remotely using the platform. The app tries to connect to Google Storage by default. If the sender fails to send the data for any reason, a new attempt is made every 30 seconds.

GPS tracker app
App 2. GPS Reader

AWS S3 Sender

This app observes the /shared folder of your devices for new files. The folder is shared between all running containers on your device. When other applications move or create files into the /shared folder and they match the watch_pattern, they will be picked up and sent to the appointed destination.

S3 Bucket app
App 3. AWS S3 Sender

The IoT application will try to send a file as soon as it appears in the folder.

Curious? Find more applications in the IoT app store.

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About Record Evolution

We are a data science and IoT team based in Frankfurt, Germany, that helps companies of all sizes innovate at scale. That’s why we’ve developed an easy-to-use industrial IoT platform that enables fast development cycles and allows everyone to benefit from the possibilities of IoT and AI.