I would like to start this article in a straightforward way, which is not an easy thing to do. According to Hootsuite and We Are Social research, the total number of unique mobile users worldwide is more than 5.153 billion. Smartphones are devices of the IoT sphere.
According to Statista, the total number of IoT-connected devices has grown to more than 26.66 billion. However, smartphones are the devices we use in most instances, and we carry them around from dawn to dusk. Therefore, application developers should think about how to make software more useful than it is today.
Mobile applications do many things that, just a decade ago, we couldn’t imagine them doing. Today you can use apps to track your activities, do your homework, send texts to printers, switch on electric kettles, and set up your thermostat.
It’s an incredible state of affairs, but the actual usability of such a colossal number of versatile applications is about to reach the point of decline. The more apps designed to interconnect the IoT devices we use, the more time we waste on things that used to be less complicated.
In the following paragraphs, I discuss how to make applications interact the right way so that they achieve real progress. I am strongly convinced that, in the context of IoT, all applications must be connected to fulfill their main purpose and make users’ lives better. IoT technologies develop slowly, but are currently extremely promising.
Constrained Computational Power
Any device we use today is a constrained device. This means our smartphones and, for example, our kettles are all the same. They have memory and a limited supply of computing power. That’s why they can do a lot but not everything. You can buy tons of gadgets, each of which is manageable via certain applications. It looks and feels very modern, but it’s not logical. Why not?
You buy a smart humidifier and use a smartphone app to set it up. So, computing power goes from your core device (smartphone). It’s simply an act of remote control that is useless if you have to repeat it day after day. To become a core of IoT, the application you use should learn.
When do you return from work? When do you go to bed? When are the weather conditions suitable for additional air humidification? What is your thermostat temperature?
Answers to all these questions matter, as they determine the logic of your average interaction with a device. Can your humidifier app interact with the thermostat app? Perhaps it can’t. At the same time, it’s able to analyze your location and schedule, but it’s still unable to call for the weather app to set you free from having to adjust the “smart” humidifier.
Can you see the logic of money flow in this process? You pay extra money to set up this device using a smartphone. That’s all. Wi-Fi is used instead of an infrared transmitter, but you still have to do things manually. So, what is the purpose of having a smartphone with 8GB CPU? To play Asphalt 8? To be able to open a dozen apps at the same time?
I test applications every day to figure out whether they are really useful. The most versatile package of applications is provided by Google. Minions of this huge corporation develop many interconnected apps, each of which has access to the Google Cloud.
At today’s level, this option is used to save your time by setting you free from the need to manually copy data. For example, your calendar has access to your contact list to auto-fill this data into arrangements. It knows the weather conditions to set up the humidification intensity, so to say.
At the same time, Google Assistant can use your geolocation to suggest the best restaurant nearby. Your expensive humidifier could do this too, but it’s not made by Google.
The mechanism of interconnected applications by Google shows us how all smart devices must behave to be really useful. If these apps can do this, any gadget can.
What People Need
Any businessman knows that while his product might not be useful, it’s possible to make customers believe it is. That’s what smart IoT manufacturers do. They use cheap $1-$5 microcontrollers with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to stun users with the ability to achieve remote access via smartphones.
Yes, such an approach to managing domestic devices looks fresh, but the idea is older than any millennial. The vast majority of apps for smart IoT devices is still at the progress level of a TV remote control from the 90s.
These days, technological progress is advanced enough to make things work differently. Let’s go back to that pretty-looking humidifier. It’s an IoT device that uses a smartphone as an IoT core, as it does all the computing stuff.
Humidifier application today provides users with the ability to set its working hours and evaporation intensity. Therefore, it’s a remote control that is technically related to IoT but logically not.
I think that people need such apps with the ability to exchange data between each other, thereby letting users skip several set-up stages. Interconnected devices should use coworking software.
Today, the tempo of IoT industry growth is quite slow. Now imagine that it’s not like that, and you must make progress and tell your company to invent a brand-new humidifier. Engineers work day and night to make it smaller and stronger, to ensure that it reduces energy consumption, and so on.
You spend incredible amounts of money to change the physical properties of your humidifier. Finally, the new product is ready. Users can switch it with their voice, change the LED colouring, and set the sleep time. That’s a good result, but it’s not progressive at all.
Let’s imagine a better way. First, don’t tell your engineers to change physical properties. This device is already endowed with a microcontroller and that’s quite enough to control it. Your next step is to appeal to your application developers. Tell them to be patient and endow your app with GPS access to track the user’s location.
Now, meet developers of those applications that are responsible for weather forecasts and thermostat set-up to suggest a simple plan. It goes like this: You integrate their applications into yours so that they can share information about certain conditions. What is their benefit? It’s a promotion. If the developers provide you with access to the weather forecast and thermostat temperature, they get an additional medium through which to sell their products. The more extensions, the better.
I want to convey the point that there’s no need to be Google to succeed in IoT. The “humidifier project” above shows that you simply have to make connections. You don’t have to buy new servers or dramatically upgrade your device.
Mobile applications are the core of the process because you can make them exchange data in the borders of a single smartphone (constrained device). The computational power of any modern mobile platform is enough to let apps communicate in background mode, setting users free of the need to complete multiple tasks.
Of course, I understand that such a cardinal change requires resources. I believe that an increase in sales will justify a single investment in this sphere. The economic aspect of core-app development needs further research, but the idea seems reasonable.
The idea I introduced requires big changes in how things work. The good thing is that any company can make a breakthrough. The most challenging task is to make applications and devices work together as one in a secure way. By doing this, we would be able to sell and buy really smart IoT devices which would need minor human anticipation to perform their tasks. Hopefully, this way is possible, as it promises huge time savings for the average user.