One of the challenges for organisations trying to make use of the Internet of Things (IoT) is, of course, how to quickly combine and process IoT data.  

So we were interested to discuss this with Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian, one of various companies involved in the business of ‘low-code’ application solutions.

One of Appian’s current focuses is bringing ‘low-code’ software development and process automation together – something Calkins argues is a new trend with implications for organisations with IoT data needs.

Calkins sees low-code automation as a way to speed up decisions about what to do and the process of doing it.

Say you wanted to process data from a variety of sensors and other sources to determine the optimal time to service an industrial control system.

You could use ‘low-code’ software development, which involves building applications by drawing a workflow, to simplify the task of building an application to process the data.

And, of course, you can use process automation to delegate actions, taking advantage of robotic process automation systems or artificial intelligence, for example.

Bringing these functions together is logical, in Calkins’ view.

“RPA is better if you can use it in your workflow, in your process model. AI is more useful if you can delegate it tasks directly from RPA,” Calkins pointed out.

“You hear about the RPA industry and the low-code industry and process management and workflow, and I think they're all the same industry. I think low-code automation contains all of these elements and AI, and they all belong together.” Appian has packaged low-code automation as part of the the latest version of its platform.

Appian CTO Michael Beckley elaborated on this topic at the company’s recent Appian World conference: “The future of low-code is actually work flow,” Beckley commented. “Most every app you want to build with low-code is a process, a business process you need to automate to adapt to change. A workflow that keeps you up to date with changes in regulation and customer expectations. Workflow with flexibility built in from the start. Workflow to orchestrate humans, bots, AI and API integrations behind customer interactions. Low-code allows you to do all of that.”

‘Low-code’ data integration is also part of this narrative – Appian is one of various vendors trying to simplify data integration for non-programmers.

Automating journeys

Calkins also shared his take on another basic concept – bringing information to bear at the ‘moment of truth’.

He sees this as about following assets – whether they be assets or employees, customers or other things – throughout their ‘journeys’, and continually keeping tabs on them so decisions can be made about them at any moment.

“We take the lifetime of an asset and we follow it. And we know that all along that lifetime, you've got two things you always need to be able to do. One is, you've got to know everything about that asset. No matter where it's stored in the enterprise, you've got to know. At the moment of decision, the moment of truth, you’ve got to know,” Calkins said.

“And then the second thing is, you have to enable actions. As the data moves through space, the data follows the journey, follows the lifespan, of the entity, and you keep applying different processes to affect new actions.”

“If it's a product, moving from one side of the world to another, we know everything we need to know about that object. We know it in every database it has touched…data is only useful if you can use it at the moment of truth,” Calkins notes.

That’s increasingly relevant as more operational decisions are influenced by real-time data.