While every CEO seems to have got real buy-in for development and deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled mobile applications these days, the cost of IoT app development remains a burning question, as only few decision makers truly understand the building blocks and basics of the IoT.
Since many enterprises are wondering how easy and expensive it is to build apps for IoT, I've taken time to explore our current IoT proposals and identify the average cost of IoT app development based on certain features and work complexity.
To answer this question, let's first look at the key IoT app components and how they are put together. Basically, it starts at one end with one or more sensors that send data to an IoT app layer via a network connection (WiFi, Bluetooth, etc). Further, this layer collects incoming data from sensors and either stores it internally or sends it to a separate storage location such as Cloud Data Hub or enterprise data center. End users access and interact with your IoT app in any standard way, so UI design matters as much as in any mobile app development project. Of course, it's a simplistic description as in real-world scenarios businesses have to determine how IoT devices are provisioned, establish routing and messaging protocols, create authentication and permissions that dictate which users can access data from which IoT device, etc.
Building such a system from scratch can be a daunting and expensive task, so app development providers normally use reusables and pre-built components as well as selected IoT platforms to speed up development and ensure cost efficiency for the client. That's exactly what we're trying to achieve for each client company at Intersog.
Now let's make some assumptions. Let's imagine you need to build a hybrid app to enable smart controller system in your enterprise. Target app's user is a facility engineer that needs to monitor, control, analyze and provision mechanical equipment.
Below I've outlined the following assumptions your app will be based on:
- App will be hybrid (both for iOS and Android)
- API is CoAP with JSON
- Data that API accepts and returns is text only in 2D format
- App will be able to send binary data for firmware upgrade feature
- There are up to 15 nodes on a given wireless network
- Each node has web server API running
- Each node has own unique username/password credentials
- Each node has its own wifi network that will serve as an access point
- User needs to be authenticated using a PIN code
- There's 1 subnet
- Data calls are made on demand, no streaming or interval calls
- Client deploys API and firmware layer to devices
- Hybrid solution is built with PhoneGap
Based on the Intersog best practices, for this project to be fully executed you'll need up to 650 - 800 man-hours for hybrid app development and 2-3 iterations for UI design alone. The MVP version of such an app normally takes 90 to 120 days to complete.
That's pretty much it. The cost of your IoT app development depends on how much your service provider will charge you for a time and materials (T&M) engagement. The higher the rate for man-hour, the more it'll cost you to build such an app, which is pretty self-obvious. If you're lucky enough to find a credible app development service provider that would charge you $100 per man-hour, the cost of such a project will be between $65,000 and $80,000 excluding app's support and maintenance. Also, the cost will increase depending on your desired app's complexity, robustness, etc. So, outsourcing your IoT app development to a lower-cost location can be a great cost saving solution these days.
Speaking about human resources needed to complete such a project, you normally need a team of 6-8 people including: a business analyst (BA), a project manager (PM), a team lead, a database designer (in many cases you can have your team lead complete database design), a UX / graphics designer, 1 or two PhoneGap developers in charge of UI and screen development, database coding, adhoc and distrib versions, and a QA engineer / tester to test your app for errors and bugs at the testing and release stage of your IoT app dev project.
While this estimate is pretty rough and simplistic, it'll give you a basic idea of what price points should be associated with IoT app development in 2016.