Adrian Leks, PR & Marketing Manager

Software, hardware, and firmware. Three Musketeers of the Internet of Things (IoT)


Software, hardware, and firmware. Although these three terms are closely related and interact, they differ in words of functionality, application, and the way they work. What role do they play in the Internet of Things technological puzzle? In this article, you will learn about the differences between software, hardware, or firmware in the context of building an IoT device from scratch.

“As a full-stack company, we combine software, hardware, and firmware competencies under one roof.” This phrase greets users who have visited our homepage. We realize that for people outside the tech industry, this may sound a bit enigmatic. What is a full-stack company, we have already explained here. Now it is also worth paying attention to these three important “ingredients” that are necessary when designing an IoT product. We can safely compare them to the three musketeers of the Internet of Things… In this context, as in the novel by Alexandre Dumas, they are guided by the slogan – one for all, all for one. Learn about the roles, operations, and capabilities of software, hardware, and firmware.


First, the software

To begin with, we take a look at software. These are all computer programs, mobile and web applications, web browsers, or operating systems. Software is not tangible or visible to the naked eye. Maybe with the exception of the process of its production, i.e. when the code written by the programmer is created. The software is usually installed on the finished hardware to enable its operation and provide the user with interaction as well as communication with the IoT device.

Software is created by programmers in the process of… programming, photo: Unsplash/Fotis Fotopoulos

During the operation of the IoT product, the software is responsible, among others, for device lifecycle management, data interpretation, integration of all elements, and real-time analysis. Software in IoT devices is typically developed and updated to introduce new features, improve security and performance, and adapt to changing user needs.

Read as well: R&D department. Guardian of corporate innovation and competitiveness

Second, the hardware

Hardware is nothing but electronic equipment. It is the physical part of a computer or electronic device. Hardware is unique in that it is a material component that can be both touched and seen. It includes items such as processors, tablets, hard drives, graphics cards, keyboards, and other components. Each of them plays a specific role. It has its tasks in the process of data processing and performing operations.

A well-made PCB is worth its weight in gold 🙂

In the case of IoT devices, we can also talk about tangible elements that enable, among others, connecting to the Internet, collecting data from the environment, and performing specific functions. The list of components includes microcontrollers, PCBs, communication modules (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NarrowBand, etc.), sensors, transducers, power supply systems, input and output ports, and even housings. Importantly, the hardware is the basic infrastructure on which the software runs. The software simply “works” on the hardware, using its resources.

Read as well: How to develop mobile products in the world of the Internet of Things? [IoT device and app]

Third, the firmware

The final piece of the IoT technological puzzle is the firmware. It is a kind of “connection” between software and hardware. This is a special type of software that is permanently stored in the device’s memory. It is programmed inside an integrated circuit (microcontroller) in the hardware and controls the operation of the IoT product and enables it to perform certain tasks. The firmware can be found in smartphones, TVs, routers, printers or game consoles. It can only be updated by tools provided by the manufacturer. Importantly, the introduction of fixes, new functions, or bug fixes takes place in most cases without the need for physical access to the device.

Firmware is a kind of “connection” between software and hardware.

In IoT devices, it is the firmware that often plays a key role. He is responsible, among others, for controlling and managing the device, collecting data, communicating with other devices, sending information to the cloud or other systems, and even optimizing and saving energy. The field of firmware in IoT devices is also to ensure security. On his side are data encryption, authentication, authorization, and prevention of attacks.

Read as well: How do we build IoT products from scratch? Software, firmware and hardware on board

There was a theory, time for examples

We already have a solid knowledge base, but it’s best to show our three main characters in one concrete example. Here, the nice Sloth E-zzy comes to our aid. In a nutshell, it is a toy that responds to a baby’s cry with a calming noise and monitors its sleep. The data collected from the sloth is monitored and analyzed by a mobile application that communicates with the toy via Bluetooth. The whole thing is based on the heart of the animal, built of a PCB on which various electronic components are attached. Now let’s assign our musketeers here. In the project, we were responsible for the hardware layer in the form of a PCB and Bluetooth module – hardware. The IoT device acting as the heart has been programmed by us inside – firmware. The last element was the development of a mobile application for iOS and Android with CMS panel – software.

The heart of the Sloth in all its glory.

To sum up, in the case of building an IoT device – software, hardware, and firmware are autonomous pieces of the puzzle, but ultimately their proper integration is crucial. Only then can we create a common technological ecosystem. If even one of these elements fails, it will immediately affect the operation of the entire IoT device. Therefore – one for all, all for one.

Read as well: Check out our best projects on this video montage [TOP 10 VIDEOS]

Have you got an idea for a product and are looking for a technology partner that has all the necessary skills in one place and will additionally lead your project comprehensively? Would you like to develop an IoT device or need to make changes to the electronics or software? Do you need support in obtaining funding or investors? Write to We will answer all your questions and prepare a personalized offer.

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