The Internet of Things is all about making passive things active. Seemingly simple things are being enabled by IoT products and services at an ever accelerating rate. Although "thing" is part of it's name, IoT is more of a mechanism than a thing. It is central to discussions in any tech based company, but it is not really a household word. The term "smart" is often used in marketing which is what consumers identify with. What is the role of IoT Apps today?
Let's start with this question? What is an IoT device, really?
It is basically any device which uses telemetry to/from another device or service using the "Internet". The smartphone is the ultimate flexible IoT device. It basically provide the basis of most other IoT devices. This is key, IoT products and services work together to solve problems for product developers and the consumer.
In the scheme of things, smartphones free the producer of IoT products from having to include a screen in each of their devices. Given that everyone carries around a screen to interface with IoT devices, the producer of IoT products has a ubiquitous device available at all times making it possible to use their smart products without including a screen. This reduces the cost of their products and therefore more "smarts" can be included with a modest increase in hardware components. The smartphone is easily the biggest enabler of consumer adoption of IoT.
The next most important technology required in an IoT product are cloud services. Everyone has heard of the "cloud", but again, only the tech world really understands it. Cloud services have also become ubiquitous and are essential for any IoT product. The public has been wary of cloud services for good reason, sending your personal data into the unknown insecurely is like leaving all the doors in your house open 24/7. However, even with major security breaches, the public has accepted this necessary evil. This has only occurred because the value of smart things available 24/7 far outweigh the risks.
The side-effect of smart, cloud enabled devices is the increased sophistication required in any smartphone app. Today, every serious app requires a cloud servce for collecting usage data and the business must use this data to keep the user happy, not to mention another path to the actual device which is behind a secure device designed to prevent access to things on the otherside - like your house. Developing apps with this level of sophistication requires a lot of technical knowhow. Given the increased specialization of engineering talent, teams are requried to produce apps, unless an unsually tech savvy and prolific one-man team can be found.
As a one-man team producing apps myself for many years, I can attest, all too well, to the effort required to implement even a simple concept. Acutally building the app itself is straightforward, figuring out how to make it appealing and functional on a tiny screen is most of the work. Getting all the backend support setup, operational and maintained is a constant (expensive) activity which has no real value to the user. App developers for small businesses, find cost-effective backend solutions difficult to find. Backend services are often out of the app developer's wheelhouse and therefore they often seek help, again requiring a team.
With the advent of IoT, cloud services have become available as commodity and can be integrated with less effort than ever before. This gives the app developer more breathing room. Given the demand for smart things and commoditized IoT technology a boom of products and serviced are now available. In fact, every business today knows they need a website. However, the requirement to provide an IoT enabled app is starting to surprise some businesses, to wit fueling the increase of development required to produce them.