The development tool Node-RED originally comes from the home automation and smart home segment and helps to connect devices and services in a simple and easy to understand way. However, in certain cases it is also used in practical applications for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A small disgression.

In order for services and devices to be coordinated, their states recorded and remotely controlled, we have to integrate and connect them with each other. In a sense, they must “talk” to each other, exchange information, so that they can also receive and execute commands remotely.

In smart homes, for example, weather stations and services are connected to electric shutters and windows via the Internet: When it gets sunny and hot, the shutters are lowered automatically; if it rains, windows can close themselves before something gets wet. If you have connected your devices to a digital assistant such as Alexa or Siri, the shutters and windows can also be controlled per voice ommand – even via smartphone when you are on the road.

This principle from home automation also applies to other applications: The general flow in the Industrial Internet of Things is the same: “When this state occurs, trigger that function”. And it is precisely these flows that Node-RED displays in a clear and understandable way.

An example:

 

Beispiel Node-RED Smart Home

The Node-RED Flow

The magic of Node-RED lies in its graphical user interface: Input, output and processing nodes can be easily dragged and dropped from the node palette into the workspace, where they can be connected and configured.

An executable software flow is automatically generated in the background and possible errors can easily be found via the debug panel. In this way, different scenarios can be designed quickly and easily and can be tested immediately: You can already deploy and provide your software during the development phase.

Thanks to Node-RED licensing under Apache 2.0, a large open source community has come together to develop and share solutions from all application areas, whether smart home or industry. This is also what makes this development tool so attractive.

Node-RED and erminas RevPi Nodes for Rapid Prototyping

The possibilities to generate fast working code and the coherent visual representation through the flows help us at erminas while doing rapid prototyping: Node-RED supports us at the customer’s site to quickly present practicable solutions, to try them out and also to develop them together with employees of the customer who have no own experience with programming and software development.

For this reason we have developed the RevPi Nodes together with Kunbus especially for the IPC Revolution Pi, which we like to use often in our IIoT projects. This enables us to obtain data from plants and machines in the concept phase and to develop a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and the Proof of Concept (PoC) together with our customers. On this basis, we can then develop more complex solutions for use with erPUB, OPC UA and usage of the data in the cloud (Azure, AWS).

For small industrial IoT solutions, the combination of Node-RED and the Revolution Pi in combination with some sensors can be a good first step towards a digitalization of a store floor. But only a small one.

Professional solution for business critical applications

As nice, fast and easy as many small processes can be integrated in and controlled with Node-RED, it is not suitable as runtime environment for business critical applications. In terms of security and reliability, Node-RED quickly reaches its limits in complex and critical business processes. Nevertheless, a prototype created in Node-RED can be very well suited as information basis for a professional and customized application that meets all security criteria.

Tutorials: First steps with Node-RED and the RevPi Nodes on the Revolution Pi

Interested? In our video tutorials about working with Node-RED and the erminas RevPi Nodes on the Revolution Pi the first steps are very easy to follow. We guide you step by step through the installation (german with subtitles). We hope that our introduction will help you and we are looking forward to your feedback.

New: Since July 2020 all Revolution Pi come delivered with the RevPi Nodes preinstalled. In this case you can simply follow our Quick Start Guide for the RevPi Nodes.