IoT Mobile App Development to Transform Business Processes
Over the years, smartphones have transcended the status of mere gadgets and have established a special place in our day-to-day activities. Innovations in Internet of Things (IoT) have empowered mobile applications so that they can be configured to link to an IoT ecosystem and monitor connected devices.
An example of this is a recent project successfully implemented by our IoT mobility team.
The project involved the development of a BT-based mobile app to control the seating in a vehicle to assure supreme comfort to the driver. If the user configures a profile on their mobile app and enters the vehicle, the seating is automatically adjusted to his/her preferred settings for seat position, heating, etc.
Such mobile apps specifically crafted for automotive applications have been disrupting the mobility industry of late.
Let us take a deep dive into the world of IoT mobile apps and the infinite possibilities it presents.
Smartphone as Primary User Interface in IoT Architecture
In an IoT ecosystem, a smartphone fulfills the responsibility of an intuitive user interface that connects to the network and controls IoT devices. It facilitates a variety of use cases for which the IoT infrastructure was conceived. Here are a few of its applications:
- Monitoring connected consumer applications in a house
- Regulating HVAC system in automobiles
- Management of industrial devices in a manufacturing plant
- Monitoring patient vitals in the healthcare industry
IoT mobile/web/desktop applications can serve several purposes in a connected ecosystem:
- Location tracking (Navigation, Telematics, etc. in Automotive industry)
- Monitoring parameters (Eg. Heart Rate, Temperature in Healthcare domain and Battery/Device Monitoring in Industry 4.0)
- Motion sensing (Screen rotation, mobile responsiveness)
Active cell network or WiFi connectivity enables smartphones with in-built sensors to connect to the IoT network, while the device retains its interactive properties.
There has been a significant improvement in UI technology that enables simple touch panels for the execution of complex tasks.
How IoT Mobile App Development Differs from Regular Mobile App Development
When a group of developers set out to design a mobile ecommerce application, there is a standard set of rules to adhere to.
For instance, they would have to abide by a standard flow for the development. This could entail the development of Home Page/Product Listing Page/Product Detail Page first and then the checkout and cart pages. There may be additional considerations with respect to the business for which the mobile app is being developed.
On the connectivity side, API interactions need to be configured for the users to connect to servers and fetch data/send requests.
On the other hand, there may not be a standard flow for the development of an IoT mobile app. This is specifically based on the use case for which it is being developed. Such an app also connects to the cloud through APIs or web socket interactions.
Another major difference is the fact that IoT mobile apps are real-time applications, wherein the user can see immediate result for the actions they perform.
Additionally, while developing IoT apps, the interactive points may vary between apps. This is specific to the use case as well.
For example, when using an IoT mobile app to unlock a car, the request is first transmitted to the server from where it is forwarded to the IVI unit that responds with the result. This data is then transmitted to the mobile application through the server. This may not be the path of data flow for another connected mobile application in the network.
Effectively, IoT mobile apps and regular mobile apps differ based on the features they offer. As far as the development activities are concerned, there are no significant variations.
Benefits Offered by IoT Mobile Applications
Integrating a mobile application or a similar user interface in an IoT infrastructure offers several benefits. Some of these are explained below:
- Facilitates Data Collection and Analysis – In the healthcare domain, when businesses implement an IoT ecosystem, they can track the vitals of patients through continuous data collection. The information collected over a period of time can then be analysed to effectively predict the onset of diseases and take preventive measures. Hence, IoT is capable of delivering improved medical care to patients.
Likewise, in an industrial setup, the data collected by sensors connected to industrial equipment can collate information on performance. Personnel monitoring the data will be alerted of the probability of equipment failure in the future. Hence, this aids in predictive maintenance of industrial equipment.
In the retail sector, data collected by IoT user interfaces can be utilised to provide personalized services to customers and design new products.
- Enables Remote Working Infrastructure – An Internet of Things enterprise infrastructure enables employees to easily accomplish remote working. When IoT is integrated with wireless technology, employees are able to connect to servers from remote locations through their IoT mobile/web/desktop apps. This improves the overall efficiency of the enterprise.
