Welcome to Part Two in our series Building a Connected App: 9 Vital Insights for IoT Software Development. If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here.
As mentioned in part one, creating a successful connected app is an incredibly involved process that goes far beyond merely ensuring functionality. In fact, a great deal of behind the scenes work goes into ensuring your app achieves seamless functionality and a high level of user satisfaction.
Below, we outline crucial elements to consider during the IoT software development process. Ensuring that each of these areas are carefully considered throughout your app build will allow you to build a connected product that users can’t get enough of.
Connected software should be designed to support a wide range of compatibility and variability, including the ability to support various types of devices, and seamlessly integrate with various firmware versions.
The world of connected devices is evolving at a rapid pace, resulting in frequent hardware updates and a near constant introduction of newer device models. This continuous growth of means that consumers often expect to have the ability to utilize multiple devices for their purposes.
For these reason, connected software must be designed to support a wide range of device types and models. Whether it's smartphones, tablets, wearables, or smart home devices, compatibility across diverse devices is essential - and your development team should ensure that your software is able to function effectively across different devices and screen sizes, as well as the ability to maintain constant functionality and usability across various user interfaces.
Not all devices are created equal. When it comes to various types of devices, such as phones, tablets, laptops etc, there is often quite a bit of variation when it comes to their hardware capabilities (various sensors, GPS, cameras etc).
If you are planning to build your software in a way that allows it to be accessed by a variety of device types, it’s crucial that your IoT software development team accounts for those differences while building your software. If your software doesn't perform well on a particular device due to its limited hardware capabilities, users will have a frustrating experience, leading to negative user experiences.
Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that your connected software is designed to seamlessly integrate with firmware updates and new firmware versions.
In addition to firmware versions, you’ll also want to ensure backward compatibility with older device models. Accommodating these older devices ensures that users with legacy devices will still have the ability to benefit from the software's functionality.
Graceful degradation is another important aspect to consider, as this allows the software to adjust its features or performance based on the capabilities of the device, guaranteeing a consistent and positive user experience across a broad range of devices, regardless of their age or specifications.
To ensure your software is fully accessible across devices, you’ll want to make sure your IoT software development team conducts extensive testing across many devices, hardware configurations, and firmware versions, including functional testing, usability testing, and compatibility testing
When building connected software, taking the time to facilitate exceptional UX design (user experience design) is critical to success. UX design is the process of creating meaningful, user-centered, intuitive, and enjoyable software experiences. This is a very specialized process that entails research, user interviews, and workshopping that allows designers to fully understand who their user is, and how to anticipate their wants and needs (learn more about UX Design in our Ultimate Guide to IoT software development).
In addition to UX design, you’ll also want to spend a significant amount of time on your softwares UI (user interface) which encompasses the visual and interactive elements of your software. UI design is concerned with ensuring that users are able to easily and quickly navigate and interact with your app.
Another important aspect of design is ADA compliance - a complex system that outlines how to build digital products that allow for an equal experience for all people, taking into consideration users with both permanent and/or temporary physical or mental disabilities.This involves providing accommodations such as alternative text for images, keyboard navigation, adjustable font sizes, voice recognition technology, screen readers and more.
Because accessibly is so important, we’ve put together this free checklist and guide that provides all the information necessary to understanding ADA compliance.
The following are some additional considerations for designing impactful, user friendly software
Your software should provide users with an intuitive and user-friendly interface that allows them to immediately understand how to navigate your software, interact with elements, and accomplish tasks without confusion or frustration.
Good UX design focuses on streamlining user workflows and processes, enabling users to achieve their goals efficiently. When designing your connected software, ensure that tasks and actions are optimized for speed and ease of use.
Ensure that design elements, layouts, and interactions are consistent throughout your software. This consistency helps users build mental models and confidently predict how different parts of the product will work - allowing for more efficiency and far less frustration.
A clear information hierarchy in UX design refers to the organization and presentation of information in a way that helps users quickly understand the importance and relationship of different elements. This plays a crucial role in guiding users through the product and ensuring they can easily find what they need.
