As smart home technology grows in popularity, it’s becoming important for IoT vendors to create well-designed mobile apps that help their customers control and interact with their products.
Mobile apps give homeowners abilities like interacting with visitors at their door or controlling their home’s heating and cooling systems while they are away. The importance of these apps can’t be understated.
They hold the power of both automation and internet technology to enhance their energy savings, security, and overall convenience at home.
What should be the priorities when developing smart home mobile apps?
Many of the same principles that make any mobile app successful will apply to smart home apps, but there are a few special considerations.
In this article, we’ll cover four important challenges to successfully integrating smart home appliances with a customer’s mobile devices.
Security Will Be a Priority
Consumers are increasingly aware of the security issues inherent in any application connected to the web, whether from desktop-based apps to apps for smart wearables.
Tech-savvy customers will also be aware of the security and privacy issues that go along with IoT appliances.
A successful smart home app will treat the user’s data and physical safety as a paramount concern. It’ll also need to make its security measures clear to the homeowner.
Smart home appliance shoppers will be comparing the security measures of different vendors and factoring them into their final purchasing decisions. It’ll be an advantage to be transparent about a smart home app’s security features.
A mobile controller app that integrates a suite of smart home devices gives vendors the opportunity to strengthen the security of their entire IoT system.
Device-to-device authentication, encryption of transmitted and stored data, and secure login procedures will all be features that consumers will expect to be included.
The Challenge of Integrating with IoT Devices
One of the hurdles of developing a single mobile app for smart home systems is integrating it with a variety of different hardware and software technologies.
IoT devices will need to standardize their methods of communication and command sets to make it more practical to control them from a single app. Otherwise, mobile app developers need to carefully program an app to interact with a variety of IoT devices a customer might purchase.
The technical overhead for maintaining compatibility will be an issue unless IoT vendors design their appliances with mobile app controllers in mind.
- The hardware issues for mobile app development center around the wide variety of sensors, data collection abilities, and command sets that each IoT device possesses.
- The software side of the problem centers around IoT device operating systems and the way they communicate over a network.
Tackling these issues in tandem is a technically demanding aspect of smart home app development.
User Interface Design
The user interface design principles for a smart home app might seem the same as other consumer mobile apps, and this is largely true. There’s a set of basic UI design principles that will ensure any mobile app is user-friendly and efficient.
The added problem that smart home app developers face is the variety of interfaces they’ll need to bring together to control different IoT devices.
A smart home app will need to:
- Stream video feeds from security cameras
- Have controls for switching lights on and off
- Have controls for locking and unlocking doors
- Be able to set thermostats for heating and cooling systems.
- In some cases, an app will need to organize these controls on a room-by-room basis.
- Analyze data into insightful reports for homeowners to use when they make decisions. This is especially true for HVAC settings that depend on the time of year and the user’s budgetary goals.
Organizing all these features in a coherent fashion can is another major challenge for smart home app UI designers.
Improve Performance with Edge Computing
Smart home mobile apps will also be important to edge computing strategies that boost IoT device performance and filter data sent to remote servers.
The mobile app will be a natural node where data collection and calculations can take place inside the smart home’s local network.
Sending only important data to the cloud reduces bandwidth consumption, which becomes important as consumers add more devices to their homes. Moving the calculations for controlling IoT devices to a local network node will also make the system operate faster and more reliably.
The main issue that will be encountered when using a customer’s mobile device for edge computing tasks will be the uncertainty of its capabilities. Older mobile phones and tablets may lack the needed processing power, or they may have limited storage capacity.
Still, when it
functions as a customer’s main IoT device controller, it makes sense to move
the data filtering tasks onto mobile devices rather than sending all data
collected by IoT appliances to remote cloud servers.
The main goal of a smart home mobile app will be to offer a secure, reliable, and efficient way for homeowners to control a variety of IoT devices as a single system.
Thus, mobile app developers will need to focus primarily on security features, tight integration with smart home appliances, and ways to improve responsiveness like edge computing. A coherent and user-friendly UI will also make or break a customer’s overall impression of a smart home app’s value.