IoT apps: Building a fully-integrated solution

Recently, a fresh round of exciting wearables has been announced or shipped by large device manufacturers such as Apple, Motorola, LG, and Samsung. These gadgets present brand-new opportunities for developers to expand beyond their existing apps, and create user experiences which can have a tremendous impact...

Previously, during evening walks with my wife, every single notification from my mobile device resulted in a reach into my pocket, a flip open of the folio, a swipe down on the notification, and having my eyes transfixed to a 4” screen to read a message which 9 times out of 10 just wasn’t that urgent. Now I can see it on my smartwatch.

Developers will have to work with secure protocols and user authentication mechanisms.

Wearable gadgets like this will transform our interactions with our environment and one another. It’s a transformative experience fuelled by the thousands of gadgets and wearables of which the Internet of Things comprises. It is where developers can have a real impact on not just individuals, but also on business.

In this increasingly connected world, one of the biggest challenges developers face is how to extend the user experience of their existing applications beyond the desktop to new gadgets, devices, and form factors. The biggest challenge is bringing components together to form a complete solution.

Apps now live across several disparate systems, and developers need to glue it all together. IoT gadgets can connect to a device with several technologies, but it is usually achieved through Bluetooth or WiFi. The method of interaction is typically one of three ways; with a simple Bluetooth profile, a REST server, or a full app. Each of these mechanisms present differing levels of data interaction and complexity.

The second connection is to present that IoT data on the device itself. This means writing, at a minimum, an iOS and an Android app that can connect to the gadget(s) and features a user interface which best utilises the form factor on which they run. For example, making use of the additional real estate on a tablet in landscape.

The third connection is to share that information with cloud services like social networks, or a mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) provider such as Parse, Kinvey, or App42. Depending on the type of information to share - some of which may be sensitive - developers will have to work with secure protocols and user authentication mechanisms.

The final connection in this topology is working with enterprise or company data sitting behind a firewall in an SQL database. Again, REST presents the most scalable and robust solution, particularly in interacting with mobile devices which could easily lose a carrier signal while in transit. This means using REST-based middleware which can talk with another backend tier, which hosts the actual database.

Using a mobile health example, let’s walk through a future scenario...

Imagine a patient with a newly discovered heart issue. He is asked by his health provider to wear a heart and blood pressure monitor which reports that information regularly. A developer provides a system which connects to those gadgets, presents that information to the patient on his device, shares that information securely with his health provider, and makes close family members aware of his condition.

A few weeks later, after those pieces have been working together for several weeks, he suddenly receives a notification on his device from his medical provider to take an aspirin and get to an emergency room – he is about to have a heart attack!

Close family members are notified to meet him at the hospital for treatment, and the emergency room is provided with several weeks’ worth of biometric data to assess his condition. A timely treatment saves his life and his family members arrive to find a smiling and thankful husband/father.

This is just one of thousands of transformative experiences which IoT gadgets will enable over the next several years. Developers will be faced with more challenges than ever to build connected apps which integrate these component pieces to build cohesive solutions, but considering this modern topology - and having the right tools - will allow developers to bring it all together.

Developers, once again, are the agents of change...

Can you think of other challenges faced by developers of IoT apps? Let us know in the comments.


If you are interested in wearables, please visit IoT Tech Expo Europe in London's Olympia, December 2-3 2015.

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