Rust: Bridging the Gap in High-Level Language IoT Innovation

Ray Thomas
Rust: Bridging the Gap in High-Level Language IoT Innovation
Illustration: © IoT For All

Complexity in IoT has grown significantly compared to just a few years ago. The IoT field, once predominantly the domain of C++ programming, especially for smaller microcontrollers and devices, is now witnessing a paradigm shift. Increasingly, developers are turning to higher-level languages such as Javascript and Python, or new contender Rust in IoT development. This transition reflects a push towards accommodating the rapid development and execution of more complex tasks. Yet, this shift isn’t without its challenges and limitations.

Enter Rust, a relatively new player in the programming world. Officially introduced in 2015, Rust was designed with a clear goal: to offer the speed and efficiency of traditional languages like C and C++, while incorporating the advantages of memory safety and rapid development typically associated with higher-level languages. Rust’s entry into the programming arena is particularly timely and relevant for the IoT sector.

In this article, we’ll delve into the potential benefits of transitioning from the currently popular IoT languages of Javascript and Python to Rust. We aim to provide a comprehensive analysis for teams grappling with the unique constraints and demands of IoT devices. Our discussion will explore how Rust’s unique features could address some of the core challenges faced in IoT development. And, why it might be the next big step forward for IoT professionals.


Javascript and Python currently reign as the most popular high-level languages in the IoT development landscape. Each brings unique strengths and caters to specific use cases, making them preferred choices for a wide range of IoT applications.

Javascript’s Evolution in IoT

Originally designed for web browsers, Javascript underwent a significant transformation with the advent of NodeJS in 2011. NodeJS, built atop Google’s V8 Javascript engine, extended Javascript’s capabilities beyond web browsers into the realm of server-side and device-level programming.

Its key advantages include fast compilation, a large and active developer community, and ease of use. These attributes have made Javascript via NodeJS a popular choice for IoT projects that require real-time data processing and networked applications.

Python’s Role in IoT

Python, in contrast to Javascript, was architected from its inception for broader applications, not just confined to web browsers. It has emerged as a leading language across various technological domains, credited largely to its simplicity and readability. Python’s widespread adoption by IoT device manufacturers is particularly noteworthy.

Its simplicity makes it an excellent tool for scripting and automating tasks in small microcontrollers and complex IoT systems. Moreover, the extensive libraries and frameworks available in Python significantly ease the development of IoT applications. These range from simple sensor monitoring to complex data analysis.

Introducing Rust

On the other hand, Rust presents a different paradigm. Conceived as a systems programming language, Rust offers the performance and control typical of lower-level languages like C and C++, but with a strong emphasis on safety and concurrency.

Rust’s design prioritizes memory safety, aiming to eliminate common bugs found in other systems programming languages without sacrificing performance. This feature is particularly crucial in IoT, where reliability and efficiency are paramount.

Additionally, Rust’s modern language features support the development of robust and scalable IoT applications. This makes it a compelling option for IoT systems that demand high performance and reliability.

The entry of Rust into the IoT space is not just about offering an alternative to existing languages; it’s about addressing the growing complexity and demands of IoT systems. As IoT devices become more sophisticated, encompassing a broader range of functions and connecting more intricately with networks and other devices, the need for a language that can handle such complexity efficiently and safely becomes increasingly important.

Rust’s unique combination of performance, safety, and modern language features positions it as an intriguing option for the next generation of IoT development.


Performance and Efficiency

Rust, being a systems language, offers performance that is on par with, and sometimes surpasses, that of established languages like C. Its design, which combines low-level control with high-level conveniences, enables developers to implement features such as persistent connections to WebSockets more efficiently and straightforwardly than in C/C++. This blend of simplicity and power in Rust’s design has tangible benefits.

Research indicates that transitioning a major IoT application from NodeJS to Rust can lead to significant reductions in resource utilization. For instance, one implementation showed approximately a 50 percent reduction in memory usage and a 75 percent decrease in CPU overhead after migrating to Rust.

