Dear Readers!

I’m happy to announce that I have completed another online course, this time about Node-RED, a visual programming tool for rapid development and testing of applications. My first encounter with this tech was in a previous course I did on industrial communication, where it was introduced as an alternate access technology to PLC data. Obviously, it immediately captured my attention, as it seemed to have more in store than what was presented there, and seemed to be able to provide a solution to one my problems. As it turned out, it is exactly what I thought it to be, and even more.

So what makes Node-RED such an interesting candidate for further learning? For one, it is built on Node.js, which means that it can be deployed pretty much anywhere, starting from SBCs to cloud platforms. Second, it is very easy to create powerful programs in a relatively short amount of time by using the prededined set of nodes (functionalities). If the built-in nodes do not provide the functionality we want, then it is easy to expand the toolbox by downloading more from the web or by writing our own using JavaScript. What makes this tech even more interesting (to me at least), is that the nodes are actually visually represented by rectangles on the screen, which can be interconnected using lines to create an entire program logic.

If this sounds familiar (it certainly did to me), then don’t be surprised, as such an approach to creating programs has been around way before Node-RED was created. For example, in the PLC world a programming language using this approach is called FBD or Function Block Diagram. But such an approach is not restricted to PLCs, as NI’s LabView, a widely known and used tool in academia for data acquisition and instrument control, also uses something very similar.

All this apart, I was very happy with this course, as it not only did a proper introduction to Node-RED, but also forced me to read about related web technology basics, such as MQTT, http methods and headers, web APIs, and IBM Cloud. All in all, this was a course well worth taking.

As always, thanks for reading.