Why we love working with devices

Meters and devices are everywhere and are continuing to be deployed in businesses and homes at a steady pace. These devices each perform certain functions and by combining the data these devices transmit with powerful custom web applications, we’re able to bring huge value to stakeholders, through automation, clever reporting and slick web interfaces.

Smart meters and devices are being developed and deployed at a rapid rate in rural and urban areas. These devices, which come in all shapes and sizes, have each been designed and engineered to perform a specific function and have limited capacity, meaning these are so-called “dumb” devices. In other words, they are limited in what they can do and they typically collect data and transmit the data to the cloud, where the real processing happens.

This is where we come in and the fun starts. We are able to conceptualise business cases with our clients to make the data that these devices transmit highly valuable. We do this by designing and building web and mobile apps, that are highly intelligent and packed with features to provide users with valuable information and notifications.

How do we integrate with these devices?

This is a very good question. Almost all devices have different ways of providing us data and allowing us to integrate with them. However, the following scenarios are the most common:

1. Data push from the device:

In this instance the device or meter records data and then when ready, it will send or push the data via the web to a predefined destination (a web application that we’ve designed), in a structured format. For example, an RFID scanner will record each time an RFID tag is scanned and transmit that in real-time to our system where we validate and record the data.

2. Data retrieval from a central server:

This method involves a central server that is typically set up by the company that manufactured the devices. This server has various functionality specific to the business objectives of the
device and typically a database where the data is stored.

We would receive and send data to and from this server typically through an API (Application Programming Interface), where the validation and predefined calls can take place to transmit the data in a structured format. These formats are typically JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) or XML (Extensible Markup Language), with JSON the newer and preferred format.

For example, a water meter may track the water usage of a certain water pipe, then send that data to a central server, where the data is validated, possibly processed somewhat and then stored. Our web application would then connect and request certain data when required and the server would validate our request (to ensure we are authorised to get this data) and then send back the data in the prescribed format as defined in the API.

3. Data retrieval from a specific device:

This method is less common but does still exist and depends on the device manufacturer and software architecture on choosing this method of data transmission.

How this works is our web application would have a list of devices that are in the field and then at certain intervals the web application would connect to each device and request the data for a certain period (from the period that it previously received data). The device would then validate the request and then send the data back to the web app.

Building amazing digital products once the integration is complete.

Now that we have done the integration with these devices we can create something really amazing. As we now have the data from these devices we can really start to build all kinds of digital products, which can be totally customised to the client’s requirements.

Often the data is quite a raw format and we firstly need to do some sort of data manipulation and aggregation (applying formulae and calculations) to convert that into additional useable data.

We can create all sorts of automation that work according to the data and that can trigger certain events, for example sending out notifications and alerts when certain criteria are met.

We’re able to build lots of logic into the system that can be combined with various workflows and processes within the client’s business.

We are also able to aggregate and provide this information in an easy to comprehend manner which can be quickly understood and interrogated further. Examples of this insightful data presentation include interactive dashboards and reporting tools with drill-down and exporting features.

What kinds of devices can we integrate with?

We’re able to pretty much integrate with any device provided that there is some sort of interface where we can receive or extract the data that the devices generate. Typically all these devices do have some sort of connection and data transmission capability and this is, in theory, all we need. As mentioned above, once we have the data we’re able to build from that adding the necessary logic, functionality and the various user interfaces that are used to interact with the web or mobile application.

We’ve worked with the following devices (and the list is growing):

  1. Water meters
  2. Electricity meters
  3. Power monitoring devices
  4. RFID tags and scanners
  5. Reverse Vending Machines
  6. Beer pouring devices


Devices are really fun and fascinating by nature and each device performs a specific function, transmitted data related to the job that it performs.

We’re able to combine these devices and the data that they provide with really intelligent, complex and powerful web and mobile apps.

The beauty is that we have a blank canvas in terms of what’s possible and we’re able to create custom solutions specific to our client’s requirements. Packed with automation and clever logic we’re also able to let the technology do the grunt work and streamline business operations and enhancing communication through alerts, notifications and automated reporting.

We’re truly passionate about this space and are always looking to work with new types of devices, helping our clients achieve their business objectives.
If you’re looking to add great value to your clients and expand the capacity of your devices, reach out to us as we love working in this space and adding value.

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Having been established in 2005, in Cape Town, South Africa, Elemental is primarily focused on providing web development services and digital marketing campaigns.