By Shawn Ryan
According to Cisco, the Internet of Things (IoT) will create a $19 trillion industry in the next decade—and this is only the tip of the iceberg. By 2020, the number of connected devices in use is expected to reach 20.4 billion, according to a recent Gartner Research report. The booming IoT industry has unearthed opportunities for enterprises to convert massive volumes of data, generated by millions of sensors, into actionable insights. These insights drive industry innovations from autonomous cars that capture telemetry data to enhance your commuting experience to shipping and logistics companies can place sensors on field equipment to track and maintain fieldwork data or manage assets—both in real time and over time.
This shift in the way data is generated and consumed is important for both developers and enterprises to consider, as adapting to the IoT landscape means pushing beyond mobile application (app) development and transition development strategies to accommodate millions of connected devices. These devices often have no direct human interface, creating a web of touch points that communicate both with each other and humans. Coupled with mobile technology, industries are quickly finding new ways to leverage data captured by sensors, which is pushing the transition to a connectivity driven mobile-first ecosystem even further. This brings more personal wearables, gadgets, and smart home devices to industrial applications. The key in a world of connected IoT devices that capture and feed data is to ensure that data pipeline is both performant and reliable.
Before you even start thinking about building a front-end mobile application that serves as a portal into the troves of data captured by IoT devices, the underlying infrastructure must be in place to support that effort. Connectivity is at the heart of IoT. All enterprises must ensure reliable, robust connectivity that facilitates high-speed data communication under all circumstances. If connectivity goes down, insights are forever lost, which can have major impacts on the business. Security is also paramount when dealing with IoT devices. This is especially true for those transmitting sensitive data—both personally and for an enterprise. The key is to ensure stringent levels of data protection.
Another challenge has to do with interoperability. The true value of IoT is reaping the benefits of a network of interconnected devices. Unfortunately, a number of communication protocols and frameworks are not necessarily compatible with each other, creating fragmented networks that limit the potential of IoT. Finally, as IoT networks continue to expand with millions of devices supporting a growing number of use cases, the need for centralize management becomes more critical.
Once the infrastructure is in place, developers and data teams can then begin to think about how to build cross-platform apps that extract value from the streams of data generated by these networks of interconnected devices, while reducing costs across the board for better business efficiency.
Although adapting to the IoT landscape means upfront challenges in implementation, creating a strategy for your organization to be a leader in the IoT, mobile development space is critical as the technology industry evolves.
A few steps help prepare for the coupling of mobile technology in an IoT-driven world.
For example, bring your own device (BYOD) policies are re-emerging within enterprise IT strategies in conjunction with the recent boom in IoT devices in the workplace and beyond. With a BYOD policy in place, developers are able to work off their own familiarized devices while enterprises save money that would normally be spent on hardware purchases.
Some clear benefits to a BYOD strategy include an increase in productivity. Enterprises will see net worker productivity gains as developers are more familiar with their own devices and can customize setups; a decrease in upfront costs, by supporting a BYOD policy, organizations save money and avoid spending on devices like fitness trackers, smart watches, and smart glasses; and employee satisfaction, we love our devices. Giving employees the freedom to own and personalize what’s often their key—and primary—job tool can make the work experience more personal and satisfying.
One thing to keep in mind while developing a BYOD policy is to ensure that all management issues are addressed upfront, especially concerning policy adherence and other top-down decision-making factors.
As organizations increasingly pursue a mobile-first approach to development, it is important to consider the multitude of available operating systems and types of platform. The highly connected IoT landscape requires interoperability across platforms and devices, so developers and enterprises need to get creative and adapt to the changing nature of the technology industry.
One of the biggest challenges for an app developer is creating a native mobile app or cross-platform app that accommodates the needs of an enterprise and its customers. Further, one of the largest app gaps—a period of time when a user is unable to get the apps they want on their device—to be filled is apps for employee productivity as noted by research firms like Forrester. Hence, a world filled with connected devices demands a good solution for cross-platform app development.
Addressing cross-platform apps and apps in general requires a solid application program interface (API) strategy. Data must be easily available as APIs for developers to choose from and easily download a cross-platform software development kit (SDK) to utilize APIs for building solutions quickly.
Some key benefits to API-powered, cross-platform development include, reduced costs—if your organization plans ahead and creates and publishes APIs, a developer can likely reuse a lot of the code for future applications, reducing the costs associated with development; time efficiency—for most business to business apps and apps in general, reduced time spent on developing new code means improved efficiency and faster response times in updating app capabilities; and data management, by pursuing an API-based development approach—cataloging and publishing APIs—organizations and developers can better manage data and increase productivity while simultaneously fortifying app and data security.
The IoT App Development Revolution
With the introduction of an IoT-powered landscape and the demands of trends such as BYOD, it is clear that the nature of mobile app development is constantly evolving. This can all change within months as we are already seeing impacts from emerging technologies such as chatbots, machine learning, and artificial intelligence on the mobile landscape. Creating an IoT-inclusive, cross-platform development strategy is essential in staying ahead of the curve, but future challenges remain to be seen.
To better prepare your organization for the next few years, some app development trends to look out for include an increase in development for platforms beyond mobile—including virtual personal assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Cortana, and associated devices including the AmazonEcho; new forms of wearables beyond fitness bands; apps for TVs and other smart devices in our home and offices; the emergence of low to no code API and app development tools, catering to citizen developers; and an increase in the need for quick rollouts of simple, single-function, employee productivity apps.
Shawn Ryan is the VP of product marketing digital as a service for Axway. With over 20 years’ experience leading technology and innovation in the Integration space, Ryan leads product marketing for Axway’s digital as a service line of business contributing to the strategy of the Amplify platform and effective digital transformation through customer experience networks and concepts of co-create.