Getting started with Embedded systems and IoT


I assume you have chosen the right hardware for yourself, right? If not, don’t worry, check out our previous post. It’s all you need to ace your hardware choice. But, now that you have the right hardware in mind and have an intuition about how these systems work, you might be wondering, what programming language should I learn?

This article will cover the pros and cons of the top 3 programming languages for IoT being utilised in the industry along with my recommendations.

Some programming languages are more widely used than others but the future of IoT is likely to be multi-lingual so there is no one perfect language for IoT development. Considering the pros and cons of some of the most commonly used languages for IoT should give you a clear picture of the various options available.

Before we dive into these languages, one needs to understand that IoT comprises 3 stages-measurement, collection and analysis. All of these stages have different environments for development and hence different languages facilitating it. Measurement is what we precisely covered with the previous article, that is, measuring variables from surroundings using peripherals
(the hardware). Now, with the view of programming languages in mind, we’ll briefly touch upon all 3 stages.

So, what are the most commonly used languages for IoT? Well, the answer may seem a little too obvious to some of you, but yes, C, Java, and Python are the most widely used languages across the three stages. Let’s see what is the best one for you.

At the device level, computing power is usually quite limited. C works best here because the language is ideal for writing low-level code (i.e. code close to the hardware layer). As the compiler compiles to hexadecimal code, it doesn’t require a lot of processing power, and it’s able to work directly with the RAM.

C is the most common language for microcontroller programming, making it a no-brainer for sensor and gateway hardware layer applications. However, since C is such a low — level language, its syntax can become cluttered and messy quickly. Being a beginner that can be intimidating. That is exactly the reason why you may want to reconsider your choice of going with C.

Java is unarguably the most commonly learned language in the world because of its wide use cases for various applications, be it backened development, app development, or IoT development. For IoT applications, by using Java Virtual Machine capability, Java code can be transferred to any chip. Java is highly used where JVMs are common like smartphones and servers.

However, it’s not as efficient as C at the device level and not as much easier than C too. So, it’s not a good choice for the first stage of IoT but as far as the gateway and server-level programming are concerned, Java can be a good choice.

Python is a high — level scripting language. It has a vast variety of libraries for various applications. It allows you to write compact and readable code as its syntax is very clean. It allows the programmer to do more in fewer lines of code. It is widely used and probably the easiest language to learn.

It is unparalleled and ideal for the data analysis part of IoT development. It is used for all the stages of IoT and is adopted by industry experts for prototyping IoT products.

However, it’s not as efficient as Java and C for hardware-level programming.

The final verdict
Now, that you know about the pros, cons, and use cases of these 3 languages, you may have concluded that all these languages are ideal for some, or the other stage involved in IoT development but the question remains, which one is the best for you? The answer to this question depends upon what you wish to learn.

For people who want to learn about programming the hardware, that is, for people who want to delve deep into fields like embedded systems and robotics (not necessarily IoT), C is probably your best bet.

However, for those who wish to learn backend programming, and develop gateways and servers for the collection of data from these devices, Java can be your language of choice. For people considering to explore the stage of analyzing data collected from these devices over the cloud, Python is the language for you.

My recommendation
I feel that the best choice for any beginner considering to explore the field of embedded systems and IoT would be to go for Python. It may not be as efficient as the other choices in some cases, but for beginners, Python’s easy to learn syntax and simplicity of codebases outweighs it. Moreover, it does not limit one from sticking to a single stage of IoT development as it has support for hardware-level programming, backened programming as well as a large number of libraries dedicated to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence which is one of the most talked-about technologies in general and specifically in the field of IoT with predictions of more than 70 billion devices being connected to the internet by 2025.

If you wish to know more about how AI and machine learning has huge potential in the IoT industry, stay tuned for the next part of this series. Until then, happy learning!

Written by: RITESH SOUN (General Secretary), BOOLEAN(Tech Society of SVC)



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