Web applications can simplify the management of IoT devices and the ability of organizations to derive value from their IoT deployment.
A web application is a software application that uses web browsers and web technology and performs specific functions or tasks on the Internet. An IoT web application means that an IoT device uses the front end and back end of the web application to collect data, analyze that data, and then display the results.
IoT web applications provide users with intuitive graphical interfaces to help them perform their tasks more efficiently or gain new information, said Bernd Gross, CTO at Software AG.
Typical use cases for IoT web applications connect and manage devices to gain insight into IoT data, for example, through dashboards and analytics to automate workflows and trigger actions.
IoT web applications help people collaborate with each other, machines and facilities, said Paul Venditti, senior industry consultant for the IoT division at SAS. The web application can go beyond simply displaying information to a person to foster collaboration between a person in the field and the remote person.
Connected and intelligent assets and processes can communicate with people who are not data scientists with concepts like explainable AI and composite AI. Explainable AI enables people to understand and communicate how an AI system makes decisions, and composite AI combines several AI techniques to help businesses solve complex problems. Organizations and organizational cultures must evolve to understand the language of AI-based information and how to interpret the results for decision support.
Organizations can use IoT web applications to take advantage of advances in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The generation of “gamers” is behind this trend, which is likely to continue to grow, Venditti said. Drones are already capturing images of infrastructure, including bridges and highways. Virtual reality and augmented reality in the app generate significant value during the inspection process.
Various tech professionals use different IoT web applications. For example, in the case of an equipment manufacturer, the users might include the operations expert, the equipment user, the plant manager and the tool administrator. Each user has a different need. The operations expert, for example, needs a simple way to remotely monitor, update, and troubleshoot equipment and connectivity using IoT web applications. In comparison, the plant manager must integrate information on KPIs associated with the equipment into existing systems to visualize the overall efficiency of the plant.
Why use an IoT web app vs. an IoT mobile app
IoT web apps run on a variety of machines including PCs, cellphones, and tablets, but there are different types of apps, including those designed for desktop use, for mobile devices, and responsive apps. designed to work on large and small screens, Gross said.
IoT mobile apps need to be specially created and tailored for app stores and mobile phones, such as Android or Apple, Venditti said. Mobile applications are most appropriate when they are designed for a specific use and purpose. For example, a closed-loop mobile application with a medical device connected to a person for blood glucose monitoring and insulin delivery must function reliably without relying on networks or being subject to security breaches.
Paul VendittiSenior Industry Consultant, SAS
IoT web apps typically require internet connectivity, while mobile apps can be designed to work without an internet connection.
An IoT web application can be flexible for applications that need to be updated regularly and are contextually enriched by company data, Venditti said. An IoT web application can also have business process benefits for the many tech professionals who interact with it to generate value. For example, consider the cold chain logistics involved with food or organic products in the low temperature controlled supply chain. There are many different people involved in this process including a truck driver, planner, dispatcher, and sales manager. They all get information and act on IoT data. Each of these actions may require an interface with back-end business applications.
This “control tower” approach best fits the design of a web application from a cost and security perspective. IoT data, which tracks, tracks and builds real-time situational awareness, helps people make better decisions for in-transit shipments, Venditti said. Organizations can then analyze granular IoT data to better plan future trips.
Considerations and Features Organizations Need for IoT Web Applications
The most important considerations for an organization adopting or building an IoT web application include a flexible dashboard and configuration and control options that allow users to tailor IoT web applications to target different users, Gross said. Other features include monitoring and alarm notifications, and the underlying web application framework should be open and extensible.
Organizations should also consider the following:
- Security. Organizations need to plan for device protection, the integrity of IoT data flows, and lifecycle management.
- Flexibility of front-end development. Front-end development must derive the context from IoT data and analytics. New features can ideally be added without dealing with a lot of custom code. IoT technology is quickly creating new functionality and development needs to keep pace.
- Application lifecycle management. This feature makes it easy to update the logic of the IoT web application as new versions are created and released. Managing the application lifecycle can be difficult when many IoT web applications rely on libraries and code bases that change and sometimes require security fixes.
- Connectivity and bandwidth for users. Higher bandwidth and reliable connectivity will ensure that IoT web applications can transfer data faster with lower latency.
- Decision making. Organizations need to define their decision-making process for the app and how it delivers value.
- Measure the results. Currently, too much emphasis is placed on measuring characteristics of the IoT architecture, such as data throughput and API calls, rather than measuring results, such as reducing worker security incidents. .
In addition, the IoT web application must be scalable and capable of handling and processing a large amount of data. The back-end must handle and respond to big data requests in real time.
Developers need to create dynamic user interfaces, as internal sensors collect data from IoT devices in real time. For example, the user interface must handle frequent changes because a heart rate monitoring system must display the user’s heart rate every second.
What are the challenges of building a web application for IoT?
One of the biggest challenges in developing a web application for IoT is security, as interconnected devices create many entry points. Threat actors can leverage these entry points to access transmitted data, user location, and other valuable data. Businesses also need to consider data privacy and encrypt data stored, processed, and transmitted by IoT devices to protect against data leaks.
Developers also need to ensure that their IoT web applications are resilient, scalable enough to handle many demands, and compatible with a variety of browsers, Gross said.
Another challenge is to customize IoT web applications based on the user, such as a data scientist, business analyst, field engineer, business manager or IT administrator, Venditti said.