What You Need to Know About Developing for the Internet of Things

IoT is still a hot trend that every business should consider for the future.
December 27, 2021
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Internet of Things (IoT) is all about the billions of devices deployed around the world and connected to the internet that collect and share data. These devices are everywhere and serve a multitude of purposes. IoT devices are smartwatches, medical sensors, smart locks, smart refrigerators, fitness trackers, thermostats, security systems, mobile robots, light switches and plugs, smoke alarms, doorbells, remotes, and smart assistants.

IoT is practically everywhere: In homes, businesses, automobiles, retail stores, and warehouses. At this point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a home or business that doesn’t have one or more of these devices.

As a business, what do you need to know about developing for the Internet of Things? These devices aren’t your typical projects, but given how prevalent they are, your company might need to consider adding IoT to your offerings.

Let’s find out what it takes to develop IoT.

The Hardware

The first thing you must understand is that IoT hardware isn’t exactly what you’re accustomed to. Instead of standard servers and desktops, these devices are limited in storage and CPU power. So, instead of having limited resources, you’re dealing with very limited hardware. This is an SoC (System on a Chip), which has less power and finite storage. These devices often include sensors such as power management modules, RF, energy, and sensing modules as well as microcontrollers.

Because the hardware involved is so limited, you have to take great strides to keep your applications as small as possible. Remember, those devices also must house an operating system (albeit a stripped-down version) and be capable of storing data.

The Operating System

Nearly every IoT device runs a minimal operating system, which is almost always based on Linux. This means your developers are going to have to have an understanding of the open-source operating system. 

There are several options for IoT OSes, such as Contiki (best for memory-constrained systems), FreeRTOS (best for devices that have very limited memory), Mbed OS (best for portable code), MicroPython (best for rapid deployment), Embedded Linux (best for most use cases), RIOT (capable of running as a macOS process), TinyOS (best for cross-device portability), Windows 10 IoT Core (best for heavy-duty industrial deployments), and OpenWrt (used for routers).

IoT Principles

When starting out with IoT, you must keep in mind the best development practices, otherwise, the security and reliability of your devices can be compromised. There are 5 principles to keep in mind, as you begin your IoT journey:

  1. Analog data is often something you must deal with. This data can be radio signals, temperature, sounds, and velocity.
  2. These devices will always be connected to the network and even to other devices.
  3. IoT acquires and acts on data in real time.
  4. IoT data moves through 5 phases – real time, in motion, early life, at rest, and archive.
  5. Data must have visibility so it’s accessible even in remote locations.

IoT Best Practices

As with any sector in tech, there are best practices to consider for IoT. 

Protect all Collected Data

IoT devices collect data. This can be anything from temperature readings to user information. Because these devices are connected 24/7 and are constantly sending and collecting packets of data, it’s absolutely critical that your IoT application is capable of keeping this data protected. Data security must be considered at every phase of the application development lifecycle.

Data Streaming

Next to data security, the next most important best practice is that you must develop with high-performance data streaming in mind. For an IoT device to work properly, it must be able to collect, process, and send out data very quickly. If you develop an application that bottlenecks data streaming, your project will have failed right out of the gate. 

It’s a Platform Not an App

If you think of what you’re developing as an app for an IoT device, you’re in trouble. Remember, these devices tend to be very interconnected with a network, other devices, and data. If you think in terms of isolation, your device will struggle. Instead, think of the project as a part of the IoT ecosystem. It’s a platform, not an app. 

Think Cloud-Native

Because so much is moving to the cloud, it’s best to develop your IoT platform for the cloud. If you do this, your device won’t be stranded when a service or API you depend on is migrated to the cloud. Think cloud-native and your IoT device will enjoy a much longer shelf-life.

Provide for Data Management

Data is key with IoT and if your device doesn’t have effective data management built into its system, it’s going to struggle. You need effective in-memory data analysis and systems and services that are highly capable of processing incoming data in real time. 

Consider Power Consumption

Finally, you must keep in mind that IoT devices must work with very low levels of power consumption. To that end, you must develop your IoT platforms such that they can function as expected when power is at a minimum. If you develop a platform that includes too many background services (or a single service that places too much demand on power), your IoT platform could struggle to succeed. 

IoT Programming Languages to Consider

The most popular languages used for IoT development include the following:

  • Java – the most prevalent language used for IoT.
  • Python – can be easily integrated with other languages.
  • JavaScript – thanks to its event-driven nature, it makes IoT environments more functional and efficient.
  • LUA – it has the Node.LUA framework, which allows for the development of IoT-specific apps.
  • Go – it’s highly concurrent and can route massive data streams with ease.
  • Rust – enjoys all of the benefits of C and C++, but is fast enough to work with IoT.

Conclusion

Adding an IoT device to your business can really help take your company to the next level. These devices will continue to spread across the globe exponentially, so the sooner you get on board, the less likely your business will be left behind. 

Just remember, developing for IoT isn’t the same as conventionally application development. Keep this advice in mind as you move forward with this new venture.

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