There is no doubt that the Internet of Things is the next big tech trend that will be hitting businesses around the globe, and revolutionizing the way we interact with our world. With the ability to incorporate a vast variety of different devices, as well as utilize an adaptable network that connects them all, IoT promises not just to change the tech and business landscape, but completely change our day to day lives.
Experts have wondered where this recent boom comes from, and the answer is that it is due to a variety of different cultural and market forces Part of the reason for this rapid development is the result of lower production costs of some of the hardware that makes IoT run, which makes it more practical to implement. In addition comes from a newfound realization of some newfound possibilities that the web can have on data analysis — just a few decades into the lifespan of the web, it is not surprising that we are still finding new and innovative uses.
What is the Internet of Things?
What exactly we mean when we say “internet of things” is still often up for debate, and different industry leaders will give different answers detailing what it is, and how it will effect business in the coming years. However, there are certainly a few key points that we all agree on.
First of all, by “thing” we mean any device that can send and receive data through an internet connection. The most familiar examples of ‘things’ are the smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers that we use on an everyday basis. But the term goes far beyond these familiar devices, to incorporate a huge swathe of the technological marvels that surround us in our personal and professional lives from from thermostats, to pulse rate monitors, as well as different kinds of sensors that measure everything from velocity and rpm, complex business analytics, visual, and auditory data.
And so, the Internet of Things is simply the aggregate of all these devices, connected through a network, and working together as a whole. By combining different devices and data streams, emerging IoT apps are able to present and analyze data in ways that were never before possible. Comparing soil moisture to weather reports for example, or offering side by side, real-time comparisons of different business analytics.
What we are beginning to understand is that the Internet of Things will leave a large and lasting impact on all sectors of business. According to recent studies, two-thirds of buyers anticipate buying IoT technology for their homes by 2019, and analysts predict that by 2020 as many as 50 billion things will be connected to the global network. However, understanding exactly how IoT apps are to be developed, designed, and implemented remains an important question.
How it works
Since an Internet of Things application can have such a wide variety of different uses and functions, wrapping your head around developing a single, concrete solution can remain difficult. It is a complex field, and one that many would say is better left to the professionals. However, a basic understanding of how the Internet of Things work is a good first step toward developing your own IoT app.
The starting point is to consider the things themselves. As we know, they can take on all kinds of different shapes and sizes, but what they have in common is the ability to send and retrieve data between other devices through a wifi connection. The things may have a direct internet connection, or an indirect one through an internet gateway or through neighboring things. These ar the core of what makes IoT function, providing the raw data that makes large-scale analysis and processing possible.
Once the data is collected, it is received and organized in a data center or cloud bank. There are many companies around today who specialize in just this service, and serve as a kind of middle-man for IoT functions.
Finally, using specially designed software, the data is processed so that it may be seen by the end-user for any variety of purposes. The end-user phase is where web apps and mobile apps come in, and where many businesses today are staking their claim.
Building an IoT app — where to start
The approach most businesses take when it comes time to build their own IoT app is to take advantage of a ready-made platform. Such platforms are offered by a variety of companies, and provide the data reception and organization services that are crucial to the user-end experience. They can archive incoming data, as well as provide thin provisioning, management and activation capabilities, and an API which will foster communication between the platform and the apps build off of it.
The other starting point for many businesses looking to harness IoT technology is to partner with a quality IoT consultant, who can guide you through the process from start to finish. What sets good IoT consultants apart is the ability to offer product development focus, design driven development, and a cost advantage that can make it worth your time.
Advantages of working within an existing IoT framework
Since we know working with an established IoT professional is the best way for most businesses to go when it comes time to develop their own app, understanding a few of the major benefits (and how to take advantage of them) is the next step to ensure you are getting the most for you time and money. Keep the following advantages in mind:
IoT specialists are ahead of the game and understand how to best leverage emerging technologies for the benefits of their clients. While businesses know their industry better than anyone else, the same is true for IoT consultants, so teaming up only makes sense.
Scalability is key when it comes to using pre-build platforms, and IoT companies that design these frameworks understand that their product is most effective when it can fit businesses of all shapes and sizes, and different needs. And as IoT continues to take off, companies that take advantage will need to find ways to evolve from small startups to large-scale corporations.
A case in point
As a case in point, take the California-based startup OnFarm, who used an existing IoT framework to develop their own app. Their goal was to create a product that could collect different types of data from a variety of sources, like soil moisture sensors, and match it up against exterior sources of data, like weather reports. Through a customizable user interface, the app would provide farmers with all the information they would need to run a profitable operation.
A project of this complexity is certainly within reach of many larger companies today, and in truth so are most problems after enough money is thrown at them. However what OnFarm found was that the most cost-effective way to build their app was to avoid trying to make it from scratch in favor of working with an experienced IoT platform that met their needs. In the end, it saved them more than a year’s worth of work, which would have otherwise set them behind their competition and further way from reaching their goals.
It also let them focus their efforts within their own area of expertise, which was designing the web dashboard user interface that farmers would be looking at to take advantage of all the new information at their disposal. Today, OnFarm utilizes more than 5,000 “things” from around the world, processing and analyzing them in the way that is most effective to their users.
The point is, no matter what your specific product or service, teaming up with a seasoned professional is the best path to cost-effectiveness and a quality product. If OnFarm’s example isn’t enough to convince you, then take a look at the thousands of other companies that have made a name for themselves in the world if IoT in recent years. The results speak for themselves, and smart strategists are learning that now is the time to invest.