UCS – Software Configurator for Electricity Meters

Realized for:
CARLO GAVAZZI CONTROLS

Summary

We built a hybrid desktop app which can communicate with external hardware via modbus and runs on web technologies. This software will run on 100k+ instruments installed around the world.

The request

Creating a platform for the configuration of electrical meters, easily expandable to more devices and compatible with all the major desktop operating systems (Windows, OSX, Linux).

Carlo Gavazzi Controls asked us to realize a platform to set up, view and record data from their sensors. The whole experience needed to be visually shared between every platform.

Belka has been a perfect partner for the design and software development and for the technical choices of this project. We let them decide for the best technology and this has been game-changing in terms of independence and reliability.

We kept working on the other parts of the projects without worrying about software because thanks to their autonomy and frequent communication we completed our business objectives in time and with a quality product, perfectly matching our requests.

Alessio Costantini
Project Manager, Carlo Gavazzi Controls

Our solution

We started with the analysis of the problem: how could we build software that can talk with external hardware on different OS? We considered every choice and we decided to build an hybrid desktop app.

Why not Java? We didn’t want to be dependent on the JVM which could be installed or missing from the users’ machine and usually comes in different versions. Nobody likes updating Java, and we couldn’t risk having strange behaviours caused by an outdated JVM: this solution let us develop a stand-alone product.
Moreover, the visual aspect of web apps is far more customizable and, let’s say it, way better than the standard Java UI, giving an overall better User Experience.

The application is built on top of the open source version of Google Chrome, i.e. Chromium. Such application stack is used by some companies like Spotify, Steam, AVG, Evernote, Slack, Atom. Simplifying: it’s a browser instance which lives inside the application and can communicate with the hardware with a layer between Javascript and C++.

Artboard

It’s a modern technical choice and we have been enthusiast to work on such bleeding-edge technology. We had to face some technical challenges but in the end the product perfectly fitted the client’s needs and is not limited by the technical choice. In terms of performance and quality the app is not like smartphone hybrid apps which still have big limitations, but it’s a powerful tool that is smooth and fast as native applications.

The web application choice allowed us to use a well-defined, unique visual language, shared between the different operative systems and immediately understandable to the users. The interaction has been tested through many sessions of user testing to improve the usability of the interface fitting the customers’ needs.

finestra

The biggest design challenge has been developing an application which is very different from the consumer field: the user won’t look for the easiest interaction but they want the best efficiency and rapidity. We designed the app following this paradigm, looking for clarity and efficiency. This has been pointed out from the target users during the user testing.

We are now extending the same visual identity to other tools of the same company, to deliver a similar user experience and having a faster and easier user interaction.

Category

  • Hybrid App
  • Internet of Things
  • UI/UX Design
  • User Testing

Technologies

  • React.js
  • Backbone.js
  • Chromium Embedded Framework
  • Modbus

Supported meters

  • WM30-96
  • WM40-96
  • EM111
  • EM112
  • ET112
  • EM330
  • ET330
  • EM340
  • ET340
  • EM341