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How to build seamless UIs and applications for the IoT

November 28, 2017

Santtu Ahonen-November 28, 2017

According to Gartner, the Internet of Things is on a fast track to exponential growth. Indeed, the leading analyst firm predicts that the IoT will grow to an estimated 25 billion connected “things” by 2020. The industrial IoT (IIoT) is keeping pace as well, as GE Digital predicts the IIoT to include over 50 billion connected devices by 2030.

With this rapid expansion, connected embedded devices are a bit more complicated than the legacy M2M devices of yesteryear. What were once self-contained embedded devices with singular online connections are now complex and extensible systems with connected sensors, embedded devices, a cloud back-end and mobile clients. With so many sources of data, how do you merge them all together into one cohesive user experience and interface?

To answer this question, there are three key criteria that developers and organizations should strongly consider when building out their internet of connected embedded devices. These criteria are agility, adaptability and future-proofing. Let’s take a deeper dive into how each of these will help developers grapple with the sheer amount of data they must work with while building seamless UIs and applications.

Agility

As the number of IoT devices grows, so does the complexity and amount of software behind each device. Each device comes with its own requirements for connectivity, security and usability. For example, the vast majority of these embedded devices are built using the C/C++ programming language. However, as Figure 1 shows, the rate of growth in number of devices exponentially outpaces the growing number of C/C++ developers. 


Figure 1: The growing number of connected devices will increasingly outpace the growth rate of the developer population. (Source: The Qt Company)

So how do developers keep up with the increasing number of data sources? By ramping up the availability of reusable software and by using better, more efficient tools (see Figure 2). A unified codebase with reusable software makes it simple, quick and more cost efficient to add new features, fix issues and improve overall usability. The wheel can only be reinvented so many ways before it becomes a burden on development time and resources. Instead of burning cycles recreating code for devices from scratch, developers should use the various tools at their disposal to reuse the same code framework in order to focus their efforts on more involved functionality. Not only does this make it easier for teams to onboard new developers, but it also reduces maintenance costs. Less time spent on back-end logistics means more time spent on the connectivity, security and usability your embedded device needs to be relevant in the IoT.


Figure 2: Reusable software with cross-platform code promotes productivity (Source: The Qt Company).

Industry-related verification and certification requirements and the technical limitations of embedded cross-compilation workflows also put a hamper on development speed. To combat this, the ability to distill your code down to one verified and certified codebase enables you to remain agile as you develop UIs for your embedded devices that can integrate data from multiple sources.

Adaptability

In order to keep up with the influx of data each embedded device receives, your software needs to adopt new technologies quickly, discard outdated features and make real-time iterations. Cross-platform functionality is vital, as data needs to be available and accessible regardless of which device is being used. Having that single, reusable code that translates across platforms is extremely valuable in this case.

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