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June 6, 2016updated 22 Sep 2016 3:05pm

Best programming language for IoT

CBR compares five of the top languages being used to connect the world today.

By Joao Lima

From connecting a door lock to making a mug intelligent, programming languages are behind every IoT enabled device and service.

As coding becomes ever more important, not only to create new connected ‘things’ but also to solve eventual problems with those same ‘things’, developers have a wide range of languages to choose from.

CBR dives into the coding world of IoT to find which language best answers its needs.

C

Programming language C is undoubtedly one of the most important in the IoT ecosystem as a whole. This language is the one predominantly used for most IoT projects, especially embedded devices, and is recognised almost anywhere on the internet spectrum.

Over the years, C has been the basis or starting point for many other coding languages, making its knowledge a basic requirement for anyone in the IoT space.

C has been used with IoT boards such as Arduino for example, and even though has other languages ranking higher than itself, it is a basic programming language everyone must know.

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C++

C++ is an object orientated pre-processor for C and has the processing power that C lacks in order to run higher level languages.

The language has been used in embedded programming and is also widely used in projects running Linux.

It adds layers of abstractions, classes and objects. By adding these and by using Linux, C++ lets developers extend programming code for embedded and IoT code.

C++ has inspired others languages including Java, Python C#, D and more.

 

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Java

Java has borrowed coding techniques from other languages like C, C++, Mesa, Eiffel and others. This language is one of the programming languages recognised by experts as the best option for the IoT, and was also the most used one in 2015.

Java, for the consumer IoT, is accepted due to it widespread usage, however, where Java as an IoT language can thrive even more is in the industrial side of the IoT.

For example, Oracle has built a platform, Oracle Java Embedded, to be used in connected vehicles and help with the tremendous amounts of data mining that happen in the vehicle.

Java has built-in capabilities that make it object-orientated and portable with the least hardware dependency. It also includes hardware support libraries that can access the generic code. This will allow for the Java-written code to be able to control a device if the coder has programmed it to do so.

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Javascript

Javascript is the programming language of today’s internet web browsers and HTML. It has borrowed some knowledge from other languages such as C, Python, Lua, and more.

The main different between Javascript and Java is the fact that Javascript is a scripting language that shares libraries of other languages, including Java.

Because of its wide spread use in today’s computing, Javascript helps with devices interoperability. Underscore.js, lodash, traverse and Async are some of the libraries that present different development tools for Javascript.

 

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Python

Python has been mostly used to write web applications, yet, the language has over the last few years gained traction in the IoT coding space for programming projects.

The scripting language is being used by tech giants like Google, Yahoo and NASA, and has been found by the Karlsruhe University in Germany to be more productive than languages like C or Java for a programming problem involving string manipulation and a search in dictionary.

An IoT use for example, is an IoT Python app built on a Raspberry Pi and IBM’s Bluemix platform for Home Automation System.

Python has strength in the embedded devices space and lets developers built IoT applications with understandable data mining results.

 

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So which one is the best?

Undoubtedly, all the above languages have an impact in the IoT space up to an extent. Having said that, the choice of language today comes down very much to the end-use of the application, product or service you want to give a life to.

For example, some would say C is the one language to go for, and up to a point, they are not wrong. Most other languages have in fact taken bits of coding from C, like Java or Python. Yet, while C is great for embedded devices and a widely used language, it is not so up-to-scratch when it comes to middleware, API development or front end development.

Javascript in that sense seems to be much more prepared as the programming language for the IoT, as currently this is the language the internet speaks the most.

According to the IoT Developer Survey 2015, by the Eclipse IoT Working Group, has found that amongst IoT developers, the most used languages are (in order from most used to least) Java, C, Javascript, C++ and Python.

This is followed by other programming languages such as Node.js, PHP, Lua, C#, Ruby, Assembler, Go and SWIFT.

In the end, it all comes down to which use you want to give the technology. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, as the IoT is such a broad umbrella that covers things from a smart lock to a driverless class, most languages will be crucial to design IoT software applications.

Developers will not miss out if they know C, and if they also add in to their coding portfolio Java, Javascript, C++ and Phyton.

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