3 Pitfalls When Building a Mobile App for IoT

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    Insights | Nov 04, 2018


    So you want to create a mobile app for your IoT project and don’t know where to start? You are a brave soul. There are a number of things that you need to get up to speed on right away. If you are a novice to IoT mobile app development, we heartily recommend that you read this blog post, invent a time machine, travel back to 2017, spend a year shoring up your weaknesses, gaining critical IoT and app development experiences…and then you’ll be ready today to build an app for your IoT project.

    Building an IoT mobile app can be complex and difficult. The app often has to work harder, do more and interact with physical things and the cloud-based applications.

    Pro-tip: An easier solution may be to build your project on a flexible IDE IoT Platform with an integrated app, but we promised you a blog post that identifies pitfalls, so here they are.

    How hard is it? It’s hard.

    In many respects, building a mobile app isn’t as hard as it used to be. There are many mobile application development platforms people can use to make life easier. Xamarin, OutSystems, and Progress Software are very reputable solutions for whipping up a mobile app, and in the words of OutSystems: “…build the kind of apps that make their users smile and bosses high-five them in the halls.”

    But when it comes to IoT, you need to first establish the function the mobile app plays in the overall connected product design. You will need to develop your software and firmware around this. There are three parts that require consideration - the embedded device, the mobile app and the cloud.

    IoT is different - it has to do more

    When developing a mobile app for IoT, consider that it may need to do a whole lot more than just be a flashy-looking user interface that serves as an extension of your browser. Here are a few possible roles that require IoT apps to work a little harder than Candy Crush

    • A BLE-enabled commissioning mechanism for a device in the field
    • A communications gateway for the device to the cloud (from BLE/WiFi to Cellular)
    • A replacement for an old, dumb, ugly machine display
    • A wireless remote control for a device

    IoT mobile apps need to be flexible

    You’re planning to “fully” support both Android or iOS-based phones, right? And what’s the difference between Android Pie and Oreo? iOS 11 and 12?  How big is the screen on the mobile device?

    If you control the environment for a limited pilot or internal-only deployment, you may be able to pick a mobile device, OS and version and design for that scenario. But if your app will be used externally in an open user environment, you will need to support multiple OS’s and screen sizes, and it can really impact the user experience. This will require extensive testing and debugging.

    And, don’t expect the Apple App Store approval process to be an easy layup.

    How can I avoid all this work and hassle?

    The good news is there are next generation IoT low code development platforms (like ours) that tackle a lot of these issues for you, and make sure you’re developing your IoT solution holistically between the thing, the app, and the cloud beginning on Day 1. But don’t let us stop you from building that time machine if you really want to get ahead.