« The Case for Low-Code Development

From Marc Andreessen’s, “Software is eating the world,” to Satya Nadella’s, “Every business will be a software business,” leaders from all sides of the tech landscape have been predicting this digital transformation for the past several years. Since these initial declarations taxis have become Uber, DVDs have become Netflix, and real estate has become Airbnb. While there is clear evidence that this trend has already consumed several industries, the Internet of Things promises to accelerate it in almost all remaining sectors. Some will inherently have more time than others, but every business must become digital to compete in this new era.

For many, this transformation is going to be tough. It will demand a strategic shift in thinking from the board room, a significant investment of time and money, and, most importantly, it will require internal resources that currently do not exist. IoT will only complicate the latter as it introduces millions of new devices, software, and protocols that must be carefully understood to build meaningful applications. As a result, we will see a wave of companies that are unable to properly adjust their workforce go out of business to the delight of those who can.

So what is a company to do about this? Traditionally, companies have had three options when confronted with gaps in workforce talent:




While all three can be effective strategies, they each present very real concerns. Re-training is time consuming, difficult, and a never-ending challenge to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. Hiring the required caliber of technical resources is expensive, risky, and nearly impossible for certain, less “attractive” industries. And with software now becoming the core of the business, outsourcing every new project, modification, and maintenance ticket is simply unsustainable.

There is a fourth approach, however, that seeks to solve the talent gap presented by this software-driven era in a unique way. Rather than re-training, hiring, or outsourcing highly-skilled individuals, what if there were tools that made it possible for existing resources to contribute to the software development? A new class of tools labeled “low-code development” have gained momentum in the past few years with the aim of achieving this goal. According to Forrester Research, low-code development platforms employ visual, declarative techniques, which define data, logic, flows, forms and other application artifacts, without writing code. Such tools enable developers to drag and drop application components as if they are moving virtual Lego blocks around a computer screen. This approach not only helps solve the talent gap by simplifying the development of software applications for non-technical resources, it also introduces several other competitive advantages in this new digital era.


Speed to market has been a competitive differentiator since the beginning of time. The hyper competition and customer demands of the digital era has only magnified it. Low-code development platforms utilize reusable components to exponentially decrease the time it takes to get new products or features from idea, to PoC, to production.


The beauty of software is that it is a living thing. Unfortunately most companies don’t efficiently capitalize on this advantage because any change to software is typically complex, inefficient and time-consuming within traditional “high-code” models. Low-code tools, on the other hand, allow companies to easily react to competition and adapt to their customer’s feedback in real-time.


Although low code platforms do require an upfront cost of both time and money to get started, it’s important to evaluate the long run cost vs. the alternative. Not having to employ expensive resources itself often times pays for the low code platform. The increased speed to market, reaction to customers, and simplicity of maintenance all play a role in the long run cost savings from a low-code platform.


While the customer experience has always been a primary concern for companies, winners and losers in the digital era will be determined by how quickly products can evolve to meet the rapidly changing demands of the customer. Low code development allows all sides of the business (technical and non-technical) to play a vital role in product development, modifications, and overall customer experience.

At niolabs, we’ve taken this low-code concept and applied it specifically to IoT development. Traditional software development is complex enough, but with millions of new devices, operating systems, APIs, and communication protocols, the Internet of Things adds an additional layer of complexity. While most of today’s IoT platforms require highly skilled and highly paid software developers to build anything of value, the nio Platform offers a much simpler approach that allows enterprises and partners to utilize their existing workforce for the rapid development of distributed IoT applications.

As companies embrace the inevitable shift to a digital, software-driven world, they will need to address the strategic workforce shift or risk getting left behind.

Is your company evaluating an internet of things strategy?

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System Designer
The nio System designer is a drag-and-drop workflow tool that enables non-technical users to design, deploy, and monitor micro-services within a distributed (edge to cloud) architecture. Rather than using traditional means of coding to build applications, developers are able to organize Lego-like blocks into a logical flowchart to build complex solutions.

nio Blocks are the building “blocks” of the nio platform. They are pre-built wrappers of code that perform a certain function and allow users to quickly 1) connect to disparate data producers (sensors, machines, APIs, etc.), 2) transform the data (filter, merge, ML, etc.) and 3) perform some action with the data (display, alert, actuate, etc.). While there are several hundred blocks available for users to begin building with today, the nio Block Library is always evolving. As new blocks are needed, users are encouraged to utilize the open-source block framework to build new blocks for the community.

One of the trickiest aspects of building IoT solutions is getting all of the devices within a system to cohesively communicate with one another over multiple types of protocols. Pubkeeper removes that complexity by seamlessly brokering the proper peer-to-peer connections throughout the system behind the scenes. Rather than attempting to solve this difficult communication problem, developers are able to spend more time solving actual business problems.