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The IoT Mobile App Development Process: 5 Things You Need to Know

Read Time: 4 minutes

Over the past couple years, your company has accrued lots of IoT-enabled equipment. And while you’re managing each of those items individually over WiFi,  there is a world of difference between WiFi and a true IoT network.  At the end of the day, you’re falling short of your full potential.

Now, you’re considering an IoT mobile app development project so you can build and manage a real IoT network. But what should you do in order to prepare for this process and make the app build possible? Well, there are a number of things to keep in mind as you get ready to develop a custom app interface. By preparing properly, you’ll be well-positioned to fast-track your IoT app development project.

Mapping Out Communication Flow

As you begin the mobile app development process, you’ll need to provide a detailed map of communication flow between the different equipment and devices that comprise your IoT network. This map should include information such as:

  • The different types of devices/equipment in your IoT network.
  • The quantity of each device/equipment type in your IoT network.
  • Is machine A communicating with other machines in the network? If so, which ones?
  • Is machine A only sending, only receiving or sending and receiving data to machine B?

Determining this information can take some time, particularly for more complex enterprise mobile apps that are built to manage a one-of-a-kind IoT network configuration. But with this information in-hand, your developer will be well-equipped to build an app that allows you to easily manage your IoT system.

Understanding the Capabilities You’ll Require

Before development begins, you need to identify precisely how you’ll be using the app. This is an involved, time-consuming task for some clientsnamely, companies that wish to develop an enterprise app. On the other hand, identifying the necessary app capabilities may be more straightforward for an app that’s designed to control or manage one specific device.

You’ll need to consider:

  • What data do you need to passively monitor or collect?
  • What actions do you need to perform or control via the app?
  • Which processes should be automated and which should be manually triggered?
  • Which devices must communicate with each other?
  • What processes or communications do you need to monitor or initiate via the app?

Creating a complete list of capabilities is vital, as your developer will not be able to provide an accurate price quote or development timeframe estimate until they have this information.

App Development Complexity Increases Exponentially

The complexity associated with the app development process increases exponentially as you add more and more devices to your IoT network. The sheer volume of devices has an impact, certainly, but the more influential factor is how many different devices or systems you’ll be controlling, monitoring or maintaining via the app.

When building an IoT mobile app, you’re creating a portal that allows your mobile device to communicate directly with the IoT-enabled device. The nature of that communication differs amongst IoT devices, so you may have a situation where your mobile app must “talk” to multiple systems or devices, which may be simultaneously communicating with each other. Each “conversation” occurs in a slightly different way, and this results in a more complex development project. Greater complexity, in turn, can translate into a more involved planning and beta testing phase, along with a higher cost.

There’s also the matter of integration with the technology on each item in your IoT network. Simply ensuring virtual assistant compatibility can be challenging, so don’t underestimate the complexity of your app build.

The Newer the IoT Devices, the Better

If you’re setting out to build a new IoT app, you’ll want to be sure you have the newest hardware and equipment whenever possible. This is true of your IoT-enabled devices and the mobile devices you’ll be using to run the IoT management app.

Newer devices and equipment tend to have more developer-friendly operating systems and software. This usually makes for a smoother, faster mobile app development process. You also want to avoid a scenario where a company builds an IoT enterprise app to work with older equipment that is ultimately replaced. This may necessitate app updates or the development of a completely new app if the old equipment’s software is significantly different from the new model’s software.

Choosing Between Native vs. Hybrid IoT Mobile Apps

You’ll need to make an important decision before you begin development: do you want a native or a hybrid app? A native app will work only on iOS or only on Android, whereas a hybrid app will work on both. The native vs. hybrid decision is not a simple one, and the right choice will depend on your precise objectives, your preferences and what’s compatible with any existing IoT infrastructure.

This last point is key, especially if you have lots of IoT devices with in-built software. Sometimes, this in-built software is compatible with only iOS or only Android; in other cases, you may have limited capabilities on one of the two device types. Therefore, you’ll need to confirm compatibility across all your IoT devices, your mobile devices and the app you’re building. This is a bit different from a typical app development project, where you’re only concerned about compatibility between the app and your mobile device. 

If your app will be made available to the general public, then a single hybrid app or two native apps would give you the broadest reach. Many companies also perform market research to determine which type of device most of their users have; then, they use this information to decide which kind of app will best serve their needs. If you’re building an enterprise app, then the choice is usually straightforward since companies are typically Apple/iOS-based or PC/Android-based. In these cases, choose a native app for the operating system your company utilizes.

Building an IoT mobile app is no small feat. In fact, these apps can be quite complex and involved due to the degree of compatibility that is required across multiple devices and platforms. This is why it’s smart to work with an experienced team of IoT app developers who have well-established processes and strategies for this type of development project. At 7T, we specialize in IoT mobile app development, along with other rapidly-advancing areas of technology, including augmented reality, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

Headquartered in Dallas, 7T also maintains offices in Austin and Houston. But don’t worry if you’re located outside of Texas, as our clientele spans the United States. If you’re ready to start the IoT mobile app development process, contact 7T today.


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Shane Long

As COO and President of 7T, Shane Long brings experience in mobility that pre-dates the term “smartphone” and the release of the first iPhone. His work has helped revolutionize the growth of mobility by bringing to market one of the first graphics processors used in mobile phones, technology that after being acquired by Qualcomm lived well into the 4th generation of smartphones, as well as helped pioneer the first GPS implementations in the segment. With a strong engineering and business background, Shane understands how the rise of mobility and Predictive Analytics is crucial to greater business strategies geared toward attaining competitive advantage, accelerating revenue, and realizing new efficiencies. As the leader of a B2B mobility solutions provider, he partners with business leaders including marketers and product developers to leverage enterprise mobile applications, big data and analytics, and mobile strategy.

Shane earned a B.S. at Texas A&M (whoop!) and studied mathematics as a graduate student at Southern Methodist University.


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