17 Sep 2010

Connective Icon Calculator: iPhone app review

When I began in building controls engineering just six years ago, function block diagram programming was already an established engineering tool for may control systems.  I began my controls programming with an older technology control system that used mostly point-oriented boolean algebra which was surprising very powerful, but difficult to get an overview of the program.  This tended to make commissioning and troubleshooting a bit more complex. Since then function block programming has continued to grow in popularity.

On a work trip interstate I thought it would be handy to have some sort of function block programming tool for the iPhone – this way I could easily test small programs and routines on the plane or in my downtime without having to fire up my laptop. I found just the app called Connective Icon Calculator by a Japanese developer kinakoFactory.

It has proven to be a very handy little app! It operates the same as any function block diagram tool, simply drop your inputs, output, and function blocks on the page and link them up.  There is a good selection of function blocks (called Icons) including math and logic that is adequate for most simple programs (called Settings).

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The function block canvas can be scrolled and zoomed in and out with the standard iPhone drag and pinch.  Positioning and linking blocks is easy thanks to decent GUI elements.  Once a program is complete, you can switch to the Inputs and Results screen where you can easily define the input parameters and view the outputs without the clutter of the programming interface.

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Some room for improvement

There are a few features that I feel would really perfect this app by improving functionality without adding bloat.

  • Some brief ‘getting started’ documentation
  • A ‘Snap to grid’ option
  • An undo button (I’ve mistakenly deleted function blocks which can be frustrating)
  • A way to export and import programs (‘Setting Files’) for backup or sharing. This could possibly be done by attaching the file to an email.

More information

You can follow the iTunes page for a purchase and download link or just search for ‘Connective Icon Calculator’ in the App Store.  I’ve also provided a link to the developer’s blog which is in Japanese, so I’ve linked to a Google translation to English.

iTunes page

Connective Icon Calculator blog (Google translation)

About the Author:

Hardware and software engineer with experience in product development and building automation. Product Manager at NEX Data Management Systems, based out of Brisbane, Australia.

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