Industrial App Stores – why they are becoming the Critical Enabler for Location Data on the Shop Floor


In the digital era, industrial app stores have emerged as pivotal platforms that redefine the integration of technology in industrial landscapes. They serve as centralized hubs for applications that enhance operational efficiency, safety, and productivity on the shop floor. These stores herald a new chapter in digital transformation, mirroring the success of consumer app stores while catering to the unique demands of industrial environments. 

This article will dissect the components that drive these digital marketplaces, with a spotlight on location data – a critical element for real-time insights and decision-making in industrial settings. We will explore the role of innovative platforms such as PLCnext Store and delve into how they streamline the deployment of location-based services and applications, revolutionizing industrial operations. 

Re-imagining Industrial Efficiency: The Rise of Digital Marketplaces

At the forefront of digital industrial innovation, industrial app stores stand as a transformative force. They are not merely repositories of applications but the building blocks of a more connected and intelligent industrial environment. These app stores provide the necessary infrastructure to host, distribute, and manage a multitude of applications that propel the capabilities of modern industries forward. 

Originating from the digital shift that has overhauled various sectors, industrial app stores have adapted the consumer app store blueprint to fulfill the specific requirements of industrial operations. They have created ecosystems where software meets hardware in a seamless blend, facilitating new service-based revenue models and secure, regulated environments for rapid digital service deployment. 

The design of these ecosystems prioritizes the fusion of operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT), effectively breaking down historical barriers that have hindered the flow of data and functionality. This amalgamation ushers in a new wave of process optimization, faster decision-making, and innovation, aligning with an agile and sustainable business model that is responsive to the shifting dynamics of the market. 

At their core, industrial app stores are more than conduits for software; they are enablers of a digital-physical convergence, nurturing a symbiotic ecosystem for service providers and users alike. These app stores not only facilitate a robust selection of digital tools but also serve as integral platforms for deploying location-based services, a critical feature for the real-time operational visibility required in modern industrial settings. 

With our focus set on the expansive role of industrial app stores, let’s now zoom in on a pioneering example: Phoenix Contact’s PLCnext Store, a platform at the forefront of this industrial innovation. 

PLCnext Technology – a prime example of how to do it right

Responding to the evolving demands of globalization and digitalization, Phoenix Contact presents PLCnext Technology, an open and versatile ecosystem equipped with modular engineering software, open hardware, a global community hub and an industrial App Store – the PLCnext Store

This platform redefines flexibility, facilitating not just the standard IEC 61131-3 PLC system programming, but also parallel programming, integrating various programming languages like C/C++, C#, and MATLAB® Simulink® through PLCnext Control, in real time. In addition to this, the open Linux-based runtime system offers the possibility to add nearly any software on the PLCnext Control. An important point here is the possibility of using OCI containers (e.g. Docker) on the device. This opens up OT to the technologies of IT! 

Accelerate development processes with the freely available PLCnext Engineer, or stick to your trusted programming environment; the choice is yours. The combination of different program parts offers flexibility for fast development. PLCnext promotes effortless cloud integration and encourages utilizing open source software, broadening the horizons for innovation and collaboration. 

Central to the ecosystem is the PLCnext Store, a digital marketplace that houses a wealth of resources including apps, runtime systems, and functional extensions, promising substantial time and cost savings in application development. Moreover, the PLCnext Store offers software developers a new distribution channel with access to all customer groups that use PLCnext Technology. 

The PLCnext Store’s capabilities are further enhanced by its support for real-time locating technologies, which are essential for the instantaneous data processing and decision-making that define today’s industrial operations. 

PLCnext Store graphic

Real-time Locating Technologies: The Pulse of Modern Industrial App Stores

In the modern industrial ecosystem, real-time locating technologies form the backbone of enhanced asset visibility, both across the shop floor and through the intricacies of interconnected supply chains. These technologies provide the situational awareness essential for the fluid management of resources and the precise orchestration of complex logistics. 

The integration of location data into industrial app stores is central to unlocking the potential of these technologies. It transforms the overwhelming streams of raw data into structured, actionable insights, enabling companies to make strategic, data-driven decisions. As a consequence, these insights facilitate a granular level of control and real-time responsiveness that was previously unattainable, making real-time location data a linchpin in the framework of industrial app stores. 

On the operational technology (OT) front, the deployment of RFID, optical sensors, and other identification tools work in concert to capture the nuances of asset movement and status. This data collection is further refined by precision-positioning technologies such as ultrawideband (UWB) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which are crucial for real-time asset tracking. The result is a multidimensional view of asset locations, movements, and interactions that drives the efficient automation of processes. 

Meanwhile, IT infrastructures play a pivotal role in the analysis and utilization of this data. Leveraged through the capabilities provided by industrial app stores, the intersection of OT and IT gives rise to a synergistic environment where the efficient, intelligent use of location data is a cornerstone of modern industrial strategy. 

As such, real-time locating technologies do not merely support existing operational paradigms; they are redefining them. These technologies act as the fulcrum of innovation for industrial app stores, signaling a shift towards a future where operations are seamlessly integrated, where every asset’s position and path are precisely known, and where the industrial canvas is dynamically responsive to the ebb and flow of its constituent parts.

Data Flow DeepHub

Interoperability of Real-time Locating Technologies: The omlox Standard and DeepHub at the Core

With the foundation of sophisticated platforms like PLCnext Store, the industry’s next evolutionary step is embodied in the interoperability of these technologies, a vision actualized by the omlox standard and its central orchestrator, the omlox hub. 

Through the omlox hub, location data from any source is channeled into a coherent stream, accessible through uniform interfaces. Our DeepHub is the premier omlox hub, a unique middleware that harmonizes location data irrespective of its origin. As an omlox compliant solution, the DeepHub provides an API that streamlines the use of location data for a variety of applications, enabling consistent asset tracking capabilities across different environments. 

The significance of the DeepHub in the landscape of industrial app stores is clear. It provides a critical tool for organizations looking to build or integrate interoperable IoT solutions, which result in lowered total costs and improved operational efficacy. The role of the DeepHub is pivotal, particularly for system integrators, solution providers, and hardware manufacturers seeking to reduce complexity and enhance system efficiency. 

This interoperability is not just an operational advantage but a strategic necessity as industries gravitate towards a more interconnected and data-driven operational model. The omlox standard and the DeepHub are at the forefront of this shift, ensuring that the integration of real-time locating technologies within industrial app stores is both practical and beneficial, paving the way for a future of enhanced industrial intelligence and productivity. 

Conclusion: Synergizing Industrial App Stores with Location Data 

As this article has unveiled, industrial app stores like the PLCnext Store are becoming instrumental in integrating technology into the industrial sector, particularly through the use of location data. The omlox standard and Flowcate’s DeepHub represent significant advancements in this field, offering a new level of interoperability for real-time locating systems. 

The convergence of these innovations—industrial app stores, real-time locating technologies, and interoperability standards—creates a robust framework for industrial operations, enabling more efficient and streamlined processes. The PLCnext Store exemplifies this integration, while the omlox standard and DeepHub provide the necessary infrastructure to bring diverse technologies together, simplifying the management of location data across various platforms and devices. 

As industries continue to advance and adopt more interconnected systems, the role of such technologies and standards will likely grow in importance, shaping the future of industrial operations. The insights gleaned from these developments suggest a trend towards more connected, responsive, and efficient industrial environments, driven by the strategic use of location data and the continual blending of digital with physical operations.