High-Level Languages…A High-Level Overview

How are manufacturing companies like race cars? It’s all about quality! The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) requires heavy-duty equipment to stand up to the harsh conditions of factories and other industrial settings. Much like a race car driver needs a state-of-the-art engine for their vehicle to perform under grueling race conditions, a manufacturing company needs an industrial digital computer that can reliably control a workplace riddled with machine vibrations, heat, cold, and other adverse conditions. Such a computer has to be easy to program and quick to diagnose faulty processes.

These advanced computers are run by advanced programming languages that meet the needs of industrial settings. High-level languages like Python, Visual Basic, Delphi, Perl, PHP, ECMAScript, Ruby, C#, and Java fit the bill for many IIoT applications. Some languages, like C and even C++, were considered high-level at one time but have been pushed down the spectrum to a lower level by newer, more sophisticated languages like Python.

What sets these high-level languages apart from regular programming languages, also known as low-level languages? How do these high-level languages drive the IIoT, and how are they being used to bring the IIoT into the future? You’re about to find out.

Low-Level vs. High-Level Languages: What’s the Difference?

Programming languages have evolved significantly since the 1960s, when they were born as autocodes. Back then, all languages were low-level languages written for specific hardware. Low-level languages like this can’t be moved to another machine. High-level languages, on the other hand, are not tied to the machines they run on. Think of high-level languages like a universal blood donor: their blood works in all bodies, whereas other blood types do not.

This involves the programming concept of abstraction. In programming, abstraction means complexity is reduced and the language is generalized, allowing the languages to be used regardless of the kind of computer. High-level languages have a high degree of abstraction, making them portable.

High-level languages are written in a more natural language style (as opposed to binary code, which is hard to write and understand), so they are easier to write and more understandable to those who are non-technical. The programming uses English as well as math symbols like +, -, and % and deals with abstract computer science concepts like functions, threads, and loops. Because of this, a layman can understand the basics of a thread of high-level code, something not possible when machine coding with only 1s and 0s. Debugging during the development of a program is easier, too, since any programmer using any machine can read it.

When they are used on a computer, a software tool called a compiler translates high-level programs for the machine’s code. One exception to this characteristic is that high-level languages (HLL) may need modifications based on the operating system being used. Programs written exclusively for Windows don’t usually run on a Mac without tweaks, for example.

Advantages and Disadvantages of High-Level Languages

Simply explaining what HLLs are outlines many of their advantages. One huge advantage of a high-level language that you may have already picked up on is that users and businesses have the freedom — and the language has the flexibility — to customize the software to meet their specific needs.

However, there are some disadvantages to HLLs as well. First, the code can’t communicate directly with the machine, so it takes time for the compiler to translate a program into machine code. HLLs are also known for being a bit slower than low-level programs and less memory efficient. Even so, HLLs are often the best and only choice for sophisticated tasks.

High-Level Languages in the IIoT: Which Is Most Popular?

Java, Pascal, Python, and Visual Basic are the top HLL contenders to nearly all programs today. They are used to develop websites, systems and utility software, and desktop applications. But what about in the IIoT? Is one HLL more popular than the rest?

In the not-so-distant past, C and C++ were considered front runners in IoT (Internet of Things) and by extension the IIoT. But in the world of programming and machines, things change at breakneck speed. Today, C and C++ are classified in the middle-level or even lower-level languages that have been eclipsed.

Python now seems to be the favorite high-level language for real-time processing and data-rich applications in the IIoT. Python is becoming more and more popular every day in the IIoT in part because it is portable. Java, meanwhile, is popular for use on desktop applications, websites, and Android smartphones. Other contenders include Visual Basic, Delphi, Perl, PHP, ECMAScript, Ruby, and C#.

Most Innovative High-Level Language Uses in the IIoT

We don’t have to look far for some innovative uses of high-level languages within the framework of IIoT. Let’s take a look at a couple of interesting examples of the favorites outlined in the last section: Python and Java.

Python

It’s easy to imagine IIoT technology in a fleet of trucks, but what about in boats? A company called Zerynth has developed an ecosystem of software tools designed to translate Python for use by many platforms and separate them seamlessly from the machines. It doesn’t need a lot of RAM, and it operates in real-time, one of the biggest needs in the IIoT, and it’s already made it out to sea.

Zerynth designed a Python-based solution for improving the operation of marine vessels. The three-year project tested ships throughout Europe that were connected through the IoT and was designed to improve the safety and efficiency of the ships. They were also able to collect environmental data using the weather-forecasting algorithm developed in Python.

Java

Java is known for being secure and stable, a characteristic that is appealing when many industrial machines are physically separate from the home office. That may be why HERE Car, a mapping and location company, used Java to create data sharing and analysis in a suite of products they call Location Intelligence. As problems arise, solutions are offered in real time to get riders and products to their destinations. HERE Tracking offers logistical tracking along with real-time and historic locations for all of a company’s devices, making for a safer and more efficient fleet.

Conclusion

In 2018, there were over 31 billion IoT-connected devices and more than 6.2 million IoT-focused global developers. That’s a lot of interaction between humans and machines, all focused on making things work more efficiently and faster for our benefit.

Only high-level languages can meet the demands of the IoT, and by extension, the IIoT. These languages are popular in part because they are programmed in a more natural language style, and their code can be run on whatever hardware happens to be present in a particular setting, whether that is in a factory, a hospital, or an urban transportation center. The IIoT, powered by these high-level languages, is not slowing down any time soon.

References:

https://www.theserverside.com/definition/Java

https://www.zerynth.com/blog/the-zerynth-powered-lincoln-iot-marine-gateway-project-is-completed/

https://books.google.com/books?id=nH2DDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT85&lpg=PT85&dq=innovative+uses+of+high+level+languages&source=bl&ots=NKGlTbkk_A&sig=ACfU3U2pw2a7E5UlHlB-ILYrNzGj9HJWUQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiO_4e2g6rmAhWDxFkKHRTtBuQ4ChDoATAIegQIChAB#v=onepage&q=innovative%20uses%20of%20high%20level%20languages&f=false

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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