Software to go provides wireless mobility

Think Again: Mobile applications are allowing those in the control engineering profession to take software with them in smartphones and tablets. What kinds of mobile apps are available?


Control Engineering looks at four apps per month on the Apps for Engineers department page. Courtesy: Control Engineering, CFE MediaThe number of mobility applications has exploded, including many for engineers' use. I had heard some suggest a while back that software for automation, controls, and instrumentation was too complex for smartphones or tablets. A Control Engineering analysis of 225 applications for engineers found that that's certainly not the case. Of those applications:

  • 85 are Android (Google), 38%
  • 141 are iOS (Apple), 62% 

These apps are developed by 115 companies; 61 for Android (53%), and 54 for iOS (47%).

Among the application types:

  • 58 are reference (26%)
  • 46 calculator (20%)
  • 35 productivity (16%)
  • 28 utilities (12%)
  • 20 business (9%)
  • 13 instrumentation (6%)
  • 10 catalog (4%)
  • 8 tools (4%)
  • 7 suite (3%)

The top five categories of applications for each operating system (OS) ranked equally, as shown above.

Among the categories of applications:

  • 62 are general engineering (27%)
  • 33 HVAC (15%)
  • 32 electrical (14%)
  • 23 control methods (10%)
  • 14 file preview ( 6%)
  • 13 business admin (6%)
  • 11 education (5%)
  • 9 mechanical (4%)
  • 8 energy (4%)
  • 8 motors and drives (4%)
  • 7 vision (3%)
  • 3 maintenance (1%)
  • 2 codes and standards (1%)

Among these, 10 have to do with human machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), or visualization, according to the application descriptions.

General engineering is the most prevalent category for each OS; HVAC was more numerous in iOS and electrical more for Android. Control methods and file preview rounded out the top 5 for each. 

Paid versus free analysis: Among the 225 applications, 151 (67%) are free. Among 74 apps with a fee:

  • 43 are iOS (58%) and 31 are Android
  • $10.48 is the average cost
  • $4.99 is the median (and mode) cost
  • $149.99 is the highest one (a SCADA and HMI application)
  • $0.99 is the lowest (5 apps)
  • $776 is the sum of the paid apps, and 80% of that is from iOS apps

Think again if you consider automation and control too complex for use on smartphones and tablets. Four apps are highlighted in each issue. See below for more.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,


This story has information about the number of free versus paid applications, and a cost analysis. Numbers here originate from applications in CFE Media's Apps for Engineers as of late March. Peruse the apps or submit an app for consideration at

ONLINE extra

In the short time between when this was written and when it was posted, the number of applications in CFE Media's Apps for Engineers increased to more than 240. The recently added applications are not included in this analysis but are now available in the application, available via the link above, for smart phones and tablets. Control Engineering will continue to highlight mobile apps monthly in each issue and post each online. (See links below.)

Don , , 06/04/14 08:18 AM:

Very interesting research and App of apps you made. Side Note: As our apps (soon to be on ) are all free, we are going to only do Android apps in the future. As iOS are too expensive to create and maintain when compared to Android. Not to mention the $99 annual fee and end user needing to install iTunes requirements by Apple.
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