In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we made the case for an emerging class of industrial IoT tools called visual application builders. In this post we provide input about the features and capabilities we would look for if we were evaluating visual app builder alternatives.

The sections below discusses three levels of required functionality – Connectivity, Integration, and Visualization – and provides checklist requirements for each level.

We also covered visual app builder product requirements in more detail in a recent webinar entitled Choosing A Visual App Builder for Industrial IoT.

View Webinar Slides, Video and Q&A

 

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Visual App Builder Solution Requirements


 

Connectivity

Industrial cloud platforms expose secure endpoints for accessing machine, process, and analytic data. Visual app builder solutions consume data from those interfaces. But IIoT mash-up apps also need to communicate bi-directionally with many applications and datastores that run outside of the industrial space (e.g., SAP, Salesforce.com, OracleDB, Slack). Thus, visual app builder tools must also support interfaces to a broad universe of enterprise systems.

Connectivity Checklist

Visual app builder tools must be able to securely connect to your data and applications, wherever those resources reside in your infrastructure. Key checklist items include:

  • Fast installation and configuration (on premise agent)

  • Secure (no external write ports)

  • Multi-level encryption

  • Built-in data/app connectivity

  • Bi-directionality

  • Auto-updatable (on premise agent)

  • Recoverable

  • Auditable

 

 

 

Integration

Visual app builders enable non-programmers to create a wide variety of data-driven applications such as dashboards, diagnostic guides, and digital operating instructions. Leading solutions provide built-in data mapping and transformation features that enrich and contextualize raw data. For example, plant managers can quickly gain a 360° view of their critical infrastructure by using apps that integrate analytics, current operating metrics, location data, and service record histories.

Integration Checklist

Visual app builder tools must support all of your data mapping and transformation requirements, and they must also all of the semantic operations needed to build a wide range of industrial applications. Your checklist requirements should include:

  • Fast data mapping

  • Visual transformation

  • Looping and branching

  • Callable services

  • Event/timer based execution

  • Straight-through operations

  • Long-running operations

 

 

 

Visualization

All visual app builder solutions allow users to display data in a variety of useful renderings – line and area graphs, bar charts, data tables, bullet charts, gauges, sparklines, maps, and many others. Most tools provide asset browsers and drill-down features that allow end users to navigate in context across relevant dashboard pages. A few leading tools – including Edge2Web Director – enable integrated flow-based applications that drive highly intuitive user experiences.

Visualization Checklist

Tools for building end user experiences must be easy and powerful. And all of your pages and screens must behave consistently across a wide range of display devices. Key items for your visualization checklist include:

  • Simple, responsive page layout editing

  • Drag & drop display components

  • Cell-level refresh

  • Component wizards

  • Visual flow editor

  • WYSIWYG screen editor

  • Visual menu editor