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Traversing the IoT software stack

The internet of things is all about the software that runs smart devices and the back-end databases that receive sensory input, sort that input, analyze it and then deliver relevant data through business services to the end user. In order to develop IoT software successfully, companies need to understand the full range of the software stack.

User interface
One might argue that the user interface is the most critical component of software development. Why? Because your end user interacts with the front-end design. It’s their first impression. Perhaps their only impression. It’s valid to say that if your user is presented with an unappealing and complicated screen, there’s a chance you will lose them before the application has a chance to show what it can do. So from that perspective, interface design makes a major contribution to the user experience.

Client platform
IoT software has an obligation to perform perfectly and equally well on various operating systems and across all screen sizes available to the users. In the not so distant past, designated operating systems determined how desktop software was built. IoT and cloud computing has completely changed this paradigm. Another challenge is assuring your software will work on mobile platforms. True cross-platform mobile development ensures that the native application operates consistently across Android, iOS and other mobile operating systems, while still meeting the unique experience demands of each platform. Comprehensive testing is critical.

A scalable communication interface connects systems across a room or across the globe. This is how software does its job — through the design of the application’s information flow.

New digital innovations in communications are born nearly every week. Available options far exceed the desirable ones. You need an expert on your software team who can stay abreast of this ever-changing world. With this, the ideal solution for your IoT product can be extracted through precise vetting system.

Enterprise frameworks and distributed systems are built with cutting-edge technologies. Traditionally known as full-stack development, expertise in the server portion of the software stack requires skills in both front-end and back-end technologies.

Even if it isn’t obvious, most applications are connecting to a back-end server in one form or another, and many use IoT technology. Whether you are interacting with a web-based GUI, or you’re using a mobile app that syncs its data across all of your devices, the server infrastructure is a critical component of the overall experience.

Building with the future in mind entails thinking through how the system will scale when your solution requires 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 endpoints. It requires not only robust modular coding, but also IT infrastructure and failover expertise. Above all, your quality assurance disciplines must be top-notch to ensure that your solution is ready to handle the broad spectrum of failure scenarios generated by your global user base.

As a foundational element to any connected solution, the underlying data models and storage technology must be built to last. This absolute requirement is well understood in the industry. But in today’s fast-paced agile world with emerging IoT opportunities, the key is to start small, leaving room to grow.

As with each stack component, database development is a discipline that requires a specific area of expertise. Cloud storage addresses the ever-growing need for data. Robust architecture, such as SQL server, MongoDB and PostgreSQL can supply secure and widely available data storage to all your connected client devices. Meanwhile, mature micro-infrastructures like Realm and SQLite power your mobile application to cache data for fast retrieval in the palm of the user’s hand. Whichever solution is determined for your software program, be sure that security is the vanguard of its data system.

In many cases, your database will live on for the life of your solution, even while mobile and front-end technologies are changed out. Be sure that interoperability and scalability are set goals during the architecture stage.

For successful IoT software development in a time-limited world, your team needs to slice vertically through the various parts of the stack in order bring the highest value to the connected system. It is important that the final software delivers the set goals of each stack component and that those mini-goals culminate in the broader vision of the software solution — otherwise it won’t meet your user’s needs. Make sure the IoT software development efforts stay focused on the user throughout the process, and across the software stack.

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