Whether it’s consumer technology or industrial or somewhere in between, there are countless instances of companies that focus on hardware making the leap into mobile apps. That number will only continue to increase as a new era of interconnectivity dawns within the growing landscape of the Internet of Things (IoT), where once-ordinary physical objects become vital pieces in a powerful expanding network of devices and systems.
Today, we’re seeing incredible advances in hardware technology in a wide range of industries, from audiovisual tech to medical devices to transportation and countless more. As hardware advances, the innovative potential for connectivity advances too. In many cases, mobile apps can serve as a bridge to new possibilities by expanding either how the hardware is used or controlled, or by opening up avenues for collecting, connecting and accessing powerful datasets.
For hardware-focused companies, the world of mobile apps can be new territory sometimes, however. There can be a lot of rewards when developing a mobile app and integrating it with your hardware business, but, as is always the case with apps for any industry or market, there can be risks, too.
Here are a few key questions hardware companies should explore before deciding to develop a mobile app. In some cases, the questions are the same as for any development project, but there are also specific considerations when hardware gets involved, as well.
1. How Do the Benefits Stack Up Against the Costs?
A solid cost-benefit analysis should always be at the foundation of any decision to develop a mobile app. This is especially the case for hardware-focused companies that may not have the resources on hand or experience needed to manage a complex mobile app development project at the start. A custom mobile app development effort, particularly one that requires integration in some form with proprietary hardware or its related systems, can be a resource-intensive and complex process.
On the other hand, developing a mobile app can also be incredibly beneficial for your hardware company. For example, in the case of a mobile app-hardware integration, mobile apps can be used to replace or supplement traditional devices for hardware control, like remotes or laptops/computers. The convenience, ease of use and mobility alone can be incredibly valuable. Mobile apps can also enable more capabilities and greater accessibility and productivity. Regardless of whether or not they’re integrated with your hardware, mobile apps could also help you expand into new markets or connect, engage with and grow your customers. A mobile app might give you a unique competitive advantage that adds up to a solid return on your investment.
2. What Are Your Main Goals for the App, and How Will Your Users Use It?
Like any development project, understanding the goals and use case is paramount for determining the requirements and possibilities of a mobile app. Hardware companies that branch out to the mobile world can have any number of goals, from enabling remote access and interactive controls for the hardware to entering another arena entirely to expand their business or reach new customers.
Understanding your goals can also help you envision how your app will be used, who will use it, and what the users’ goals will be. This is essentially the key to any app’s success, and that’s especially the case for mobile apps for hardware companies. If your app isn’t solving a problem for your users or meeting one or more of their needs in an innovative way, they won’t be using it. Maybe a mobile app isn’t the best way to meet your business goal in that case. Or maybe it’s just a matter of honing in on the app’s key purpose and finding the balance between user and business needs. Factoring in the most effective user experience (UX) will be essential here.
3. How Will Your Hardware Integrate and/or Communicate With the App?
Depending on the purpose and goals of your app, there are a number of protocols that can link your hardware and your mobile app. One of the most common and increasingly useful methods, especially for consumer technology (such as smart watches, for example) is Bluetooth. The latest Bluetooth standards have greatly enhanced the energy efficiency and speed of data transfer possible between a device and an app. WiFi, on the other hand, will open up more IoT possibilities and is the best option for remote access to your device (such as, for just one example, home surveillance cameras where users can connect to a live stream via their mobile apps from anywhere). There are other possibilities as well. It all comes down to how your app will be used and what you want it to achieve.
In addition to your own hardware, there’s also the hardware and other capabilities within the mobile device that can be harnessed. Will you need your app to access the phone’s camera, TouchID, NFC, chips, etc.? Will you want push notifications or geolocation capabilities? There are a lot of possibilities, but all will factor into how complex the mobile app development process will be.
4. What Level and Type of Data Transfer Will Be Required — and How Secure Does It Need to Be?
Do you intend for the mobile app to process data from your hardware — such as reading measurements, streaming audiovisual content, or taking in other input? And if so, how? For example, will the mobile app enable real-time updates, search functionality, more complex data visualization, etc.? Will you want to use a mobile app to take advantage of and extend your existing software to the cloud? There are a lot of possibilities, but they will determine the software needs for the mobile app.
Speaking of data, security is another essential factor to consider and prioritize when developing a mobile app for your hardware company. A highly secure app is important regardless of the industry, but even higher security protocols will be required if your app will be dealing with or processing financial, medical or other highly sensitive data.
Security will also need to be a top factor for consideration when the mobile app will be integrating and communicating with your hardware. The interconnectivity enabled by IoT technologies offers incredible innovation but also presents growing and rapidly evolving cybersecurity threats. Your mobile app will need to have security protocols factored in from the earliest planning stages to stay on top.
5. What Are the Risks, and What Are Some Ways to Manage Those Risks?
Finally, hardware companies that want to develop and/or integrate a mobile app should be sure they have a clear picture of the risks involved in the effort, as well. Risk assessments are always crucial, but especially when venturing into new markets or revenue streams and taking on new types of projects. The risks that you should factor range widely. They can encompass everything from what happens if your hardware evolves or becomes obsolete, how to handle a security compromise, or what impact the app’s potential failure — or success — would have on your company and your brand, among many others.
There can be resource risks, as well — not just the money spent, but also the talent and skillset needed to take on the complex task of developing your app, especially if your mobile app will be integrating with high-tech hardware. Hardware-focused companies new to mobile apps will likely not have the mobile development and engineering expertise needed on hand. So then, the question becomes, do you hire and train a team of engineers to develop this app for you? Do you look for a third-party developer? Or do you choose an option somewhere in between, such as a team extension? There are risks (and benefits) associated with all those approaches.
Risks should never scare you away entirely, of course. It’s all about how to manage and mitigate them. For example, some hardware-focused companies consider a mobile app development to be an experimental project and treat it accordingly. If compromises to your main product or your reputation are significant risks, one option could be to develop and launch a stand-alone product or app under another brand to minimize that risk.
These are just some of the important questions and decisions that hardware companies should consider before developing a mobile app. Given how powerful a tool mobile apps can be in today’s interconnected and rapidly evolving digital world, chances are good that a mobile app will prove to be an excellent investment. Knowing the answers to these questions from the start will help make sure you position your company for success down the road.
Can Genium help your high-tech hardware company develop a game-changing mobile app?
At Genium, we specialize in groundbreaking custom software development projects in emerging and complex tech. Our expertise includes developing top-quality and ultra-secure mobile apps for some of the world’s most innovative hardware leaders in a number of industries. We have a solid 10+ year record of cutting-edge and agile client work, and our teams of expert developers, engineers and security experts are perfectly positioned to accelerate your time to market while meeting the highest quality standards. Contact us today to find out how we can help you skyrocket your hardware business with a powerful mobile app.