Do-it-yourself IoT: May the force(s) be with you!


Posted by Guru Kashyap on March 23, 2017

Thanks to a do-it-yourself Internet of Things (IOT) project I was working on a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to reflect on the rapid pace of technology and innovation.

Over the last 25 years, four fundamental forces representing computing concepts and movements have gained momentum. Together, they helped integrate hardware, software, and the physical environment in a way that is intuitive and accessible to a do-it-yourself audience. These forces are:

  • Open-source software from the 90s
  • Cloud computing from the early 2000s
  • Maker movement since 2005 and
  • Low-code development platforms in the current decade

Before we look at these four forces more closely, let’s take a look at the project.

Objective:  To design a system that will monitor the temperature of my home environment and trigger a text message to my phone when the temperature crosses a certain threshold.

What I needed:
Hardware

  • Sensors to measure environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, etc.
  • Raspberry Pi 3: A credit-card sized computer that has an HDMI port to connect to monitor and a USB port to connect to keyboard/mouse
  • A smartphone

Software/Infrastructure

  • Raspbian: An operating system built for the Pi
  • Node-RED: A visual programming tool for wiring hardware devices, APIs and online services to facilitate the Internet of Things
  • A cloud-based communication platform that allows you to send SMS to your phone
  • A cloud-based IOT platform that allows devices to interact with other devices and cloud applications
  • JavaScript: A high level programming language inside Node-RED functions.

Sensors attached to a Raspberry PI 3 continuously monitor temperature in the surrounding environment; when a predetermined threshold is met, an alert is sent through the IoT platform to the user’s smartphone.

How it worked:

  • Sensor continuously monitors the environment: Install the operating system on the Pi and connect the sensors.
  • IOT platform connects devices and your application: Use the IOT Platform to a) register the Pi  b) connect to the Node-RED server-side application

Raspberry Pi with sensor attached

  • Sensor sends data to IOT platform: Write the client-side program (using JavaScript in Node-RED) to process the temperature signals and send it to the IOT platform.

Sensor in steady state

  • Application connects to other cloud services as needed: Register the smartphone with the cloud-based communication platform and use those credentials in server-side application to enable sending a text.
  • Application sends signals to user: Start receiving temperature signals from the Pi; this triggers the application to send a text message when the threshold is crossed.

Sensor in alert state

The four forces at work
Now, let’s look at how the four forces came together in this project.

  • Open-source software movement:  Remember the battle in the late 90s against the open-source software movement when Linux was called the “malignant cancer?” We’ve come a come a long way since then. In this project, the same Linux is the operating system on the mini computer. Linux Foundation1 estimates the total development cost of its collaborative projects alone is $5 billion. There are many such foundations. Node-RED is part of the JS Foundation, which supports open source projects in the JavaScript ecosystem. And JavaScript itself is developed on an open standard.
  • Cloud computing:  In the early 2000s, Salesforce2 pioneered the concept of enterprise app delivery via the internet. Remember the “no software” days? Since then, almost anything tech is delivered “as a service.” Thanks to the cloud delivery model, a cloud-based communication platform and the entire IOT platform are represented in this project. Worldwide public IT cloud service revenue3 in 2018 is predicted to be $127 billion.
  • Maker Movement: In 2005,4 with the launch of MAKE Magazine, the tech-influenced DIY community has come to be identified as the Maker Movement5. Recently I attended a Maker Faire, called the “greatest show and tell on earth,6” and sat on a 3D printed chair! Affordable, intuitive tools and hardware have fueled the rise of the Maker Movement and enabled DIYers like me to tackle our own technology projects. Pi7 and Arduino8 are available for under $50 and frequently used in DIY projects. Industry stats on the movement estimate9 that makers fuel about $29 billion into the economy each year.
  • Low-code development platforms: A name coined in 2014, these platforms10 represent rapid application delivery with minimal coding, setup, and deployment. To create my project app, the amount of code I had to write in JavaScript was minimal, thanks to Node-RED, a primary example of this trend. Forrester11 estimates that the total market for low-code development platforms will grow to $15.5 billion by 2020.

IoT takes hold

According to Deloitte, the Internet of Things is taking off in both consumer-focused and B2B industries, and our Tech Trends research has identified the move from sensing to doing. There are multiple platforms of choice and robust offerings from several technology leaders and specialized providers.  GE predicts12 investment in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) is expected to top $60 trillion during the next 15 years.  The possibilities in the universe of connected things is only beginning to be realized; the real potential lies in making data actionable and uncovering valuable insights.
An iota of that investment is more than enough to start your own prototypes.  As you start your next IOT project, may the force(s) be with you!

1Jamie Redman, “The open source world Is worth billions,” The Cointelegraph, October 3, 2015,
2https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-open-source-world-is-worth-billions
3” History of APIs,” API Evangelist, http://history.apievangelist.com/
4Louis Columbus, “Roundup of Cloud Computing Forecasts and Market Estimates, 2016,” Forbes, March 13, 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2016/03/13/roundup-of-cloud-computing-forecasts-and-market-estimates-2016/#7e9a34f174b0
5Chris Anderson, “20 years of Wired: Maker Movement,” Wired, May 2, 2013, http://www.wired.co.uk/article/maker-movement
6“The Maker Movement,” Maker Faire, http://makerfaire.com/maker-movement/
7“Maker Faire: A bit of history,” Maker Faire, http://makerfaire.com/makerfairehistory/
8Raspberry Pi Blog, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-3-on-sale/
9“Arduino Buying Guide,” Sparkfun Electronics, https://www.sparkfun.com/arduino_guide
10Jeremiah Owyang, “Maker movement and 3D printing: Industry Stats,” Web Strategisthttp://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2014/02/13/maker-movement-and-3d-printing-industry-stats/
11Clay Richardson, “New development platforms emerge for customer-facing applications,” Forrester, June 9, 2014, https://www.forrester.com/report/New+Development+Platforms+Emerge+For+CustomerFacing+Applications/-/E-RES113411
12Clay Richardson and John R. Rymer, “Vendor landscape: The fractured, fertile, terrain of low-code application forms,” Forrester, January 15, 2016, http://informationsecurity.report/Resources/Whitepapers/0eb07c59-b01c-4399-9022-dfc297487060_Forrester%20Vendor%20Landscape%20The%20Fractured,%20Fertile%20Terrain.pdf
13Louis Columbus, “Roundup of Internet of Things forecasts and market estimates, 2016,” Forbes, November 27, 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2016/11/27/roundup-of-internet-of-things-forecasts-and-market-estimates-2016/#7fc739254ba5

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