The pace of development and implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already like a storm, but soon this trend will turn into a hurricane. More than 30 billion “things” or “smart” objects, the building blocks for IoT, are expected to be connected everywhere in 2025.
IoT applications in areas such as smart homes, transportation, healthcare, and retail are already catching on in the consumer market. An entire smart village is close to completion in South Korea, and this is just the beginning. The constant progress in technologies enabling the adoption of the IoT (a network of objects of the real and virtual world connected to the Internet and capable of exchanging data) is matched by a wave of new and previously unimagined applications of this tech for the consumer and enterprise markets.
So, what’s needed to build such an app for mobile? What tools to use for IoT development? How to handle the user-facing part best?
What’s Needed to Develop IoT Mobile App
For IoT Infrastructure
If you imagine the Internet of Things in the form of a pyramid, its top will be data transfer protocols. Many IoT devices are essentially just a set of miniature sensors, the power of which is incomparable with the computing capabilities of “serious” technology. In addition, they often have to work from an independent power source for many months and even years. So on the backend, it’s necessary to create optimized network protocols that transmit only the necessary data from them, with minimal load on the system.
Communication is in second place. The more “smart” devices become, the more load they create on the network. At some (very distant in time) moment, the user may find themselves in a situation where their “smart” home consumes so much traffic that the network bandwidth simply ceases to be enough for instant data exchange between components. Therefore, fifth-generation networks have recently become an important component of the concept, which provide a huge information transfer rate (over 10 Gb/s) and high bandwidth.
All this data has to be stored somewhere, so cloud storage provided by AWS, Microsoft Azure, or any other vendor is also a must for the project.
Then there are sensors, the main task of which is to collect various types of data. Infrared sensors, motion sensors, temperature and pressure sensors, humidity, and light sensors are all important for the Internet of Things. The main requirement for them is miniaturization and low power consumption.
To sum up, to run an IoT app you should build and assemble the following core components:
- Low-energy sensors and beacons that connect to the device with the app via Bluetooth, WiFi, 5G, or other networks;
- Cloud platform, where data from sensors are processed, cleaned, and arranged;
- A network that sends the data from the cloud storage to cloud-based apps on different devices.
- A cloud-based user-facing app that manages and monitors data it receives.
We didn’t cover the last item in the list because it requires a whole other section.
For IoT App Development
The novelty and lack of standard mechanisms for creating an IoT application baffle many, even experienced programmers. Standards and general “rules of the game” have not yet been created in IoT, there’s not much convention to talk about. Some smart device manufacturers offer their own apps, but they fit only specific models and cannot be used with other devices. Therefore, mobile developers for IoT projects are faced with an extremely difficult task, which requires a high level of professionalism and a fine understanding of the functioning of the program in the whole system.
For the development of a simple IoT app your developers need:
- SDK for working with hardware/firmware like Arduino Framework;
- Real-time data back-end solutions like Firebase/AWS IoT Core/etc. for data management;
- Solutions for building mobile UI & connecting to the back-end (React Native, Flutter, etc.)
This article will explore the benefits of opting in for React Native development. It isn’t a mainstream choice for IoT projects — but it works and can be very advantageous for your IoT project.
Why Choose React Native for Building UI of Mobile IoT Apps
So, why is React Native good for IoT app’s UI and other front-end aspects?
Helps cut development hours by utilizing 3rd-party tools
React Native provides a bunch of useful components for text, images, scrollable lists, and many more. All of this makes the dev process quick and easy. React can be easily integrated with Firebase and Arduino, which are, as we’ve mentioned, efficient back-end tools for prototyping IoT apps. That simplifies creating and customizing event listeners — code that detects specific changes and conditions in sensors and other IoT hardware.
Apart from that, RN offers Sentry for error and crash monitoring and consistent updates on changes in the app’s performance — also vital for IoT; various APIs like Fetch API for smoothly getting updates from sensors; and other easily accessible 3rd party tools that makes development easier, quicker, and more fun and secure.
Saves time for interactions with hardware via native APIs/native modules
Thanks to React Native we can get access to the hardware of iOS or Android devices, which helps establish a connection between the phone and the IoT hardware (sensors, beacons, etc.)
For example, we can leverage customized packages built for connecting to the phone’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) modules by using RN’s iOS and Android native modules — and easily assemble the phone and BLE beacons into one network. After a few hours of programming with Arduino and RN, your IoT app will be able to:
- scan all BLE devices around us;
- connect to various devices;
- listen for device connection or disconnection;
- read information about the device, its services, and characteristics;
- get data from it.
BLE modules are used in smartwatches, heart rate sensors, industrial sensors, connected light bulbs, and so on. Being able to connect to them relatively quickly is a significant advantage for an IoT project.
Enables seamless updates & version control via high code stability
Tools like React Native Debugger make the code cleaner and more stable when developers are working, yes, but RN’s structure itself is built to keep changes in child structures from affecting parent structures. To modify any object in a code, developers should only change its state and implement updates. In practice, that means far less hassle, conflicts, and bug fixes after updates.
Because IoT projects often require a lot of fine-tuning, the fact RN provides functionality to modify and upgrade code on the fly — especially if developers are using the Fast Refresh feature that shows changes in the app’s UI seconds after they’ve added in the code— is a big advantage for the project. Twinslash notes that componentized structure is also beneficial for developers: they can quickly edit code modules and fix things in isolation — and the updates do not mess with the entire app’s structure.
Provides ready-to-integrate UI components for fast prototyping
Another thing to know about RN is its ready-to-use UI components. Having them we can streamline prototyping. In the evolving market of IoT, the ability to build prototypes quickly and easily gives a great advantage over competitors.
This point may seem senseless at first sight since IoT development isn’t a piece of cake (the data work/hardware programming cost says it all).
What IoT Mobile Projects React Native is the Best For
Of course, RN isn’t a well-established tool to use in IoT, but it’s perfect if you want to:
- accelerate development pace for presenting investors with a product’s proof of concept/prototype;
- cut costs of development and allocate more funds to working on IoT backend, data analytics, or DevOps for your IoT project.
Ready to experiment with the complexities of real-time data handling while easily setting up UI and other components of the user-facing mobile structure of an IoT ecosystem? Look no further than React Native!