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Contextualized data from Cognite operationalized with Low Code

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Aarbakke AS, a high-tech machining company based in Stavanger, Norway, is using 'low-code' software tools built with OutSystems, developed by PwC, running on data streamed from Cognite's platform, to support its machining operators.

Aarbakke AS, a high-tech machining company based just outside Stavanger, Norway, is providing its machining staff with software tools created with the OutSystems low code platform, with data gathered and integrated by Cognite.

The system, covering 40 machines, could be built by just one developer (from consultancy PwC) in 4 weeks.

Aarbakke has about $100m revenue, and around 300 employees, making advanced components for oil and gas activities.

The application provides useful insights to the operators of the machining equipment, so they can improve decision making. The data is presented as visualisations.

Data handled by the system includes sensor data (from the Computer Numerical Control machines) such as alarms, loads, pressures, and more. Also data about work orders from ERP systems, and some KPIs. The system also collects feedback from operators.

Data can also be displayed on mobile devices. There are admin tools which make it faster to integrate a new machine or device.

Because it is 'low code', the software is easy to change, for example if a machining operator would prefer a different data presentation.

'These operators are experts on their machines, many operating them for more than a decade. We wanted to enable operators to configure views they see on their own,' says Hunter Beck from Cognite. 'They can dictate what they want to see in the dashboards. They know the machines and what they need to see better than anybody else.'

Low code

The idea of 'low code' is that code can be put together much faster, such as by dragging and dropping elements on a screen interface, rather than writing code by hand. The code itself is generated by software, based on what has been dragged and dropped.

Low code platforms enable a basic version of the software, or 'prototype', to be made 'in a matter of days,' says Martin Gallardo, head of innovation and digital delivery at PwC Stavanger. 'People are amazed by OutSystems when they see how quick you can make user interfaces.'

The cost and time required to make reliable code is a big bottleneck in work to develop more useful, customised software applications. So if it can be made faster, that is a big benefit to digitalisation efforts in general.

People are starting to talk about 'DataOps', as the data version of 'DevOps', meaning to develop and improve data systems while people are using them, Mr Gallardo says.

Petteri Vainikka, VP Product Marketing at Cognite, says that the challenge is working out how data models can be deployed at scale - businesses in the oil and gas sector are not looking for a 'minimum viable product', more how fast they can get something rolled out to their entire operations. Systems like low code can help to do that.

It also means that people who actually use the software can provide input into how their software looks and works, known as 'Citizen UI', he said.

Many people are sceptical about low code, after experience in the past showing that if they need just one uncommon feature, the whole system cannot be used and you have to do hand code instead.

Andy Pemberton, VP of OutSystems field engineering team, emphasises that low code systems are designed to be as broad in scope as possible. 'The platform is very extensible, our goal is for you not to have to write complex code. We did a study once that showed 98 per cent of use cases get resolved without having to resolve to high code.'

But if you do need to write code to do something the platform cannot support by itself, you can write 'high code' modules, such as in JavaScript, and run them within the platform.

The platform has tools to connect to databases, and connect to other software via APIs. 'The differentiator for OutSystems is the ability to integrate,' Mr Pemberton says. 'That's why you see customers of OutSystems tend to implement much larger, enterprise use cases.'

Many of the tools were built out of a library of open source low code connectors and plugins with OutSystems makes available, in a service called 'The Forge'. This can include elements of the user interface or data layers.

Cognite's role

Cognite's role is to work out ways to make data sit together beneath the user interface, so the right data gets 'fed' to the low code platform tools and on to the machining operators, a process it calls 'contextualisation'. The Cognite data model makes it possible to easily expand from one machines, to all machines simultaneously.

'The goal was to take wealth of data at Aarbakke and make it available live to operators,' says Hunter Beck from Cognite. 'We needed to make the data easy, intuitive, visual - to enable decision making.'

Cognite is continuously developing its 'Cognite Data Fusion' platform to make it easier to integrate with OutSystems.

Associated Companies
» Cognite
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