How to get started with IoT
If you’ve been following IT-related news, you’ve probably heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). A simple explanation of what IoT is, is connecting things to the internet.
Things can be anything! Your refrigerator, car, smart meter but also your phone, television and smart speakers can be counted as things. The data these things produce can be used to make smarter decisions, detect anomalies or pro-actively notify you of a specific situation.
IoT already has seen an enormous growth over the last years. According to IoT Analytics, the number of IoT devices will grow from 8 billion right now to 22 billion in 6 years!
In a world where IoT is transforming businesses left and right, you might wonder how you can jump aboard the train and stay, or get ahead of your competition. The answer can be very simple; start now!
Start now! Why?!
I confess, it is probably easier said than done. But on the other hand, it doesn’t have to be! The reason why you should start now is because you need data to make IoT work. With that being said, the next tip would be to start simple. One of the pitfalls of an IoT solution is making it too complicated from the start. By wanting to do everything at once, finishing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will take much longer and you will miss out on potential return on investment.
When you keep your first IoT solution simple, you can start gathering the necessary data to, later on, provide value for your business. Doing this will also provide you with experience on the subject and eventually help create a better finished product.
Iterate your development process!
In my experience, just like any Mendix app, iteration is key when building an IoT application. You could also say applying Scrum is key. As I mentioned above, gaining both data and experience helps in the long run and that is one of the natural results of applying Scrum. Another reason why iterations are so great is because the data you collect will provide you with new ideas and insights to further expand your app!
These new ideas can mean needing more sensors, or more data to give more insight. How great would it be if you found this out during the development phase? At this point, you probably haven’t made an extremely big investment and adjusting the course is relatively easy.
Alright, I want to get started! How?
As you might expect from a Mendix developer, I would suggest using Mendix! The tool is perfect to quickly create proof of concepts, but is also extremely powerful to build robust, B2B and B2C apps with.
Building a proof of concept can be done in a matter of minutes if you have the right sensor kit and an idea what you want to build. In a recent webinar, I showed how easy it is to implement a Bluetooth prototyping kit such as the Nordic Thingy in a Mendix app. Other kits a quick Google search provide are:
- Ti Sensortag
- NXP Semiconductors Rapid IoT Prototyping Kit
- SODAQ SARA AFF R410M
- For the more tech-savvy: check out https://cloud.google.com/solutions/iot/kit/
These kits come with various connectivity options: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even cellular technologies. Based on your implementation, find a sensor kit that works for you. In my opinion, the Nordic Thingy works very well.
Getting the data in your Mendix app is, depending on your sensor kit, done either via webservices or Bluetooth. Basic proof of concepts can be hosted on Mendix’ limited, free edition, or even run locally on your device. When building a proof of concept, code quality is less important, so corners can be cut and data can probably be persisted in a database without issues. This is a great way to experiment with the possibilities of IoT and find out what you can do with it.
Production: more sensors and more data.
As a developer I want to stress that a proof of concept is built to prove a concept and is, 99% of the time, not ready for production. Building an app for production means sticking to (conding) guidelines and building apps to last. In the case of IoT, this probably also means buying sensors made specifically for your case. You might find them on the shelf, but in some cases you need to have them custom built. These days, there are a bunch of companies out there that have also seen the rise of IoT and have made a business out of building custom sensors.
Having more sensors also means more data. Mendix can handle data pretty well, but has its limit. There are IoT platforms that are built to handle large amounts of data much better. To give you an example: At TimeSeries, we process data from hundreds of thousands of smart meters. This results in roughly 120.000.000 measurements per day! Handling these amounts of data in Mendix would prove to be difficult, but our IoT platform is built specifically for this.
Cloud platforms such as AWS and MindSphere have similar solutions to help you build your IoT application. Using an IoT platform will keep your Mendix app clean, stable and fast, so your users get the experience they expect. Mendix is amazing at integrating with these platforms and showing data in a flashy app. All at lightning fast speed too!
In the end, that’s what we want, right? We want our apps to look nice, respond quickly and if possible, we want to have them today. If you ask me, the way to achieve this is by combining Mendix with an IoT platform.
I hope this blog has convinced you that IoT is the future and the only way to not stay behind is to:
Start. Now. And. KISS. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) 🙂
Need help? We’re here for you.
I understand that after reading this blog, you still might have questions. If you do, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I am always happy to help, provide insight or even help you find the right sensor kit for your solution. You can find me on LinkedIn or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or watch the Community Webinar I co-hosted: