Why is Rust the best language for IoT development?

by Internet of Things

It’s no secret that Internet of Things devices are transforming the world around us. They’ve nestled their way into our daily lives both in the form of more trivial examples, like smart coffee machines, all the way to enhancing critical infrastructure, such as farming and manufacturing equipment. This new level of connectivity has vastly improved our level of control over our environment and industry, with these devices being at the heart of new technological trends such as Digital Twin and Industry 4.0. 

But as with any pioneering tech, finessing how we develop and use it is an ongoing process. IoT devices crucially have far less processing power available than a standard computer, meaning that how we write code for them needs to be optimised in regard to this constraint. Inefficiencies in processing can severely limit the performance of devices and the quality of communication with the rest of the network. This is where more efficient programming languages have a key opportunity to maximise the potential of our IoT devices. With a small number offering faster runtime, Rust in particular, is quickly becoming a front runner among developer communities.

In the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Rust has been voted as the most popular language for five years in a row. An open-source programming language, it is designed to focus on concurrency, speed, and memory safety. Although syntactically similar to C++, it addresses security vulnerabilities related to memory errors and concurrency. It’s mostly used for applications that require performance and safety, including simulation, operating systems, file systems and browser components. Its various features also make it the ideal choice for distributed systems and IoT devices.

As stated, devices with low CPU and memory resources like those in the internet of things may struggle in terms of performance. While C and C++ excel in building strong application performance, developers are familiar with the commonality of bugs that can occur in the area of memory management. Another key requirement is developer productivity, where coding for complex, distributed systems can lead to long development cycles.

Performance wise, Rust excels in speed memory efficiency. By not having runtime or a garbage collector, it empowers performance-critical services and easily integrates with other languages. Rust also provides automatic memory management through its unique ownership system, which makes garbage collection unnecessary. 

Similarly, Rust’s features make it an optimal language for productivity. Rust is easy to use, has very good documentation, a friendly compiler, and a smart editor support tool that provides auto-completion and type inspections. The autocompletion tools and code analyzers were developed by the Rust community to support developers when programming in Rust. Moreover, zero-cost abstractions make sure that there is virtually no runtime overhead for the abstractions that you use, so you only pay for what you use. It also has several conveniences of a ‘modern’ language, like a standard package manager and assorted language conveniences.

In the computing industry, the potential of Rust in IoT development is quickly gaining traction. In 2019, 42 Technology announced the world’s first Rust application for a single-chip Internet of Things (IoT) device. Projects such as these are accelerating the use of Rust and continually building the resources available for IoT developers. Likewise, compute platforms built on Rust take advantage of its numerous benefits at a foundational level – making them the ideal source of distributed application and IoT development.

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