Would you prefer to look for the air conditioning remote, which is probably down the back of the living room couch, or use your smartphone to do the exact same thing? Even better — the connected device application grants advanced data to depict energy use and room temperatures. Here’s why IoT apps are eating device interfaces.

The Internet of Things is eating standalone devices and interfaces.

IoT seems to be taking over the connected world. As the proliferation of IoT devices only grows – with 30 billion IoT devices predicted to be online by next year (Statica). Apps that pair a device to mobile continue to replace the old standalone interfaces of plastic buttons and LED displays.

Enabling internet connection inside a consumer device is only getting cheaper.

Small Wi-Fi modules that provide both internet access and the program to run the application are costing less than a dollar. Gone are the days of separate, graphical LED displays sometimes in high-end systems with touch capabilities.

App pairing is more comfortable and more convenient.

But the app pairing means additional apps and screen demands are invading today’s smartphones. These demands are leading to new ways of app development and phone use.

Let’s explore how this has changed the expectations for both the developer and the end-user.

Devices of yesterday

It is worth thinking about the Internet of Things before and after the smartphone. Why? Because the smartphone completely changed design considerations for internet-connected items.

For example, one of the earliest examples of IoT came from LG in the year 2000. The internet refrigerator generated plenty of fanfare at the time but struggled to convert into consumer interest thanks to a whopping USD 20,000 price tag.

Nonetheless, the fridge displayed the telltale signs of early IoT. The device came complete with screens and trackers to help the customer monitor what they had in their fridge.

Fast forward to 2010. Nest released a smart thermostat that learns the user’s habits and adjusts the home temperature automatically, putting the “smart home” concept in the spotlight. This also used a standalone display to present information and allow customer input.

Smartphones and mobile applications have been improved and innovated in leaps and bounds since that time.

Meaning that most companies rely on creating software to pair with handheld devices to cut down on costs and product turnaround.

The benefits of mobile.

It is easy to understand why the market has progressed in this direction. Smartphones are ubiquitous and internet connection widespread, making standalone interfaces redundant for the modern era.

Consider that applications can be easily created, downloaded — and updated — bypassing the need to create specific hardware which is tough to upgrade once released into the world.

The rise and rise of mobile devices make this transition possible for the consumer.

Three-quarters of all U.S. citizens have mobile devices, and almost half of these users report that they could not live without them. People shop on their phones, learn on their phones, and create on their phones — and the application market has grown exponentially with this user demand.

There were almost 200 billion standalone apps available for download last year.

Such apps are projected to generate $188 billion USD in 2020. Smartphones are big business, and they are being utilized for third-party hosting by IoT companies all over the world.

Live camera feeds, smart homes, kitchen appliances – devices today are consistently released with accompanying applications that allow a direct and constant connection. Rather than buttons and screens on the device, users can control their myriad devices from anywhere in the world with the buttons and screens of their smartphones.

The story of smartphone success travels with a similar story across most sectors — from wearables to health and retail. Wise companies use the smartphone advantage in marketing and branding to continually leverage mobile apps. It is also a way to pair users with their devices.

What do these new considerations in IoT mean for devices going forward?

The world in your hands — IoT and smartphones.

The benefits for the device designer are clear – faster turnaround and cheaper production. Less physical, tactile inputs certainly make life easier for the creators of these devices, and the benefits are largely there for the consumer too.

These benefits are much more efficient for users to be able to connect with their devices at any time from their smartphone. Especially true and useful for IoT and smartphone usage is in the case of security devices and monitors.

However, as with any connection and device on the internet, private data must be considered. Many IoT devices on the cheaper end of the spectrum are renowned for their hackability.

Alarm bells should be ringing when the majority of IoT devices collect and collate such private data on their users.

These security considerations are even more serious when there are not one but two elements that could be susceptible to outside forces.

Smartphones are better than the majority of IoT devices when it comes to security but are anything but impenetrable fortresses. Some details have emerged about flaws in Apple’s iMessage software that could make its devices vulnerable to attack.

In one case, researchers said the vulnerability was so severe that the only way to rescue a targeted iPhone would be to delete all the data off it.

For now, it will be up to vendors to decide whether they view safeguarding the data of their users as a priority.

If the answer is yes, they do have the ability to install peer-to-peer (P2P) connections which relay between IoT device and receiver? For the user, they also can decide to install and run security software to their smartphone.

At the end of the day, this is where the market is moving. People do everything on their phones — so adding additional functionality and connectivity assists the value proposition for both parties in this equation.

Device interfaces do not look like making a comeback anytime soon when there are clear benefits for both creators and users.

Carsten Rhod Gregersen

Carsten Rhod Gregersen is the CEO and founder of Nabto, the company providing a peer-to-peer (P2P) based platform to IoT devices. Carsten counts almost two decades of experience leading software and innovation companies with an aim to create technology that continuously improves and makes the world a better place - one line of code at a time.