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IoT and mobile technology have created powerful use cases where consumers and workers can influence their world at the touch of a screen. However, this combination of technology has also reshaped the way people experience and interact with the world.
At its heart, IoT is about the interaction between the end user and real-world “things,” said Michael Martin, enterprise architect of mobile solutions at Capgemini. These interactions can be direct, such as when a user checks the garage door’s status from their mobile device, or a collection of interactions that build up to a notification that directs the user to act.
“The ability to bring interactions with the external, real world into data or transactions that the end user can be involved within a mobile context has brought new possibilities to enriching the user experience when relating with the real world,” Martin said.
How IoT has influenced mobile app trends
Organizations and individuals can use IoT to harness new data sets that have never been available before. Mobile app designers and developers now can create highly customized and personalized experiences based on insights and performance data, sometimes in real time.
IoT enables mobile apps to interact directly with physical objects, turning mobile devices into universal remote controls that can communicate with virtually any connected machine in the world, said Romil Bahl, president and CEO at Kore.
The best mobile apps will provide UIs that simulate the physical objects within the app and don’t require much effort from the end user to learn, driving IoT developers to focus more on intuitive, easy-to-use mobile apps, he said.
For IoT devices designed to collect data, the need for a UI may not always be a requirement, but developers can’t overlook the UX, said George Burns, senior cloud consultant at SPR.
“Mobile app design, development and UX will continue to be heavily influenced by the unique needs of IoT as more organizations work to collect, democratize and service-enable organizational data,” he said.
IoT has been a significant influence in mobile app design, development and UX for both consumer-focused products and industrial IoT applications, said Deepak Parameswaran, chief business officer at Mindtree NxT. Mobile devices have become a common UI in consumer products and provide connectivity to many cloud-based services.
Developers must tailor the UX to specific industry use cases, Parameswaran said. For example, a human-machine interface on a shop floor must be rugged and provide precise information, such as condition monitoring, that a shop floor operator needs to ensure smooth production operations.
How IoT influenced the major tech in mobile app development
IoT device requirements such as limited UI capabilities and low power have pushed organizations to use certain development stacks and mobile environments more than others, as well as physical protocols.
Many devices use Bluetooth Low Energy — which is specifically designed for low-power device needs — to communicate with mobile. Mobile development stacks, such as iOS and Swift, are designed to discover and connect to IoT devices over Bluetooth.
George BurnsSenior cloud consultant, SPR
Organizations have also developed more capabilities between IoT and augmented reality on mobile devices, said Nick Barendt, executive director of the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems at Case Western Reserve University.
“[For example,] there are machine manufacturers in the industrial equipment space that can advertise the state of that piece of equipment over Bluetooth Low Energy or Wi-Fi and allow an augmented reality overlay through your device, looking at that piece of equipment to help you visualize the internal state of the machine,” he said.
Things have gone full circle from mobile to IoT and then back into the physical world through augmented reality capabilities, according to Barendt.
“That allows both the IoT use cases to evolve and become more sophisticated, coupled with the development of the mobile stacks and their evolution — things that would not have been possible a few years ago,” he said.
Additionally, app developers have adopted open source development tools for IoT to freely share their mobile apps and programs with other app creators. The integration of IoT with mobile application frameworks and the increased transparency this integration brings let developers coordinate and collaborate to create even more intuitive, scalable and feature-rich applications.
The future of IoT and mobile app development
Enterprise mobile apps may not be in widespread use until the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, said Paul Venditti, a principal industry consultant for the IoT division at SAS.
“But I see these kinds of apps being particularly relevant in areas like shop floor worker productivity — like [virtual reality/augmented reality] superimposed in the factory,” he said. “I have seen a recent trend where major companies are moving toward application interfaces for workers out in the field that don’t require specialized glasses or headsets because of the costs and technical complexity involved.”
Business is increasingly conducted from mobile apps now, and applications can connect people across the world to enable progress toward common goals, Kore’s Bahl said. IoT, in combination with mobile apps, enables the “new normal” of business, where an application has the power to create a collaborative work environment no matter where operations or employees are located.
“I believe we will see mobile applications become a seamless fabric that extends across business functions, helping companies become more efficient and productive,” Bahl said. “As technologies like private networking and 5G become more accessible, the value of IoT will continue to expand as we progress further into what I like to call the ‘decade of IoT.'”