Robin Schubert, 01.02.2024, 4 min.

Shaping the future: How low code is sustainably redefining and changing connectivity

  1. Low code compared to no code
  2. The advantages of low code in the workflow
  3. Implementing standards and mechanisms with low code
  4. What are the advantages of low code in terms of connectivity?
  5. The limits of low code
  6. Low code in FabEagle®Connect

Low code, which stands for minimal programming, is a modern method for simplifying software development. Instead of relying on sophisticated high-level language programming, low code relies on combining and linking graphical modules and standardized components. These are then combined to develop the required functionality. The first steps towards low code began back in the 1990s with Rapid Application Development (RAD). The aim was to enable faster and easier prototyping and more efficient application development. Today, users of low code are still primarily developers and power users, who can work faster and more efficiently as a result. In this blog article, we will show you the impact of developments such as low code and no code on interface integration software and why it is well worth using this software to digitalize your production.

Low code compared to no code

The no code concept goes one step further than low code. No code applications have no way of implementing logic or functionality using script and are therefore limited to very specific requirements. While most no code applications are aimed specifically at consumers without in-depth technical knowledge, low code gives developers the best of both worlds: ready-made modules for greater efficiency and freedom from code modules to create customized extensions.

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The advantages of low code in the workflow

Low code applications bring numerous advantages to the workflow. Using ready-made modules and components enables rapid ramp-up, accelerating development during the pilot phase. A major advantage is that no special programming skills are required to use low code, which aims to counteract the current shortage of skilled workers in the IT sector by enabling a wide spectrum of user groups to make use of them. Low code also stands out thanks to its cost efficiency because of the high reusability of components, high reliability thanks to its end-to-end test coverage and easy adaptability to changing requirements.

Implementing standards and mechanisms with low code

The modular structure of low code applications enables recurring standards and mechanisms in software development to be implemented efficiently. For example, components can be developed to implement different protocols, guidelines and APIs defined by standards and used in a wide range of applications. The resulting reusability factor increases efficiency during implementation and reduces costs.

What are the advantages of low code in terms of connectivity?

  1. Efficient implementation of interface standards

Applications concerning connectivity are characterized by a high level of standardization using interface protocols. In addition, networking must be as flexible and easy to adapt as possible. The modularity and standardization of functions in components makes the low code strategy perfect for this kind of implementation. Developers can use predefined interface components such as TCP/IP, OPC UA, MQTT and REST to implement data connections efficiently and in compliance with standards.

  1. Increased efficiency by reusing interface configurations in production and IoT

Because of the standardized interface protocols in the components, the configuration, in other words the settings and parameters of each machine interface, can also be exported and imported. This allows not only the reuse of standards such as OPC UA, but also the transfer of configurations between machines of the same type. This advantage is particularly noticeable for IoT applications, which require a much higher number of interfaces due to the large number of connected devices and gateways.

  1. Easier maintenance

There is hardly any other technical area that needs to be as adaptable and scalable as connectivity in a production environment. New machines and equipment need to be integrated, while existing ones need to be expanded and connected to new software systems. Thanks to low code, all of this can be done using a configuration dialog without the need for programming skills.

  1. Fewer sources of error

Thanks to the standardized implementation of interface configuration dialogs, low code reduces potential sources of error when working with data interfaces. On top of that, end-to-end testing ensures a high level of application reliability and robustness.

  1. Company-specific and application-specific solutions

By using code components, purpose-specific solutions can also easily be created to integrate non-standard interfaces and logic. The component provides the framework for the integration of C# code used to implement the custom solution.

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The limits of low code

Despite all its advantages, low code does have certain limits. Because freedom is deliberately limited by the guided configuration dialogs, functionality is also limited to the dialog options provided. As a result, any deviations from the standardized interface are difficult to implement. One solution is to use code components that enable free programming.

Another limitation is the architecture of the application and therefore the low code platform itself. Although the modular system architecture is extremely flexible and adaptable, it cannot keep up with a static software solution (e.g. embedded software) with high-level language programming in terms of performance. However, for most applications above classic real-time automation, a slight difference of a few milliseconds in performance is negligible.

Low code in FabEagle®Connect

In terms of connectivity, we think that the pros of a low code strategy outweigh the cons, which is why we chose it for our FabEagle®Connect interface integration solution. The straightforward implementation of interface standards, the increase in efficiency by reusing interface protocols, and simplified maintenance contribute significantly to optimizing connectivity. As a result, it is easy to implement configurable and reliable interfaces such as OPC UA, REST and TCP/IP for machines and IoT applications. It is also easy to comply with IT requirements for reliable interface integration of production machines and devices – regardless of their age or brand – with an increasing level of automation. Our integration solution therefore relies on modular components for interface protocols and data processing.

Ultimately, it is clear that low code is not only a new modern way of software development, but is also revolutionizing the way we understand and implement connectivity. It provides a bridge between rapid development, efficiency and reliability – a bridge that is invaluable in today's fast-paced IT world.

About the author

As a product manager in the area of factory automation, Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Robin Schubert has been involved in the ongoing development of FabEagle® products at Kontron AIS since 2019. His focus is on software solutions for efficient factory control, transparent monitoring and flexible connectivity for production and mechanical engineering.