- January 23, 2019
- Posted by: Ankit Dwivedi
- Categories: Blogs, IoT
With every business today on the road to digitalization, the IoT solution industry is on a roll. According to Statista, there were 23.14 billion connected devices in 2018, and according to Forbes, the IoT market is expected to be a worth $478 billion by 2020. That means tremendous opportunity for software developers with the capability to create these solutions.
Over the last few years, software professionals have been finding more and more opportunities to work in IoT solution development. But most have realized that building an enterprise IoT solution is far more challenging than building a business app. For starters, IoT is not just a software solution; it is a combination of hardware, firmware, software, business logic, network communication channels, protocols, database, UI, and more. Another reason why IoT solutions are hard, and why they get criticized, is how appalling some designs are: from devices with shoddy UI to those that crash without warning – IoT failures are just as common as IoT successes.
Hence, as a development professional creating an IoT solution, it is extremely critical to plan properly. You must be aware of all the requirements and the possible hurdles that you could encounter. Here’s what developers must know while building IoT solutions:
Scalability is inevitable
The lifecycle of any IoT solution is substantially long – unless of course the device wears out or the system in which it resides becomes obsolete. Given the large lifespan, as a developer, it is important you build the IoT solution keeping durability and scalability in mind. This includes developing the solution such that it can communicate and integrate with more devices in the future, gather more data, and be capable of growing its processing capability. Since the design decisions you make could linger for years or even decades, make sure the techniques you use are up to the longevity challenge.
How you manage data will make all the difference
Every IoT device processes a huge amount of data, and it is this data that decides the fate of the solution. Considering the scale of data that is going to be collected and processed, as a developer, it is important you plan for the data deluge. You must know how much of the data you’re going to use, how you’re going to use it, and what you’re going to do with it after its first use. Answers to these questions will have an impact on everything: from your data storage infrastructure to your data processing capability. Also, legal reasons may impose limits on the data gathered. You will need to decide early on, how you’re going to treat the data as it will base the foundation for all forthcoming design decisions.
You will have to build the solution end-to-end
It’s easy to want to drive all your efforts towards developing the IoT endpoints; after all, that’s the side of the solution that users will interact with. However, no matter what industry you’re building the solution for, how you develop the backend will be just as, if not more, important than your front-end. For your IoT solution to work properly, it must be developed end-to-end. You’ll have to develop not just an attractive and easy-to-use UI, but also the communications, data processing mechanisms, integrations, and more. And all this must be done simultaneously, and not in isolation. That’s how you’ll know for sure that each element works well independently, as well as together with the other elements in the greater scheme of things.
Wi-Fi is not the only communication medium you have to plan for
Any IoT solution needs to be extremely efficient at communication. Do you know how your IoT solutions will communicate with the internet? With other solutions in the ecosystem? With users? With the hardware etc.? The answer will depend on where and how your application is used and the technology that’s available in those places. Although you might assume Wi-Fi to the main medium of communication, there are several other technologies in the mesh network you may have to plan for – communication through Bluetooth, cellular data, NFC, LAN and, even, WLAN or satellite if your devices are spread across the world. How you plan your communication strategy will not impact the hardware alone; it will also decide the network protocols you need, your data processing needs, as well as the UI.
You’ll have to test the solution again and again. And again.
No IoT solution, (well, maybe no software solution), can ever be foolproof. If it seems so, then maybe it hasn’t been tested enough. Just like software testing, you will need to test your IoT solution early, and often. This is especially true while developing IoT applications that control devices with human safety implications. Always make it a point to test your solutions from end-to-end, and begin testing early in the development lifecycle. After all, the success of your IoT solution depends on how well it works the very first time, and then every time, in every situation.
The IoT landscape is changing rapidly. Although IoT solutions are being developed left, right, and center, many get washed away from the market at launch. Hence, understanding the various aspects of an IoT solution is vital. The successful IoT solution developer will be the one who keeps in mind that while developing an IoT solution one must make room for scalability, decide how you will manage data, plan for all the possible communication mediums, and test the solution as frequently as you can to drive quality. And that will be the developer who rides the IoT wave all the way to career success.