Best Practices for Developing Mobile Apps for IoT

  • $6 trillion investment in IoT in the next 5 years.
  • 24 billion connected devices by 2020. $13 trillion in ROI by 2025.

These numbers by BI Intelligence make one thing clear: IoT is making the world an increasingly connected place. And to stay ahead of the curve, businesses are investing heavily in IoT: from security systems, and protocols to mobile apps; everything is moving beyond computers to become such connected devices that we can ever imagine. In many ways, the impact of an IoT solution depends on the quality of the mobile app. So, if you want your IoT solution to be a success, you may need a fundamental shift in perspective in how you design, manufacture, and even support your mobile app. As mobile apps take the center stage, here are some of the best practices to keep in mind:

Carry out sufficient requirements analysis

IoT manufacturers often try to embed a plethora of new and exciting features into their product. However, while designing mobile apps for IoT products, an entirely different mindset is required. The aim could be a Minimum Viable Product – a product that meets the core needs and offers features that can then be extended or enhanced depending on how it is received. Considering how complex IoT products are, it makes sense to carry out as much prior customer research as possible to make your IoT mobile app stand out in the IoT melee. The questions to answer include, what product to build, what features to include, which platform to choose, integration capabilities, scalability options, and more. It is through such research that you can precisely define the scope of work, allocate the time, budget, and resources, and get to market quickly.

Be user-centric, not product-centric

In the IoT world, the deal-breaker in product design is no longer the hardware; it is how the mobile app appears, feels, and works that makes all the difference. Developing the mobile app as an after-thought is a recipe for disaster. The mobile app development cannot be an independent or siloed process, tackled only after the rest of the product is developed. Make sure to take a holistic, integrated approach while designing your mobile app – while keeping in mind end users’ needs – throughout the lifetime of your IoT product. Since today’s consumers are extremely well-versed with mobile devices, make sure to cover good aesthetics, a comfortable as well as attractive look and feel, seamless feedback mechanisms, intuitive navigation, and make sure the app is easy to install, register, and update.

Pay close attention to integration

Any IoT product is fragmented at several levels: hardware, operating system, protocols, communication network, and the mobile app. For any IoT product to be successful, what is required is seamless end-to-end integration of these individual sub-systems. Since your IoT mobile app will interact with the device’s hardware and firmware, you need to ensure that the interaction is fast and seamless, and perfectly developed and tested. It’s best when firmware developers and mobile app developers work together to create specifications and features. Continuous collaboration reduces the chances of delays, poor documentation, unfixed bugs, and wrong development decisions. To keep up with deadlines and quality standards, an Agile approach is ideal. On each sprint, you can check if important bugs are properly fixed and verify how the app behaves with the introduction of a new functionality.

Allot sufficient time for quality assurance

Manufacturers new to IoT sometimes greatly underestimate the time and effort it takes to test the product, rectify issues, and retest anything that doesn’t work properly the first time. And frankly, nothing in the IoT world works perfectly the first time! You can never be too sure how the app will behave to a new firmware update, and what new bugs might emerge. This is especially true if the firmware has undocumented bugs, as testers will not immediately be able to figure out the source of the unexpected behavior. Since any IoT device is a complex interplay between hardware, firmware, software, mesh networks, and communications pathways interconnecting it all, everything you test has to be tested in the context of everything else. Make sure to take a holistic approach. Test your app at all levels: device, cloud, user-experience – including look and feel, navigation, responsiveness – as well as for integration, performance, reliability, scalability, security, data privacy, and backward compatibility.

Enable extensibility

Considering the amount of time, money, and effort that goes into developing an IoT solution, making the right design decisions is extremely important. One such decision is to enable extensibility. Since IoT requirements are bound to change over time, design decision will have consequences beyond the current version. Developing mobile apps using hybrid code can be less expensive in the beginning, but the costs tend to increase in the long run as each iteration essentially becomes a custom programming effort. Native code, on the other hand, can cost more initially, as it requires developers with extensive coding knowledge and proficiency, programming is faster, and it’s easier to change and modify. When you set out to develop IoT mobile apps, such flexibility is crucial. Hence, investing upfront in mobile app extensibility means you can embed future capabilities as they emerge, and get the most out of your development effort and investment.

Be a game changer

The IoT ecosystem holds the promise of a new wave of mobile app development where all aspects of the connected device including sensors, networks, firmware, OS, protocols, cloud, and analytics are intertwined in countless ways to yield new outcomes. The potential in IoT mobile app development is huge. But those organizations that focus on quality will ultimately be the ones that win. Being aware of these best practices in IoT mobile app development may be the only way to be the game changer in this new connected world.

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