Mendix CTO Maps Fast Path to Building Smart Apps


on June 9, 2016

At the Mendix World 2016 conference this week, Mendix CTO Johan den Haan described a new generation of Smart Apps that promise to transform the way end users interact with applications by being intelligent, contextually aware and proactive.

“The user does not have to come to the application; the application will come to the user,” says den Haan. “The application UI is slowly disappearing.”

Smart ExperiencesThe challenge facing IT organizations, says den Haan, is that building smart experiences that leverage the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and machine learning requires specialist skills and the stringing together of multiple technologies. To simplify that process, Mendix formally unveiled Mendix 7, the latest version of its model-driven rapid application delivery platform.

“It’s complex to build smart apps today,” says den Haan. “We’ve created a model-driven layer on top of best-in-class IoT, big data and machine learning services.”

Specifically, Mendix 7 is now tightly integrated with cloud services that include AWS IoT, AWS Machine Learning and IBM Watson. In addition, Mendix plans future integrations with services from Microsoft Azure and Pivotal, which provides a distribution of the Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment.

At the same time, Mendix 7 also includes support for MQTT, a lightweight messaging protocol for sensors and mobile devices, and LoRaWAN, a long-range, low power Wide Area Network designed for IoT applications.

To demonstrate those capabilities at the conference, den Haan hooked up a model airplane to a series of sensors that were used to send push notifications to a mobile application designed for an airplane mechanic who was informed in real time about a potential issue before the plane even arrived at the hanger. Within the same demonstration, den Haan showed how the IBM Watson Visual Recognition service could be invoked to identify a particular part and its maintenance history.

As part of an ongoing effort to democratize application development, den Haan also unveiled the new Mendix Web Modeler, which provides a cloud-based integrated development environment through which users of all skill levels can actively participate in the application design and development process. The Mendix Web Modeler is based on React user interface programming tools based on JavaScript that was developed by Facebook and open source Mobx code developed by Mendix to optimize the performance of React applications, says den Haan.

In addition, den Haan says Mendix 7 will be able to natively connect to any database using connectors that Mendix has made available as open source code and showed how those models can now be accessed by other applications using REST APIs. Mendix 7 itself now natively supports REST APIs as well as JSON mapping that allows code to be copied into the Mendix platform from external sources.

“Open systems lead to more innovation,” says den Haan. “The entire Mendix platform is now open.”

Mendix 7 also marks the arrival of expanded mobile app development capabilities for delivering a native mobile experience, including features for efficiently sharing data and images between mobile devices and the Mendix cloud. Mendix has also added a new Sync on Save capability, App Install and Auto Update services that make it simpler for IT organizations to manage and deploy mobile applications and an expanded selection of Native Widgets, including Add to Contacts, Add to Calendar, Native Share, Estimote Beacons, Navigate To, Splash Screens, DeviceId and Vote.

Finally, Mendix is also making available application performance monitoring and application testing tools alongside a WYSIWYG page editor.

All these features, says den Haan, will become generally available by October via a series of updates that Mendix will deliver over the intervening weeks and months.

Put it all together and it quickly becomes apparent that Mendix has launched an ambitious effort to significant reduce the pain and agony associated with traditional application development. The challenge most organizations will face now may not so much be deciding what to build first, but rather how to manage a rapidly expanding portfolio of smart apps that radically redefine the end user experience.