The Best Open Source Programming Languages for IoT


The Internet of Things is slowly but surely making an impact on how we live. From automated transport systems and self-driven vehicles, to smart homes, smart cities and wearables, the list of IoT applications is large and is growing by the day. The choice of a programming language for IoT applications is, therefore, a vital one for developers and programmers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) basically involves the collection and management of a large amount of data from a vast network of devices and sensors. The data that has been retrieved is processed and then shared with the other units or devices on the network, so that real-time decisions can be made. An example of such networks is cars monitoring themselves — having the capabilities to ‘know’ what to do in particular instances. Another such example is security alarm systems that are installed in houses. These systems can judge which situations are safe and when the alarm needs to be set off to warn the inmates of the house.

IoT, therefore, needs a program to help it easily connect with different devices, and maintain this connectivity in the ecosystem. The IoT architectural environment is divided into four major sections:

  • The sensors that create the data
  • The hubs or local gateways that organise it
  • The geographical locations
  • Centralised servers that collect the data

A basic sensor generally uses C as the programming language, as the latter can work directly with the RAM. For the rest, developers should pick and choose the language that best suits them and the build. As the hubs are like small consoles or smartphones, they will use a standard OS. So communication via a command line will feel the same as what developers have grown accustomed to.

The top five languages for building IoT solutions are:

  • Java
  • C
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • PHP


Java is a programming language that offers portability to the network, and developers can learn it easily. These two aspects come together to make Java the perfect program to help devices connect with each other. Almost all devices, starting from PCs to mobile phones, use Java. It is also an integral part of the world of the Internet, which makes it a good choice for IoT. Java offers every device the best level of functionality, giving it a high level of security and a good amount of scalability. Also, the fact that Java has a huge ecosystem makes it even more suitable for IoT. Senior Java J2EE developers are creating innovative applications that will help in achieving the goal of a connected world.

When developers write an embedded application, they need to take lots of factors into consideration. These include the real-time operating system to be used and the various protocols that need to be connected with it. When Java Me is used, it abstracts all these factors. This makes it easier for the written application to run on various devices without any call for change, anywhere.

The benefits of using Java for IoT: Listed below are some of the key advantages of using Java for IoT.

  1. It gives an enhanced user experience.
  2. It enhances the life cycle of the product.
  3. Increases market reach.
  4. One can have control over the roadmap and BOM – since different kinds of hardware support Java.
  5. The resource availability is high.
  6. The support cost is comparatively low.
  7. It has been proven to be reliable and secure.

The C language

One of the most important programming languages in the IoT system is C. This is the lowest layer of software, and the one closest to the hardware. C has been the foundation for many other coding languages over the years. Hence, mastering it is a basic necessity for anyone working with IoT projects.

C doesn’t require a lot of processing power and is available on almost every advanced embedded system platform. It is procedural rather than object-oriented as it does not have built-in capabilities. This programming language is compiled, making it great for IoT projects.

The syntax is cluttered with punctuation, and there are a million different little mistakes you can make, but the language is still the first choice for many programmers who write for the lowest layer of software. The language hides nothing from you, and that means you can fiddle with every part of the code to squeeze out the best performance from an underpowered device. Every bit can be flipped. Every value on the stack is available. Just don’t make a mistake, because there are only a few safety nets.

The benefits of using C for IoT: Here are some of the advantages of using C for IoT.

  1. C language is the building block for many other currently known languages.
  2. C is a highly portable language.
  3. There are only 32 keywords in ANSI C, and its strength lies in its built-in functions.
  4. Another important advantage of C is its ability to extend itself.
  5. C language is a structured programming language.


Python is mostly used for writing Web applications, but it has gained popularity in the IoT system. It is an interpreted language that offers readability with syntax, but without compromising on the size. This language has a large number of libraries, and can get more done with fewer lines of code. Python’s clean syntax is suitable for database arrangement. In case your app needs the data to be arranged in a database format or use tables, Python is the right choice.

Python started as a scripting language to glue together real code, but it’s increasingly being used as the main language by many developers. When small devices have enough memory and computational power, developers are free to choose the language that makes their lives easier, and that is often turning out to be Python.

Python is the language of choice for one of the most popular microcontrollers in the market, the Raspberry Pi. There are also versions of boards designed to be even smaller. The Micro Python board and software package is a small microcontroller optimised to run Python on a small board that’s only a few square centimetres in area.

The benefits of using Python for IoT: Listed below are some of the advantages of using Python for IoT.

  1. It is a very simple language to learn, and is easy to implement and deploy; so you don’t need to spend a lot of time learning formatting standards and compiling options.
  2. Since it is portable, expandable and embeddable, it is not system-dependent. Hence, it supports a lot of the single-board computers in the market these days, irrespective of the architecture and operating system.
  3. Most importantly, it has a huge community which provides a lot of support and libraries for the language.


While many still think of JavaScript as a language for popping up alert boxes on Web pages, its relatively recent popularity on the server makes it a surprisingly favoured choice for IoT applications.

JavaScript is used as the programming language in all the Web browsers and HTML. This is a programming language that shares its libraries with other languages. JavaScript makes things easier as it makes the devices interoperable. Most of the work is focused on the servers and hubs that collect information and then store it.

The smaller smart hubs and sensors that run Linux can usually run Node.js. But even if most of the Node.js code runs on larger machines, there are some ongoing efforts to bring Node.js to smaller machines. Espruino and Tessel are two examples of microcontrollers that run JavaScript from the beginning. Tessel, for instance, is built around Node.js, making it easy for Web developers to move into the IoT without learning a new language.

The benefits of using JavaScript for IoT: Here are some benefits of using JavaScript for IoT.

  1. JavaScript has the support of Node.js.
  2. It is a robust scripting language which communicates with browsers.
  3. There is a vast availability of modern development resources, such as JavaScript libraries, testing tools, prototyping tools, client-side development frameworks, server-side JavaScript APIs, and more.
  4. Another important factor that makes JavaScript a suitable technology for the Internet of Things is the vast availability of learning resources.


At a time when industries are getting automated, synchronised cloud services and the centralised management of applications can work well with the distributed architecture. The advanced concepts and powerful technology features of PHP can do wonders for the IoT industry. While the language’s role on the server, that of juggling micro services, is an obvious application, it is also finding some traction at the lowest level. A number of Raspberry Pi developers are talking about starting up a full LAMP stack with Apache, MySQL and PHP running on top of Linux. They are effectively inverting the paradigm and turning the lowliest thing on the Internet into a full Web server.

If a Raspberry Pi has enough spare cycles—and it often does—then putting a LAMP stack on the chip makes development simpler. All of the server-side code developed over the last 20 years can find a home in a small sensor. PHP may seem like a toy next to the full-strength, pointer juggling machismo of C, but it gets the job done quickly.

The benefits of using PHP for IoT: Listed below are the main advantages of using PHP for the IoT.

  1. Easy and simple to learn.
  2. Extremely flexible.
  3. Easy integration and compatibility.
  4. Efficient performance.
  5. Cost-efficient.


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