Users should be able to identify the most crucial information or actions easily, information should be grouped logically into categories or sections, and a clear visual hierarchy should be utilized through design elements such as size, color, contrast, and typography.
Different devices have different screen sizes, so it’s important that designers ensure that the software's user interface is responsive and adaptable to various device form factors. Responsive design ensures that your interface will remain usable and visually appealing across devices by dynamically adjusting based on the device type.
Consistency with your brand's visual identity is essential for establishing a strong and recognizable brand presence. To achieve this, designers should incorporate your brand's colors, typography, and visual elements consistently throughout your software's UI.
Considering our increasing reliance on connected devices, it’s understandable that ensuring your software is accessible and functional whenever and wherever a user decides to utilize it is incredibly important.
To maximize your softwares reach and accessibility, and to help ensure that users are able to connect their devices regardless of the network technology, it’s important that your connected software is designed to support various network protocols, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular connections. By doing so, you help ensure that your software has the ability to leverage the available network infrastructure - providing users with consistent and seamless service.
However, as we’re all aware, intermittent connectivity issues can be a common occurrence. For this reason, your connected software should be designed to handle connectivity issues gracefully, without causing disruption to the user experience. This can be done by implementing techniques such as intelligent buffering, offline caching, and asynchronous data synchronization, which allow the software to provide smooth operation even during periods of limited or no connectivity.
For instances when users temporarily have no connectivity, offline functionalities and data synchronization mechanisms can be a game changer. By incorporating offline functionality into your software, you allow users to continue using certain features even when not connected to a network - for example, a note-taking app may allow users to create or edit notes offline, and then provide automatic synchronization once a connection is again available.
As per the previous example, providing data synchronization ensures that any changes a user makes offline are seamlessly updated across devices and platforms once it reconnects with a network. This keeps the user's data consistent and up to date, regardless of the device they use.For instance, a cloud storage app can automatically synchronize files across devices, ensuring that the latest version of a file is always accessible.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that your connected software monitors and optimizes network usage, as doing so allows your app to provide efficient and responsible utilization of network resources. Developers can help reduce strain on network infrastructure and enhance overall performance by creating systems that manage network bandwidth effectively, for example by minimizing unnecessary data transfers and implementing efficient data compression techniques.
Over-the-Air (OTA) updates are software updates that enable improvements, bug fixes, and the delivery of new features to connected devices, without requiring physical intervention.
Providing secure and reliable OTA update mechanisms are of paramount importance for connected devices as they ensure that update packages are securely delivered and installed on devices, while additionally, protecting against potential vulnerabilities or unauthorized access during the update process, thus safeguarding the integrity of the software and the connected device as a whole.
During OTA updates, it’s important to maintain backward compatibility to ensure a seamless transition for users. This means that new software versions should be designed to be compatible with older versions of the software and the connected device itself. By considering backward compatibility, developers prevent disruptions in functionality or user experiences when updating the software.
Another vital component of OTA updates are version control and rollback strategies. These strategies allow developers to maintain control over the software's stability and quickly address any issues that might arise during software updates.
Version control is a strategy that allows developers to manage software versions, including efficiently troubleshooting and debugging various versions of the software. Typically, version control tracks all software changes as they’re made, and is able to identify specific versions that have been deployed to devices. This can be a lifesaver, should issues arise from a specific software update. Similarly, rollback strategies allow developers to revert to a previous software version should a software update cause unforeseen problems.
Connected devices generate massive amounts of valuable data, making effective data management and analytics crucial. Implementing a robust data analytics system unlocks the true potential of this data and offers numerous benefits for both users and development teams.
Data analytics enable development teams to gain actionable insights into user behavior, preferences, and usage patterns, which can be leveraged to enhance the user experience. For example, by analyzing user data, a smart home system can learn the occupants' daily routines and automatically adjust lighting, temperature, and other settings to align with their preferences, creating a more personalized and comfortable living environment.