Memory Safety

As a systems language, Rust operates without the overhead of a garbage collector, which is a common feature in many high-level languages. However, unlike other low-level languages that leave memory management entirely in the hands of developers, Rust and its compiler provide substantial assistance.

This results in “safe” memory management, safeguarding against various bugs and vulnerabilities associated with memory access. While memory leaks are still possible in Rust, they are significantly harder to inadvertently introduce compared to traditional systems languages.

Concurrency Model

Rust’s approach to concurrency is encapsulated in the principle of “Fearless Concurrency”. This model is grounded in two key components. The first is secure messaging channels that enable threads to communicate safely. The second aspect revolves around memory management in a concurrent context. Developers can choose what memory is shared between threads and, by default, Rust encourages the use of memory-independent threads. This model not only provides robust safety guarantees but also allows for extensive customization and extension by application developers.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a critical factor in IoT devices, and Rust excels in this area. A study conducted by the ​​University of Minho that compares energy usages of various languages found that Rust’s energy consumption can be “98 percent more efficient than Python.”

This level of efficiency is particularly significant in IoT contexts where devices often operate on limited power sources and where energy efficiency can directly impact the longevity and operational costs of devices.


Learning Curve

Rust is notorious for its steep learning curve, particularly for those not accustomed to systems programming. Its close interaction with system-level resources like memory and the kernel, combined with unique memory management systems not found in languages like C, can make even basic tasks challenging for newcomers. While prior experience with other systems languages is beneficial, Rust’s intricacies require a dedicated effort to master.

Developer Availability

Despite being highly rated for developer satisfaction, Rust, introduced in 2015, isn’t widely taught in higher education. This contributes to a relatively smaller pool of Rust developers compared to more established languages. Finding experienced Rust programmers can be a hurdle for teams looking to transition to this language.

Development Speed

The speed of development in Rust is heavily influenced by the developer’s familiarity with the language. While Rust ensures robust memory safety, this often means dealing with a strict compiler that can slow down the prototyping process. Developers new to Rust may find their development speed hampered as they navigate through the compiler’s rigorous safety checks.

Resource Availability

As a relatively new language, Rust’s library ecosystem is still in its growth phase. While there are notable tools like Embassy for embedded systems, and interfaces for for executing Rust in other languages (FFI), the range of pure Rust libraries is somewhat limited. The ecosystem is actively developing, but it currently lacks the depth of proven production tools available in more mature languages.


In conclusion, the transition from high-level languages like NodeJS and Python to Rust in IoT device programming presents a compelling case. Rust stands out for its performance efficiency, offering close-to-the-metal execution speeds that are critical in the resource-constrained environment of IoT devices.

Its memory safety features and modern approach to concurrency provide robustness and reliability, addressing key concerns in IoT development. Furthermore, Rust’s impressive energy efficiency makes it an ideal choice for the power-sensitive nature of IoT applications.

The growing Rust community and ecosystem add another layer of attractiveness to this language. With increasing support from major tech companies, a rich array of libraries and frameworks, and an expanding base of contributors and educational resources, Rust is well-positioned to meet the evolving needs of the IoT industry.

While the transition to Rust in IoT development comes with challenges, notably the steep learning curve and the current dominance of NodeJS and Python in IoT, the long-term benefits of Rust in terms of performance, safety, and efficiency are undeniable.

For IoT professionals, embracing Rust could mean not only keeping pace with technological advancements but also staying ahead in a rapidly evolving field. As the IoT landscape continues to grow in complexity and scale, Rust offers a robust, efficient, and future-proofed programming solution that is well worth considering.

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas - Developer, IoT For All
Ray is a developer who enjoys learning new things and building amazing products. He loves building anything from multiplayer video games to robotics. Outside of work, he likes to play video games, work out, volunteer, and hang out with his friends.
Ray is a developer who enjoys learning new things and building amazing products. He loves building anything from multiplayer video games to robotics. Outside of work, he likes to play video games, work out, volunteer, and hang out with his friends.