You’ve probably never really thought about this, but building a system to monitor your environment—like the air, water, and soil around you—is hard.
In fact, it’s really hard.
You’ll need sensors, internet connectivity, a device for storing the sensor data, and all the other electronics, enclosures, and physical hardware needed. After days spent trawling manufacturer websites and electronics distributors, getting lost in the weeds of a data sheet or two along the way, the real challenges have barely begun!
However, thanks to new technologies like no-code software platforms, it’s getting easier and easier to build these systems, regardless of technical expertise. Let’s take a look at the ways in which these emerging technologies can help break down the skills barrier and democratize environmental monitoring for everyone.
The Skills Barrier
The amount of software development effort required to get data from a sensor that you’ve buried in the ground (or strapped to a tree, or submerged in water) into a database hosted in the cloud, and ultimately onto your phone or computer in an actionable format, goes far beyond the capabilities of most professional software developers, never mind those who care passionately about the environment but don’t write code for a living.
That’s because building an environmental monitoring system is a multidisciplinary project. Not only do you need the domain expertise to understand what you need to know about the environment in the first place, and which sensors will get you that info, but you also need a wide range of unrelated engineering skills to tie everything together.
From electrical engineering, wireless networking, and systems engineering, to data science, data visualization, user experience design, and web development, building a complete end-to-end environmental monitoring system is an undertaking that is beyond most individuals, and even beyond most teams.
So how do you even think about starting? Do you need to find a team of engineers? Should you try to pick up all of the skills yourself?
Thankfully, the answer to both questions is a resounding “NO!”.
Why Temboo Exists
Why should your ability to care for the planet rely on people who are expensive, in demand, and not as motivated to look after the environment as you are? The answer of course is that it shouldn’t have to, and that’s exactly where Temboo comes in.
Temboo exists not only to lower the barrier to building environmental software systems, but to remove it completely. We make this possible by first understanding all of the technical tasks our customers would need to accomplish on their own. Next, we automate all of these tasks away, hiding them behind a user-friendly interface.
Through a simple web app, you can tell Temboo exactly how you want your environmental monitoring system to work. Behind the scenes, we automatically generate all the code that your application needs to interact with your sensors and get you the data you need in a format that makes sense to you.
In the past few years, this approach to automating the creation of complex software systems has become known as “no-code”, because it does away with the need to write code in domains where software development skills were previously a barrier to entry.
Temboo—a friendly alternative to writing code
A Brief Introduction to the “No-Code” Movement
Traditionally, people have been required to communicate with computers using arcane languages that only computers understand (think symbols, numbers, and code words in place of plain English).
Early adopters began using these languages to interact with computers in the 1970s, and this barrier to entry naturally limited the number of people using computers. Then, companies like Microsoft and Apple built software with visual interfaces, making it much easier for the average person to quickly learn how to use computers for fun and productivity.
However, if you actually wanted to make your own software applications, you still had to learn to write code. Some of the earliest programming languages have celebrated their 50th birthdays over the past few years, and modern programming languages don’t look very different to those that came before them.
More recently, a way of building software has emerged that makes it seem as though computers can understand methods of communication that are much more natural to us humans. Instead of talking to computers using seemingly endless lines of text, numbers, and symbols arranged in specific patterns, we can just point, click, drag, and type natural language.
For example, instead of writing code to configure a wireless soil moisture sensor to store its readings in a database every 10 minutes, you can capture this preference via an approachable user interface like the one below.
The upshot of the No-Code movement is that creating software systems becomes something that almost anyone can do. Building software is no longer the preserve of those who’ve studied computer science and dedicated their professional life to writing code. By making computer programming far more accessible, we enable a world in which the people who know the most about the domain for which the software is being built can actually build the software in the first place.
A lawyer, teacher, baker, doctor, plumber, accountant, or farmer will always know more about what they want out of a computer system than the people they’ve hired to build it. The goal then is to enable them to interact with software development tools in a way that plays to their strengths and replaces the need for traditional software engineering skills with a need for domain expertise. This puts us on the path to a world in which more people can be creators of technology as opposed to mere consumers, unlocking massive human and economic potential.
No-Code At Temboo
The No-Code movement has accelerated greatly in recent years, helped in part by the fact that many people have been working remotely for the past year and need new ways of collaborating. Unsurprisingly, much of the focus has been on enabling non-programmers to automate common business tasks like sending emails at scale, adding data to spreadsheets, and exchanging information between different third-party applications. Tools that help you build a website without needing to write code are particularly popular and advanced at this point.
Since Temboo is an environmental software company, our approach to No-Code is a little different. Instead of helping knowledge workers become more efficient, we’re fully focused on empowering anyone to build systems that monitor and provide insights about the physical world.
Environmental monitoring is the process of quantifying the current state of the world around us. It’s an essential part of determining what exactly is in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, and in the soil our food grows in. Only through first understanding where we stand can we move forward with confidence as we advocate for essential environmental change.
Within our code generation engine, we’ve encapsulated everything you need to:
- Communicate with different types of sensors at custom intervals.
- Securely store sensor data in the cloud.
- Visualize sensor data from any device anywhere in the world.
- Generate environmental insights.
- Get notified about significant events.
- Quickly deploy an environmental monitoring system to meet your needs, without worrying about skills outside of your domain.
Over To You
While the specifics of exactly how we’ve built Temboo’s No-Code platform is a deep topic that I’ll be writing more about in future posts, the good news is that you don’t have to care about any of it!
You can use Temboo right now to automatically generate complete environment monitoring systems that interact with sensors to deliver environmental insights in a friendly, approachable, and engaging manner.
With so many environmental challenges facing us today, the planet doesn’t have time to wait for those who really care about it to learn how to build essential monitoring systems. And thanks to Temboo’s No-Code platform, it doesn’t have to!