‘INTERNET OF THINGS’ & THE CLOUD
In this issue we are going to look at how to connect your robots and sensors to the Cloud, commonly known as the Internet of Things (IOT).
WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF THINGS?
Our phones, tablets and PC’s have been connected to the internet for a while but these devices can only do so much, what if they could connect to the rest of the electronic hardware in our lives and give us control over them? This is all about to change with the revolution known as the ‘Internet Of Things’, IOT for short. Business leaders are predicting the growth in this market as being measured in trillions of dollars, so it will affect all of us over the next few years. The biggest market predictions being for heating systems, security systems, home appliances (refrigerators) and wearable tech like Smart Watches and Heads-Up-Displays, etc.
Connecting our stuff to the internet so we can monitor and interact with it remotely all comes under the banner of Robotics in my mind because we will be controlling something remotely that performs a task previously done by humans who are there!
OUT OF THE CLOUDS AND BACK TO GROUND
The reality of all of this hype surrounding the IOT is that we have actually been able to do most of these things for a while now but have chosen not too. It takes a C-Change to make a revolution and it is the manufacturers of the hardware and software who want to sell us new stuff which is leading the charge. The good news for us robotics hackers is that we can make use of this low cost accessible technology now for our own robotics interaction and monitoring. Where a simple system is comprised of some hardware (FlowPaw in this case), internet access (Wifi), and an app. or webpage running on a portable device like a phone or tablet. We know about the hardware in our robots but how do we make the Cloud based app. or webpage?
BEHOLD – STONECLOUD
We were recently asked to make an ‘Internet of Things Kit’, based on our own FlowPaw coding kit, for the German market by Conrad Electronic, Germany’s biggest electronics distributor in the hobby electronics market. The idea was to include the base FlowPaw kit, with FlowStone our graphical programming language, bundled with some extra sensors and a comprehensive work book for students and teachers.
We had the ‘Things’ i.e. sensors, relays, displays, buzzers etc. but needed the ‘Internet’ part of the equation to bring it to life so we created ‘StoneCloud’.
StoneCloud is a very clever yet simple-to-use data driven Cloud based interaction for the IOT kit, or ANY FlowStone based application where you need Cloud based interaction. It sends and receives HTTP messages to our server here at DSPRobotics and displays the information from your ‘Things’ on any device, be it PC, tablet or phone. You can then interact with your hardware by adjusting simple thresholds where events are triggered at the remote end. For example, imagine a green house where you need to open a window when the temperature exceeds a limit. Using your Phone you could logon to check the current temperature, displayed on a bar graph, and adjust the threshold up or down to ensure the window opens or closes at a new temperature based on a recent weather report.
Another example could be a simple intruder alarm where you receive an SMS message telling you that someone has entered a room, you can then watch the proximity sensor data ‘live’ to confirm it’s not a false alarm then, using StoneCloud, activate a relay remotely to sound an alarm. The applications are endless and so easy to implement.
StoneCloud is nothing more than a clever script running on our server that receives HTTP messages and displays the data in a meaningful fashion. Since this system was designed with education in mind there are no complex login/registration processes… it’s all data driven and just uses the FlowPaw unique hardware ID to automatically setup a unique URL for you to use or share.
From here the HTTP Post data creates the display columns on the on the StoneCloud web page automatically for you and updates the data at around 10Hz. This uses the FlowStone HTTP Post module that requires only four main inputs, the URL, webpage of the script, an array of Names and an array of Values. Whilst this may look complex at first glance, it is really just for your information as it’s all taken care of for you in the ‘ToCloud’ module we have made, so it’s just a case on connecting the sensors to the module and you’re off!
So as you can see it’s really quick and easy to make you own ‘Internet Of Things’ systems using FlowStone and FlowPaw that you can control and monitor from anywhere in the world. No whether you use your PC, phone or tablet, all you need is the unique URL for your FlowPaw IOT web page and you’re in! From here you can send your live sensor/robot data and monitor or interact with it from anywhere.
Using the internet to connect to your hardware… the possibilities are truly endless and should present some really exciting products in the near future.