New Trend in the Smart Device Industry: No-code App Builders for IoT Devicesby@toosmart
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New Trend in the Smart Device Industry: No-code App Builders for IoT Devices

by Kostiantyn OliynykApril 6th, 2023
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No-code and low-code mobile application builders are not new, and they confidently occupy their niche. However, they are not a panacea, as they are not suitable for all businesses. For example, you cannot use such services if you need an application to manage IoT devices.
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No-code and low-code mobile application builders are not new, and they confidently occupy their niche. However, they are not a panacea, as they are not suitable for all businesses. For example, you cannot use such services if you need an application to manage IoT devices.

However, we in the 2Smart team appreciate the potential of the no-code mobile app builders' idea and therefore decided to make this tool one of the key features of our platform. Let's talk about the advantages and disadvantages of no-code app development for the IoT industry, the problems of implementing such a solution, and also consider a real example of a no-code app builder for IoT.

What is no-code and low-code application development in the IoT

If you are interested in mobile application development, you are well aware of low-code and no-code mobile app development services. Mobile application builders appeared in the decade of 2010s with its rapid development of smartphones and operating systems for them. Instead of the long, complex, and expensive development of new applications, businesses were able to create a simple app to communicate with their customers on their own, with a minimum of time and money wasted.

Builders make it possible to use ready-made templates or components (building blocks) to customize the application design. The possible functionality depends on the specific service platform for no-code development and the chosen tariff plan. Today, a business can add the following features to an application created using a builder:

  • in-app purchases,
  • creation of loyalty cards,
  • connection of databases,
  • uploading additional content,
  • social media integration,
  • built-in chats
  • much more.

However, it is clear that even a decade after the first application builders appeared, such services are not a panacea for all business categories. There are natural and reasonable restrictions. We are talking about one of them now - the Internet of Things.

If you are running an IoT business, a standard application builder will not be of any use to you. Yes, you can use it to create a catalog of your products, an electronic store for ordering devices, or a map of your offline stores. But you will not be able to integrate the functionality of remote device management into the application. However, this is a must-have feature for the Internet of Things - for consumer IoT devices, for sure.

Why is integrating smart device control into a highly generic solution impossible? The main reason is the architecture of the Internet of Things. To control a smart device and receive telemetry from its sensors, a mobile application must be connected to the same server as the device itself. A cloud broker must be deployed on the server (most often, it is an MQTT broker) that communicates between the device and the application.

In addition, do not forget about the strict security standards that must be observed at all stages of the connection and operation of an IoT device. In theory, we can imagine that some IoT platform will allow a no-code app development service to connect to its broker, but in practice, this is unlikely.

But there is some good news. No-coding app development in the IoT universe is possible and exists. No-code app builder for IoT can be a feature of the Internet of Things platform itself, in which case all the puzzle pieces come together in one solution. In particular, our team used the idea of application builders when developing the 2Smart Cloud IoT platform. We'll show you how it works below, but first, let's look at the pros and cons of builders.

Custom development vs. builders

When choosing between custom development and no-code or low-code builders to create a mobile application for your business, you seem to see a pharmacy scale in front of you, where the advantage of one option is the disadvantage of the other and vice versa. You should put the benefits of both options on different sides of the scale and see which outweighs for you.

Benefits of custom development

The main advantage of custom development is that you are not limited in the choice of application functionality and options for customizing its design. No matter what industry your business is in, choosing this option will give you an application that is unlike any of your competitors. And if you bring in a powerful team of IT managers, UX/UI designers, developers, and testers, you can create an application that will allow you to stand out and take a leading role in the market.

Alas, this option has drawbacks. And if you describe them in one word, it will be the word unavailability. For many companies, especially startups, this option is out of reach for simple reasons. They don't have enough time and money to order a custom development.

Custom development takes at least a few months and sometimes takes years. The minimum budget is calculated in thousands of dollars, easily moving into the category of tens of thousands. If no investor behind you is ready to pay these costs, you can forget about the idea of custom development.

Benefits of no-coding app development

As you already understand, the advantages of no-code mobile app development lie in the area of what is the disadvantage of custom development. And vice versa.

Yes, you are unlikely to get the world's best mobile application for your business using a builder. Your app will definitely not be unique - your competitors will have something similar. However, you can get an application for your business quickly and inexpensively.

The initial setup of the app's interface can take a maximum of one or two hours. Did you not like something in the resulting version? Spend another hour or two making edits. With the most scrupulous approach, a perfectionist will achieve the ideal in a week or a decade.

At the same time, the costs are also low, and sometimes they are absent. If we are talking about universal services, they work on a subscription model. You can use your customized app for $30-$50 per month, although there are also free plans. If we talk about builder as a feature of the IoT app development platform, its use can always be free. For example, in 2Smart Cloud, we tie tariffs only to the number of connected vendor devices. If you use the platform for your experiments and have connected no more than 20 devices, all functionality costs $0 for you.

By deciding to create an app with no coding, you also take the hassle out of maintaining it. Support of the technical infrastructure and development of the application remain the tasks of the platform that offered you the IoT mobile application builder with no code.

No-code app development for IoT: how it works in 2Smart

In the early stages of developing the IoT platform concept, our team decided that one of its key features should be the ability for vendors to develop smart products without coding. IoT enthusiasts and startups on a tight budget deserve to have access to professional tools, one of which is the IoT app builder tool. For no-code device firmware development, 2Smart Cloud vendors can use the platform's bridge that transforms the ESPHome configuration into commands understandable to the MQTT broker as one of the options.

As for creating a mobile application for the remote management of smart devices, this stage is perhaps the easiest on the whole path that a 2Smart Cloud platform vendor needs to go through to create an IoT product.

The IoT custom app builder is part of the web application, which the vendor uses at all stages of developing and maintaining an IoT product. The ability to customize the application design through the browser is activated immediately after the vendor has installed the test firmware on the device and it has successfully connected to the platform's MQTT broker.

Having received data about the sensors in the device, the platform generates an application interface where each sensor is assigned its widget. Depending on the sensor type, widgets are used to control or monitor the device. Of course, we do not advise you to be satisfied with the automatically generated layout, but we recommend exploring our widget library and trying different options.

You can select different mobile app widgets for the same device sensor. Some 2Smart Cloud widgets do not have any functionality but act as aggregators for other widgets. You can use them to arrange widgets for device control and monitoring conveniently for the end user. To reposition widgets with IoT mobile application builder, use drag and drop.

After customizing the app's interface, you only have to save its layout and publish your product. End users will be able to manage their devices using the ready-made 2Smart Cloud mobile app, which is available in the AppStore and Google Play.

Our example shows that no-code and low-code application development is an idea that can be developed even in such non-traditional areas as the Internet of Things. This makes entering the IoT market an affordable option for even the smallest business with little start-up capital. It is enough to have the idea of an IoT product and the skills to bring it to life. Available but powerful tools for this are ready to offer today's IoT platforms.

You don't need a device prototype to try no-coding app development. You can register and create a virtual device to test the basic mechanics of the platform using the welcome wizard. Join us now!