- Reduces Human Effort – IoT-enabled apps can automate the monitoring and management of connected devices in an industrial setup. An example of this is a recent project in which our IoT engineers were able to successfully develop an IoT platform for a solar tracking system. This improved the efficiency of the plant’s open field deployment of solar panels.
The SCADA solution developed in the next phase of the project reduced the overall manpower investment and streamlined monitoring activities. This also simplified asset handling. The solution proved to be extremely cost-effective and was deployed across various branches of the solar plant.
Examples Highlighting How IoT Apps Work
In order to understand the value IoT mobile apps bring to the table, we need to explore how these work in combination with other connected devices in the ecosystem.
Let us consider the example of our Driver Behaviour App, an intuitive IoT-enabled mobile application designed and developed within our IoT Innovation Lab. The app has in-built sensors that detect road conditions and predict humps and potholes in the path of a vehicle. When used by a driver, it can warn them of adverse road conditions and also provide interesting insights on driver behaviour at the end of the journey. This app can also be deployed by various agencies to analyse the driving style- gentle or rash.
Another application is the battery monitoring system found in industries. IoT sensors can detect the rate of drainage of battery charge and report it via IoT apps. In the absence of such a system, battery failures would have a direct impact on the longevity and performance of the industrial UPS network. An IoT-enabled industrial automation solution for battery monitoring and management would provide the benefits of predictive maintenance. And the IoT user interface/app would bear a significant role in notifying the industry managers of possible issues.
Points to Consider During the Design Phase of an IoT Mobile App
While developing an IoT app, it is imperative that designers and business innovators evaluate the various aspects of app usage and the IoT ecosystem.
- Assessing the requirements and suitability of the app is the first point to be considered.
- It is also necessary to review the format of data that is transmitted throughout the network.
- The data from the app can be used to gain valuable insights; so, data analytics and end-user experience must be given a serious thought.
- Another point to consider is the hardware compatibility of the mobile device with the app.
- As technology evolves in the future, there may be a need to extend the capabilities of the IoT infrastructure. In order to meet such requirements, the scalability aspect of the mobile app should not be ignored in the initial design phase.
Challenges Faced While Developing Mobile Apps for an IoT Ecosystem
A serious threat faced by an IoT solution is security breach via hacking or malware infection. As more devices are integrated with the network, the vulnerability of the ecosystem to security threats increases. Hence, it is crucial for all the IoT devices and apps in the network to be highly secure by design.
So, how can IoT solutions be secured?
Data violations can be mitigated through the following measures:
- Machine-to-machine authentication
- Sturdy encryption routines
- Multilayered firmware protection
- Security of individual hardware components
- Biometric login
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Big Data techniques
MQTT implementation is usually adopted in IoT solutions to ensure security while connecting to the cloud infrastructure and for enabling asynchronous communication.
App developers should also ensure that frequent security updates are in place to protect the system. Since most of the IoT mobile apps are distributed only to customers, Firmware-Over-The-Air (FOTA) update feature can be integrated for keeping these apps up to date.
Tools and Technology for IoT Mobile App Development
- UI/UX Design and Development – Tools used are AVOCODE, Illustrator, POP, etc. Technologies such as Angular JS and HTML5 are also used for UI development.
- Authentication – OAUTH tool is used for authentication purposes.
- Database Management – SQLite (for Android) and Realm platform (for iOS or Cross-Platform implementation)
Expertise in XCODE, Android Studio, Java, Swift, JNI, Object C, JQuery, HTML5, etc. is also required for IoT mobile app development.
How to Choose the Right Partner for IoT Mobile App Development
Collaborating with the right partner for IoT app development makes a world of difference. An engineering partner with immense experience across industries in the domain would be the right choice.
It is important to bear in mind that emphasis should be laid on relevance and quality of work, rather than price points. This will ensure that the IoT app solution weathers all challenges and increases the efficiency of the entire IoT ecosystem.