How to Develop Applications for the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices and objects connected to the Internet or other devices and machines that operate independently of human involvement. The IoT is a new stage of the development of the Internet industry. It significantly expands the possibilities of collection, analysis and distribution of data that a person can turn into information.
The Internet of Things is spreading rapidly. Sensors, networking chips and other technologies which combine a variety of Internet devices are quite inexpensive today. Devices, which are connected to the Internet, transmit information about different physical characteristics (temperature, humidity, heart rate, light level, rotation speed), photos, audio and video files. Internet of Things applications perform functions from remote control of home devices to collecting the weather data from sensors, producing forecasts. These are the applications and devices that will make our lives more comfortable, convenient and easier.
For example, you want the floor to be heated and get warm, and the coffee to be brewed by the time you come to the kitchen for breakfast in the morning. Or you would like to keep track of where you put the car keys or glasses in order not to waste time searching for them before you leave home. Or maybe you want the front door of the house or garage to open by itself without keys, when you come home with full shopping bags. So which of these options are possible now? Technologies are developing really fast.
There are many examples of IoT usage in games, entertainment, areas of fitness and health. Most analysts agree that the scope of IoT technologies will become enormous in the future. Let's look at what is the best way of to develop IoT apps and where to start. For this we need to become familiar with IoT structure elements and best practises of IoT development.
Structure of the Internet of Things
Three main elements are usually identified in the IoT structure:
1. Things in themselves - equipment that has devices for connecting (wired or wireless) to the network. These devices typically do not have the screen (although there are exceptions). They are equipped with a low-power processor, run an embedded operating system and communicate with other devices via one or several communication protocols. ‘Things’ can be connected directly to the Internet, the ‘things’ nearby or device which works as the Internet gateway.
2. Network - integrates and connects any number of devices to the cloud like a router. Software and infrastructure, which are deployed in the corporate data center, help to receive streams of information. They receive the data streams that comes from the things and organize them. Software, that runs at the data reception level, is usually responsible for managing ‘things’ and, if necessary, updating their firmware as well.
3. Cloud which is a remote server that consolidates and securely stores your data.The ordered data processing takes place at the analytical level. And the final stage is a program which the users interact with. It can be enterprise software, web application or mobile app.
Components of the Internet of Things
1. Data. ‘Things’ create data streams which are the bytes of simple information such as temperature, humidity or position collected by sensors. This information is called Little Data due to its small volume. A large array of different devices transmit a huge amount of various Small data via the network to the cloud. There it is accumulated and become bigger and bigger with time. Then they are called Big Data.
Here the Internet of Things becomes trully intellectual. Big Data allows to send requests to the thousands and millions of data pieces in order to study and manage the objects better. Analytical data usage gives the opportunity to compare the events with results or actions.
For example, it is known that it gets dark later in spring. It is possible to adjust the ambient light sensor in the street lamps so that it would switch on at a later time to save electricity. Or sensors, which detect increased levels of the equipment vibration, allow to avoid the breakage and repair it in time.
2. The Internet of Things protocols. Many languages and protocols have appeared thanks to IoT - from traditional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to new LoraWAN and Sigfox. Each of them is suitable for different use depending on several factors:
The speed of data exchange. It depends on the amount of information transmitted.
Energy consumption. It depends on the capabilities of electronics to work for some time without recharging.
Distance. It depends on the distance at which the data will be transferred.
Frequency. It depends on what the available frequency is.
Methods of IoT applications development
When building internet of things apps it is useful to study the methods developed to create mobile solutions. In particular, note the following methods:
1. Separation of API-interfaces from services.
An approach based on separation of API-interfaces is becoming increasingly common. This happens due to the fact that an application must support both mobile and web desktop environment. If you organize your IoT-service in this way, you can develop it in the new directions when market opportunities arise.
2. Iterative development of solution prototype.
The iterative approach to the IoT-solutions prototypes development refers to the work with a continuous analysis of the results and the adjustment of the previous work phases. This approach ensures that the service will be available for use and the implementation of the required aspects.
Not all the features of your service are required for each case. Look at the modern mobile banking application. It usually does not provide a fully functional banking platform, but informs about the account statement and allows users to perform certain types of payments. In this context, users can only check if they have enough money to go shopping or pay a bill.
3. Expecting problems with network access.
With a growing number of devices connected to the network, network reliability can not be guaranteed even in the field of home networking. Offline work and the resistance to the network problems should be an important aspect in the development of the IoT-solutions. Use the following recommendations:
Assume that there is a possibility of disconnecting from the network at any time.
First, write data to the local file system and then send it.
Use the message queue management system on the service side such as RabbitMQ.
Use simple and stable protocols for messaging such as CoAP and MQTT instead of the more heavyweight HTTP.
Embed the warning systems in the service to know when the node gets disconnected from the network for a long time. This warning should be informative, but not too overloading for the user.
When creating such applications IoT developers cover the levels of analytics and interaction with the user. Therefore, it makes sense to develop applications based on ready-to-use Internet of Things platforms.
These platforms include the level of receiving and consistent archiving of incoming data. Also they include various levels of analytics, fine tuning tools, functions of activation and management, bus for real-time message transmission and API (for interaction between the platform and aplications built on its basis).
Nowadays startups (Xively, Mnubo, Bug Labs, ThingWorx) offer lots of such platforms. They are equipped with means of interaction with a wide range of "things" produced by a large number of manufacturers. The large manufacturers produce the platform for the Internet of things as well. Microsoft offers Intelligent Systems Service solution, and SAP - Internet of Things Solutions.
Many of the technologies which are used to build the Internet of things, are not new. All the components of IoT have just reached a high level of performance, efficiency and affordability. Applications for the Internet of things have been created recently. But if the Internet of Things develops as it is expected, IoT development companies will need to scale rapidly.
And One More
When it comes to the Internet of Things apps development, the speed and quality come to the fore. The sooner the idea turns into the stable working prototype, the more chances it has to be produced and become the real thing which millions of people will find useful.
What needs to be done for such transformation? Intel and IBM found the answer to this and many other questions of IoT developers. It is about giving everyone the access to the modern hardware solutions (Intel IoT Developer Kit) and the cloud platform, designed for the needs of the Internet of Things (IBM Watson IoT).
Eventually, using components from the Developer Kit, you can quickly build a IoT-device prototype, write a program for it and connect it all to the IBM Watson cloud platform. As a result, a kind of intelligent system can be made, that collects data, processes it and sends the information to the cloud where it can be stored and analyzed. Actually this is a very simple scenario. Ready-to-use tools allow developers to develop apps for the internet of things they can only dream of.
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