How Mansystems is Creating Value Through the Combination of IoT and Rapid Application Development


on May 17, 2017

This article was written by;

Tim Bakker, a Mansystems Consultant with experience as Mendix Developer, Release Manager and Project Manager.

Last March, I was asked to speak for the IoT Academy, a foundation with the goal to stimulate innovation for the Internet of Things (IoT) in the Netherlands. The subject of choice was creating value for your business with IoT through Rapid application development. At Mansystems, we build Smart Business Applications using the Rapid Application Development platform, Mendix. With this in mind, I started to think about what constitutes value in relation to an IoT Solution. I came up with the following definition. Keep in mind that this definition can depend on the vision, the customers and the type of organization.

In my opinion creating value for a company is delivering services or products at lower cost, greater speed and/or better quality.

The next question was how to get the above defined value using IoT and Rapid Application Development. IoT has been around for some time now. Devices with sensors have been connected ever since the creation of networks. For instance, in 1990 John Romkey created a toaster which could be turned on and off through the Internet.

Today, however, we have far greater possibilities. For example, we can collect enormous amounts of data using sensors, which are connected to devices like the Marvin. The Marvin is a small computer which can send and receive messages through the LoRa IoT network. The Marvin also has the possibility to have sensors connected to it. Basically you can describe it as a plug and play IoT device.

How IoT Applications Can Add Business Value

The tools to create value should be able to receive, send, store, present and interpret the sensor data. So here is where the idea for my case took off.  There are several ways that you can use applications in relation to IoT data:

  1. For presenting data, which can be viewed and used to trigger actions by users
  2. For presenting data, which can be used to notify users and trigger actions by users
  3. For collecting and interpreting data and use it to trigger another application.
  4. For collecting and interpreting data to predict a trigger of an action based on trends.
  5. For collecting data and having an application interpret the data and notice trends, which in turn trigger actions in other applications or devices.

During my presentation at the IoT academy, I wanted to show an IoT case and add the business value through developing some extra functions using Mendix, on the spot. So I needed a connected device with a sensor and an application.

How I Created the Smart Trash Bin

I decided on creating the smart trash bin because it is an understandable use case and easily built with tools at my disposal. The smart trash bin is a trash bin with an ultrasonic ranger and a Marvin computer. The ultrasonic ranger measures the distance between the lid and the bottom of the trash bin. The measured value is sent using the Marvin, over the LoRa network to a Mendix application. This application receives the values and presents them in a diagram.

To add value to the application, I wanted to swiftly create a mechanism in which a task is created to empty the bin when the ranger indicates less than 10 cm. The lower the distance in cm returned from the ranger, the fuller the trash bin is. Mendix was essential in demonstrating that this solution could be developed in a matter of minutes. The value of this solution is that you are not required to monitor the state of the trash bin. The person required to empty the trash bin will only be mobilized when the trash bin is actually full, and will be notified to do so within the app.  Less time is spent traveling and realizing the trash bin is not in need of emptying. More importantly, there is a platform called Mendix, which helps your business to change and add value to your applications at a very high speed.

Using Rapid Application Development to Build the App in 15 Minutes

During the demonstration, I built a new table in Mendix which contains the tasks. I added a data view to the home screen to be able to view the tasks. And I created a trigger (microflow in Mendix) which creates a task for a person when the trash bin is full. The actual building and deploying was done within 15 minutes, and this is where the value of Mendix as a Rapid application development platform comes into play.

The presented changes can be realized with any type of programming language. With Mendix I am able to model an application visually, which takes far less time. With a single mouse click, my prototype was deployed and reachable in the cloud. This type of speed is imperative in the current ever changing market, where you need to be able to adapt at a moment’s notice.

The Mendix platform helps us with its complete set of features. These features enable us to not only develop and deploy with great speed, but also manage and scale the cloud resources required for our application in an extremely easy fashion. Furthermore, the platform has very powerful tools to facilitate collaboration within your Agile team.

The demo of the smart trash bin was received very well and I received a lot of positive feedback. This was an easy example of showing the added value of Rapid Application development in combination with the Internet of Things. If you have any IoT cases, which you want to have a brainstorm session about in the broadest sense, than please contact me at tim.bakker@mansystems.nl