We’ve written about the Internet of Things (IoT) before, but today we’re going to explore one particular area of this unique area of tech:
The use of the IoT within mobile apps.
If this is a new subject for you, here’s what you need to know:
The internet of things is a network of physical devices and digital machines that use web technology and hardware to share information.
In this sense, ‘thing’ just means an object that’s been given an IP address and can exchange information via the web.
The amount of objects capable of joining the IoT can include anything from household appliances to vehicles! This is done by the use of hardware sensors. (Which we’ll cover in more depth down the page.)
By tracking information across different devices, companies using the IoT are able to get far deeper insights into customer behavior.
The data is anonymous, but by tracking how long customers use hardware devices for and in what ways, they’re able to gain insight that can improve any number of business practices, including:
- Efficiency of business processes
- Ongoing maintenance issues (in case of physical products)
- Availability of equipment
- What optimal prices are for different service
- Performance metrics.
And a number of others. By utilizing the IoT, businesses can make themselves far more efficient than if they were just relying on traditional online analytics.
It can also improve the customer experience, helping retention in the long-term. It stands to reason that if you’re able to get more information on how customers are engaging with your product or service, you’ll be able to see where your problem points are.
Perhaps your app crashes on a particular screen…or your central heating unit has a chip that’s prone to overheating. If you’re given real-time information on this, you can often catch problems before they get too big, and you can rectify the situation more quickly.
To put it simply: when used effectively, the IoT enables businesses to offer a better service and build better products.
So why mobile apps?
As the technology becomes more prevalent in the world of business, mobile apps are becoming the default platform for businesses looking to tap into the IoT.
There are a number of reasons for this:
Mobile apps are largely ubiquitous in the world. If you build a mobile app and know how to effectively market it, you’ve got an automatic audience of millions of people.
Mobile apps are also valuable for customers. If you want your customers to interact with your system, you need to make it as easy as possible for them. Which device are they nearly always going to have with them? Their smartphone.
Essentially, mobile apps are the most convenient IoT option for both you and your customers.
So what do you need to take into account if you’re considering developing an IoT mobile app?
Whether or not you need to build a bespoke platform
As with any kind of software, you have the option on whether or not you want to go totally bespoke, or to work with an existing platform.
The pluses and minuses are as follows:
- Bespoke will give you 100% total control over your requirements. Essentially, as long as a feature can be coded (and nearly anything can), you can have it. Your app can also be tailored to work perfectly with your existing infrastructure.
- Platforms are far cheaper than taking the bespoke approach. What’s more, because the companies behind the platforms – Amazon, IBM and so forth – have such incredible infrastructure already, what they can provide will nearly always be superior to a bespoke option.
The other thing to bear in mind is that if you want to go with a platform – which will usually be the most sensible financial option if you’re on any kind of budget – you’ll need to work with an experienced team that understand the ins and outs of developing on it.
(Another plus to the platform approach is to remember that as well as developing the app itself, by going bespoke you’ll also need to find external analytics platforms and configure those with your bespoke build. Most platforms, on the other hand, come complete with analytics.)
Ensure you find high quality hardware
Ensuring effective performance when developing IoT apps is highly dependent on the quality of your hardware.
If the actual sensors are of a low quality, then it’s highly likely your reporting will be inconsistent, and as soon as this happens it renders the potential benefits of the IoT somewhat pointless.
There are a number of established vendors that sell relevant hardware. One of the keys is to ensure you purchase hardware built with total user privacy in mind. In today’s environment, any privacy issues will be sure-fire bad PR.
A number of sensors come with Enhanced Privacy Identity (EPID) Technology capabilities, which are essential if you’re going to take security seriously.
What’s most impressive about IoT sensor technology is how many options there are. It’s possible to get sensors that measure almost anything:
- Line finder: detects lines, allowing device to move along a pre-defined path
- Heart rate: uses light beam to detect pulse, typically on a finger
- Color: detects light color and provides its red-green-blue value
- Air quality: measures particulates and harmful gases
- Sonar: uses ultrasonic sound to measure short distances
- LIDAR: longer-distance measurement by laser reflection
- Fingerprint: scans fingerprints for security purposes
- Voice recognition: recognize pre-programmed and custom commands without an Internet connection
Take user experience seriously
At Iconic Solutions, we’ve been writing about user experience as a priority for a year or two now.
It’s amazing, though, how many companies still refuse to believe in the value of ensuring your app is as easy and intuitive to use as is possible.
This applies to any mobile app, and certainly is the case with IoT apps. Remember, the point of the IoT is to make the customers lives easier. If they get fed up of interacting with your app in the first ten minutes, they’ll likely give up your app and seek out a competitor.
The key, as with any UX, is to carry out research. Take the time to truly understand how your customers will engage with your app and your hardware. What features will be most valuable to them? What could they do without?
The more you know about your customers, the better your app and your hardware will work.
Make sure you find the right developer
Although it’s now been around for a few years, the truth is that the technology is still comparatively in its early days. It’s vital to ensure that you work with a team skilled and experienced in using your chosen platform.
Tapping into a high level of experience will save you a large amount of time and money in the early days, and it’ll also save you a lot of development headaches.
You’ve probably seen more examples of IoT than you might think, but here we’ll go through some of the best examples.
Without doubt the pioneer in the world of IoT apps, Smart Home has already brought in some of the world’s biggest household companies as participants. Companies using the Smart Home analytics package includes multinationals like Philips, Haier and Belkin, as well as start-ups like Nest and AlertMe. Smart Home is definitely the perfect example of IoT apps implemented effectively.
Since Apple’s smart watch was first released back in 2015, the idea of connected wearable technology has become more and more popular. One wearables maker – Jawbone – has more than half a billion dollars in funding.
Though a lot of the most common IoT apps are more ‘personal’, Smart City is a lot broader in terms of societal impact. In this case, the technology has been used to help improve city issues such as traffic management and even water distribution, as well as security and even helping to monitor the environment. In Berlin, Intel and Siemens have worked together to develop a Smart Parking solution.
Cars and vehicles in general were one of the earliest adopters of IoT technology, although it’s fair to say adoption hasn’t taken off in the same way it has with something like Smart Home. This isn’t necessarily a comment on the tech, though: the development cycle in motoring tends to be around 4 years, so it may be the industry simply hasn’t caught up yet. It may that rather than car manufacturers taking up the IoT, the tech companies start to develop cars: MS, Apple and Google have all already announced they’re developing IoT car platforms.
One of the key moments that takes IoT apps into the true mainstream will be when the health industry implements it. The idea of a connected health care system that can make use of smart medical tracking devices is a compelling one. The IoT device capable of collecting and transferring information on things like blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood sugar and so forth could be invaluable to medical professionals look to either react to emergencies or prescribe the most helpful treatment.
If you’re interested in exploring the potential IoT apps have to improve your business, please get in touch with Iconic Solutions today. We’d love to help you.