Why Use Rust over C++ for IoT Solution Development

The Internet of Things has become an integral part of our daily routines, where more and more devices are turning smart. As this domain expands, there's an urgent need to guarantee the security, productivity, and efficiency of these software-enabled devices. Hence, Rust programming language stepped in and is becoming a second popular choice after C++ for IoT device developers. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why Rust is becoming a favored choice for embedded IoT development and how it can be effectively used in this field.

In IoT development, C++ has always been a go-to solution when speaking about IoT and embedded systems. Also, this language has an experienced development community and is widely used by engineers worldwide. However, recently, Rust came into play and showed its potential. So, we decided to explore why developers keep leaning toward embedded programming with Rust over tried-and-proven C++.

IoT Software Development

History of Rust Software Development Services

Rust, a modern system programming language, was initially conceptualized by Mozilla and the broader development community. It was designed for secure, swift, and parallel application development, eliminating potential memory and security challenges related to embedded solutions & custom IoT development. Since its inception in 2006, Rust language went through many changes and improvements and was finally introduced as an open-source ecosystem in 2010.

Beyond the development community, major corporations like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, and GitHub also support and finance Rust, furthering its development and usage. This undoubtedly speeds up its development and increases its attractiveness for use.

Rust vs C++ Dilemma: Why Everyone is Shifting from C++ to Rust in Embedded Systems Creation

Rust and C++ programming languages are two powerful tools for high-performance application development. For embedded IoT applications, several crucial factors influence the development speed, security, and reliability of the application beyond just the foundational software. Below are the most significant of these factors.

Security and memory management
A standout feature of Rust is its compile-time security system. This ensures that many memory-related issues, like memory leaks and buffer overflows, are detected and addressed during the compilation phase itself, leading to more dependable and maintainable code. Rust employs a unique ownership system and moves semantics that proficiently handles object lifetimes, mitigating data access conflicts. However, this very uniqueness can raise the entry barrier, particularly for newer developers, as they might find these techniques somewhat unconventional.C++ language also provides a level of memory control, but it requires more careful programming. It’s more susceptible to pitfalls like memory leaks and unsafe data access if not handled with precision.
Rust aims to be competitive in performance with C++. The Rust compiler generates efficient machine code, and thanks to a secure type of system, Rust can predictably optimize code.C++ also safeguards high performance and provides a wide range of tools for optimization.
Code Syntax and Readability
Rust offers state-of-the-art and clean syntax that helps create readable and understandable code. The Rust template system (traits) makes the code more expressive, readable, and easily extendable.C++ has historical syntax, which may be less intuitive and readable for some developers.
Integration and multitasking
Rust provides a convenient way to integrate with C and C++ through Foreign Function Interface (FFI), which makes it easier to port existing projects, but still requires additional effort. The Rust tenure system and type system exclude “data race” and help create secure multitasking applications. Rust also supports threads and competitive multitasking from the box.C++ also provides multitasking but can be integrated with C code with little or no effort.
Ecosystem and community
Rust has an active and rapidly growing development community. Cargo – Rust’s dependency and build management system, makes development more convenient and predictable.C++ also has a large and experienced community, as well as an extensive ecosystem of libraries and tools that exceed the volumes of Rust.

As we can see, Rust offers IoT app developers advanced security features preventing many common errors and resulting in a more reliable, clear code. It also benefits from active community support and utilizes the Cargo system for efficient dependency management and compilation. At the same time, Rust provides numerous tools and libraries out-of-the-box that allow achieving results comparable to using C++ but with significantly less effort and code. Yet, Rust still trails C++ in ecosystem maturity, C integration, and accessibility for Rust software development beginners.

Real-life Case of Using Rust for IoT Device Development: Smart Monitoring System for Toddlers

We were engaged as a technical partner to help develop a product that simplifies diverse childcare routines for parents. Namely, we were to develop software for a baby monitoring device connected to the ESP32-S3 MCU.

So, our team was looking for the best-fit solution that could provide us with everything needed for successful delivery: multitasking capabilities, a secure coding environment, and interfaces with a network, microphone, and speaker connections. We saw the potential of Rust to fulfill these requirements as it had a robust ecosystem that allowed us to integrate the required functionality without much effort. Even though we chose Rust as our primary tool, we also effectively integrated specific C and C++ libraries using the Foreign Function Interface (FFI).

As a result, it took us just six months from the project’s kick-off to the release of its beta version. One month later, the solution was already on the market and available for purchase. Over the next half-year, we refined and expanded its functionalities, including remote control, regime planning, and smooth integration options into the user’s existing ecosystem. The functionality expansion went smoothly, without much effort, and without leaving behind the smell of code, thus reducing the need for refactoring to a minimum.

This project, completed by a trio of developers in a little over a year, has found its way into over 5,000 households, underscoring the viability of Rust in IoT development.

C++ vs Rust: Conclusion

Using Rust in embedded systems creation has its learning curve, unlike using C++. Yes, this requires more time at the start of the project, as developers need to learn the innovations and features of the language. Yes, it will take more time to find, refine, or partially port the necessary libraries for use in a specific solution. But the result is a beautiful and readable code that expands easily. Hence, a productive, safe, and lightweight solution is exactly what is needed for embedded IoT applications.

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