IBM Bluemix visits Waracle to talk IoT

7th November 2016

Everyone at Waracle looks forward to the last Friday of the month, not only because we all have lunch with our CEO giving us the low-down on the company’s performance, we announce the Employee of the month who we all vote on using a custom Slack integration (that’s a whole other blog topic!). We also invite in guests to do a talk on something new or exciting in the tech world.

Last month we were visited by Tony Neal and Alexei Matveyev from IBM. Tony is an IoT Platform Technical Professional and Alexei their partner marketing manager. Waracle was recently recognised by Clutch as one of the leading IoT Development Companies and it’s fair to say we are fascinated by the potential connectivity of everyday devices, so having IBM in to demo their Bluemix cloud platform couldn’t have come at a better time. The Bluemix Platform is currently being used for building, running and managing apps and services and these extensive capabilities make it very easy to expand into developing IoT applications.

IoT Sensors

The Texas Instruments SensorTag was demoed as a prototyping sensor which packs a whopping 11 sensors (Infrared and Ambient Temperature Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Humidity Sensor, Barometric Pressure Sensor, 9- axis Motion Tracking Device – Accelerometer, Gyroscope and Compass, and Magnet Sensor) and transmits all its collected data wirelessly to either a smartphone or bridge.

The set up time was impressive especially for prototyping purposes which would allow us to live demo an applicable usage to potential clients using any of the sensors on board. The best part was the sensortag itself costs only £25. Ultimately the final sensors used in an IoT project would be specific to the project but the point was to show how prototyping can be quick, easy and inexpensive.

IBM Bluemix with Node Red and IBM Watson

Within Bluemix we were specifically looking at the IoT functionality but the platform isn’t limited to it and can be used for all aspects of app development.

The IBM Internet of Things service allows apps to communicate with, and consume data that is collected by connected devices, sensors, and gateways. Apps can then use real-time data from sensors or APIs to communicate with other devices.

Node-RED within Bluemix is a browser-based flow editor that makes it easy to connect devices and API’s, so connecting all of the sensors with visualisations from live data is simply a drag and drop process. Bluemix allows connections to all of the IBM resources including IBM Watson for cognitive computer processing with speech, vision, and data APIs.

Bringing all these elements together within Bluemix allowed Tony to demo sensor data coming directly from the TI SensorTag and visualising it immediately within a dashboard that was created within minutes. We saw the ambient light sensor on a graph showing how bright the room was and how it changed immediately when the sensor was covered. We were also able to see a visualisation of the temperature in the room and how it warmed up when the sensor was heated in Tony’s hand.

IoT in an office environment

To see an office building completely fitted out with sensors Tony showed us a case study from Tyrens where they installed sensors throughout an 8 floor building within 4 hours! Tyrens specialise in urban planning and infrastructure solutions that promote sustainable development. Tyrens wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the relationships between people and the buildings they work in, based on hard data, rather than intuition.

The solution to their need was to install 1000 wireless low powered sensors. The sensors transmit their data using the MQtt protocol wirelessly so Tyrens can do a lot of very innovative things from an analytical perspective; like environmental monitoring (temperature / humidity over time, power usage, etc) and also some more complex analytics – for example, conference room optimisation monitoring (knowing how many people are sitting at a table), electrical usage / presence (if the lights are on but nobody is in the office an alert can be sent out or be remotely switched off.

Ultimately the Internet of Things allows Tyrens to make data driven decisions and allow smart automation that saves cost, enables sustainability and improves the working environment.

Here’s some links to videos from the company with visualisation of floors with sensor feedback;

Tyrens sensors
Short install 1000
Install 1000

Picking their brains at the end of the session

I spent some time with Tony and Alexei at the end of the session to really pick their brains about using the Bluemix platform for my home project, self titled ‘Automating my House!’ (the source of many a joke at work, some suggesting I’m a bit obsessed!). Tony has a very similar setup to myself but has taken it to the next level by combining all of the various elements together from the smart lighting with the Philips Hue, sensors galore throughout his home to smart meters on his Gas and Electricity and to even control it all with an Amazon Echo directly. Needless to say this has given me a new pet project to work on with a trial account set up on Bluemix, a Raspberry Pi ordered to interface with my Philips Hue and a TI SensorTag being delivered to prototype a sensor network throughout my home. My partner is not going to be happy but maybe that’s the cost of working for a top IoT company!

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