Furthermore, data analytics can empower users by providing personalized recommendations and insights. For instance, a connected health and wellness app can analyze user data, such as exercise habits and sleep patterns, and then offer tailored suggestions for improving overall well-being. This could include customized exercise plans, sleep optimization techniques, and nutritional recommendations based on individual needs and goals.
Data analytics also enables predictive capabilities that can enhance the user experience. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, a smart assistant can analyze user interactions and preferences to anticipate their needs and proactively provide relevant information or assistance. For example, a voice-activated assistant can learn a user's preferences for music, news, and weather updates and provide personalized recommendations without the need for explicit requests.
Another benefit of data analytics is anomaly detection. By monitoring and analyzing data from connected devices, potential issues or abnormalities can be identified in real-time. For instance, an energy monitoring system can analyze electricity usage patterns and detect unusual spikes or irregularities, which can indicate malfunctioning appliances or potential safety hazards. This enables timely intervention and preventive maintenance, ensuring a safer and more efficient user experience.
Moreover, data analytics can contribute to product improvement and innovation. By aggregating and analyzing data from a large user base, development teams can identify usage patterns, emerging trends, and areas for improvement. This information can guide the development of new features, enhancements, and even entirely new products that better meet user needs. For example, a smart home security system provider can analyze user data to identify common vulnerabilities or user concerns and develop enhanced security features to address them.
Data analytics can go beyond improving the user experience and enable proactive device management. By leveraging predictive analytics techniques, connected device software can anticipate device failures, identify maintenance requirements, and optimize device performance. For example, by analyzing sensor data, a smart thermostat can proactively detect anomalies, such as temperature fluctuations, and trigger maintenance notifications or automatically adjust settings to prevent system failures.
When building connected software, optimizing battery efficiency and power consumption is essential to providing a positive user experience. By implementing strategies to minimize power consumption and efficiently handle background processes and notifications, developers can ensure that the software operates efficiently and conserves battery power.
One key consideration is optimizing the software itself to minimize power consumption. This involves identifying and optimizing resource-intensive tasks, such as excessive CPU usage, unnecessary network requests, or continuous location tracking. By reducing these activities, the software can minimize the strain on the device's battery. For example, a navigation app can employ smart algorithms to minimize GPS usage and optimize route calculations, resulting in reduced battery drain.
Efficient handling of background processes and notifications is another crucial aspect of power optimization. Background processes, such as data synchronization or updates, should be carefully managed to prevent excessive battery usage.
Implementing intelligent scheduling mechanisms can ensure that background tasks are executed when the device is connected to a power source or during periods of low user activity, thus minimizing their impact on battery life. Similarly, managing notifications and their frequency helps prevent unnecessary wake-ups and reduces battery drain caused by constant display or network activity.
Implementing power-saving modes or features within the software is another effective strategy.Power-saving modes allow users to customize settings that optimize power consumption, such as reducing screen brightness, disabling background data usage, or limiting the functionality of non-essential features. By providing these options, users can choose the level of power optimization that suits their needs and extend their device's battery life.
Efficient use of sensors and connectivity modules is crucial for battery optimization. Connected devices often rely on various sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, or ambient light sensors, which consume significant power. By intelligently utilizing these sensors only when necessary, the software can minimize power drain. Additionally, optimizing the use of connectivity modules like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cellular data by employing efficient algorithms and techniques reduces unnecessary power consumption.
Continuous monitoring and optimization of power usage is vital for maintaining battery efficiency. Developers should regularly analyze power consumption patterns and identify areas for improvement. By using profiling tools and analyzing energy usage reports, they can pinpoint areas of the software that are consuming excessive power and make the necessary optimizations. This iterative approach ensures that power optimization efforts remain effective over time and with software updates.
We know that embarking on the journey of creating a new connected app can feel overwhelming, and that the IoT software development process can seem daunting! We hope this article has provided you with the insight and confidence necessary to move forward with success!
Want to learn more about IoT Software Development? Check out 5 Common Mistakes Made During the IoT Software Development Process
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