5 of the Best Programming Languages for IoT

Best Programming Languages Iot Featured

Unless you’re building the simplest of Internet of Things projects, chances are you’ll need to write some code at some point. You may be able to get by running someone else’s code if you’re building a common project, but for the most part, you’ll need to be acquainted with code.

As with anything, you have a lot of choices when you’re choosing a programming language for your IoT project. A few things to consider are performance, the libraries available, and how easy it is to write and maintain code in the language. We’ve put together what we think are some of your best options.

1. C++

One of the best things about the ubiquitous C++ is that it’s so pervasive that you don’t need to learn everything about this programming language to utilize it in IoT.

Best Programming Languages Iot C

There’s a reason why so many Arduino developers in particular swear by C++, because it’s so handy for embedding into devices. Seeing as today’s planes, cars and other forms of transport are in C++ (as is Google’s backend), there must be something to it.

C++ has more power and a higher level of abstraction, objects and classes than its ancestor language, C. The fact that many IoT operating systems have extant support for C++ also makes it extremely versatile, particularly with Linux-based systems, which are the most popular for use in IoT.

But C also has it’s uses though, which brings us onto our next entry…

2. C

C is one of the oldest languages still widely used today. Despite the many languages to come along since, there are still plenty of projects that make heavy use of C. Some even only use C. There’s a good reason for this, too: performance.

Best Programming Languages Iot C

The other languages on this use a runtime, which means that either bytecode or the actual code you write is being interpreted when your program runs. C, on the other hand, compiles to machine code. This means that C programs are generally much faster than their equivalents in other languages.

Any embedded platform you find will be using C in at least some parts of the system. If you’re running on a system with limited resources, C will help you make the most of the processing power available.

3. Java

When Java first appeared in the ’90s, it carried with it the mantra “write once, run anywhere.” This means that at least theoretically, any code you write should run on any system that can run the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). 

Best Programming Languages Iot Java

You need to write your code carefully to account for platform differences, but this easy portability is handy. In a lot of cases this means that if your Java code runs on your machine, it should also run on an IoT device as long it has a JVM. 

Java is known for being heavy when it comes to resources, but there’s an option that makes it a good pick for IoT. Java Embedded SE has many of the features of the standard language but uses fewer resources.

4. Python

Python is often used in teaching the basics of programming due to how easy it is to learn. This also makes it a good pick for your IoT project if you’re not especially well-versed in coding. The downside is that the Python interpreter is slightly heavy, so it’s not great for low-spec environments.

Best Programming Languages Iot Python

One major strength of Python is that the language is very good at dealing with databases. If your project involves taking measurements and writing them to a database, Python may be a great pick for you.

Python is also one of the languages of choice for the Raspberry Pi, so much of the code in projects for that device is written in Python. This means you have plenty of opportunities to read the code and learn.

5. JavaScript

Despite the similarities in their names, JavaScript and Java have nothing to do with each other. The only thing similar about the two is that they’re both programming languages that began life in the ’90s.

Best Programming Languages Iot Javascript

In JavaScript’s early days it was used mainly for adding functionality to webpages. Now, developers use it for everything from web servers to manipulating databases and even creating games.

Like Python, JavaScript is an interpreted language, but many IoT devices are able to run Node.js. This is an interpreter that lets JavaScript run just as Python does instead of being limited to a browser. There are even microcontrollers like Espruino that run JavaScript out of the box.

Other IoT Skills You Should Know

Coding is an absolutely vital skill when it comes to IoT, especially if you’re looking to make it your career. That said, coding isn’t the be-all-end-all when it comes to IoT skills. There are plenty of other things you’ll need to know as well.

Not sure where to start? Take a look at our list of technical skills you need to know to be successful with IoT projects.

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Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk

Kris Wouk is a writer, musician, and whatever it's called when someone makes videos for the web.