Qt Releases Light Version of IoT Development Framework

Qt Lite enables developers to streamline the creation/delivery of software and devices for all relevant platforms and any connected object, regardless of size.

Whether one pronounces it "cute" or "kew-tee"—either is OK—the Qt Company has as its singular and lofty mission to provide a cross-platform framework that enables developers to write the application code once, then deploy it anywhere and on any device without worrying about the back end.

The Helsinki-based open-source development tool provider on Sept. 30 launched the Qt Lite Project, a major expansion of its framework that makes software and device development faster and easier than it was previously.

Qt Lite contains a range of new enhancements that enable developers to streamline the creation and delivery of software and devices for all relevant platforms and any connected object, regardless of its size.

Qt's platform, first released in 1995 but which has been continually iterated to stay current, is currently in use by millions of developers across the world and eight of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies. It offers a vast array of APIs and libraries, among other components, for developers to use at will.

Write Code Once, Deploy Literally Anywhere

"We make it so developers can write their source code once, then run it anywhere, on any device," Nils Christian Roscher-Nielsen, product manager at Qt, told eWEEK. "Qt is a C++ framework that allows developers to have full control of everything they do. We supply a completely native back end for every deployment there is, whether its Mac OS or Linux or Windows or many of the embedded platforms—Windows embedded, embedded Linux or real-time operating systems.

"So instead of having this virtual disdain binary application that is interpreted by different virtual machines on each platform, and Java limiting which platform they want to write a virtual machine for, we implement the libraries natively onto each platform. We provide that source code to our commercial customers, so they can continue to port it to more platforms, if they want to."

This is certainly a useful tool now, but wait until the internet of things and all those new devices become commonplace in the near future. That's what Qt Lite is all about.
With 6.4 billion connected things in use in 2016, the connected device market is expected to grow from $157.05 billion in 2016 to $661.74 billion by 2021 (at a compound annual growth rate of 33.3 percent from 2016 to 2021), according to research from Gartner and MarketsandMarkets.

Tailor-made for Burgeoning IoT Development Market

Considering this huge market opportunity for organizations and independent developers building connected devices for the IoT, Qt seeks to ensure that all devices can communicate over supported protocols and that software can easily be extended to the next-generation device—a concept known as "future proofing" that is especially critical in burgeoning markets like the IoT.

The Qt open-source software development toolkit enables developers to create applications that can run across multiple platforms, including Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X and Linux, as well as some mobile platforms, such as Symbian and Windows Phone.

Nokia had acquired the development framework in 2008 when it bought Trolltech—predecessor of Qt—and targeted Qt to developers to create applications for Symbian and MeeGo, an open-source mobile OS the company was developing with Intel.

However, with Nokia transitioning in 2010 and 2011 to the Windows Phone operating system for its mobile devices and the bulk of mobile development happening on Apple iOS and Google Android platforms, Nokia's need for the Qt technology quickly waned. Software maker Digia in 2011 acquired parts of Qt and then bought the rest of the company in August 2012.

Finite Pool of IoT Developers
A lot has happened in the IT world since then, starting with the IoT.

"The number of connected devices in use is growing at an exponential rate, but there is a rather finite pool of developers able to build applications and software for these technologies," said Andy Mulholland, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"As a result, in order to keep up with consumer demand and seize the opportunity created by connected devices and the internet of things, developers need a platform that is able to strike a perfect balance between offering a robust set of development tools while providing a nimble and lightweight delivery model."
As does the overarching Qt framework of software and device development tools, Qt Lite has been specifically designed to enable agile iterative development of software and devices for a range of industries, including the health care, automotive, avionics, and home appliance and entertainment sectors.

For example, using Qt Lite, developers can build software and devices that include in-dashboard screens for connected cars, smart medical devices and feature-rich user interfaces (UIs) for WiFi-enabled home entertainment systems.

What's New in Qt Lite
Key features of Qt Lite include:

--New configuration system: Allows developers to define the content they need from each module in much more detail for their projects and easily allows for feature-based tailoring of the Qt modules. This includes full enablement for Qt Core, Qt Network, Qt GUI, Qt QML and Qt Quick.

--New graphical configuration tool: Configures, selects and sets various options when building with Qt. By making all the options available easily accessible, integrating the documentation and providing reasonable starting default configurations for various use cases, developers gain a simple and efficient way to enhance their existing projects.

--Flexible developer workflow: Allows developers to start with a minimal deployable configuration and simply add in any additional features they may require while developing their projects. By significantly reducing the time spent on optimization at the end of the project, products can have a much faster time to market.

--No OpenGL requirement: Qt sees the need for cheaper, more efficient or specially certified hardware that does not support OpenGL. To meet this need, Qt Lite introduces a fully integrated, supported and efficient 2D Software Renderer for Qt Quick. This allows developers to use the CSS and JavaScript-like language, QML, to create user interfaces on embedded devices without OpenGL hardware available.

--Expanded hardware support: A major part of Qt's focus is expanding the selection of available hardware that developers can easily and efficiently use to deploy Qt-based applications. Several devices and project types can benefit from Qt's current efforts, such as devices with RAM and flash in the 32MB or even 16MB area, with the intention to go much lower in the future. Furthermore, there is no longer a need for OpenGL hardware to use Qt Quick, which significantly extends the number of devices on which Qt can be used.
You can learn more about The Qt Company, the Qt Lite Project and the upcoming Qt 5.8 release at this year's Qt World Summit, the largest annual event dedicated to Qt developers, business leaders and product managers. The event will take place at Pier 27 in San Francisco on Oct. 18-20 and will feature keynotes, demos, breakouts and industry highlights.

For more information on the Qt World Summit 2016, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...