|By James Sun||
|October 27, 2012 03:00 PM EDT||
The electromagnetic spectrum buzzes with activity. Smartphones, wireless headsets, desktop computers, in-car navigation systems, GPS-enabled gadgets, and many more devices compete for bandwidth as well as our attention. I served as the lead software developer for a team that recently completed a demonstration of a real-time, pedestrian monitoring system at Sakura Matsuri, a major street festival in Washington, D.C. We chose PubNub as our real-time messaging backbone and this article will provide some insight into how we used PubNub and why it was the right platform for us.
Our project team, which included members from Traffax, Inc., Michael Belisle Design and Agile Media Ventures, was awarded a grant via the Reliability IDEA program, which is administered by the Transportation Research Board. The program (http://www.trb.org/IDEAProgram/IDEAReliability.aspx) funded proposals with potential to test innovative ways to improve the consistency or dependability of travel times, improve travel time prediction, and provide information to travelers and other highway system users when dealing with unexpected delays. A major goal of our project was to develop, implement and document a real-time pedestrian monitoring system at a large, outdoor event.
We approached the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., sponsors of the Sakura Matsuri Festival, the largest one-day display of Japanese culture in the United States. It's held each April as the climax of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. In years past, the festival has attracted well over 100,000 visitors in an area that covers several city blocks near the National Mall.
The technical architecture for our project consisted of five key elements:
- BluFax sensors
Sensors were deployed in strategic locations, primarily entrances/exits and performance stages, at Sakura Matsuri. The sensors listened for BluetoothTM devices that are set in "discover" mode and uploaded detected devices to the Data server.
- Data server
The Data server received packets of data transmitted by the BluFax sensors, did some limited processing, and forwarded them to the Messaging server.
- Messaging server
The Messaging server was the heart of the system. It's where all of the incoming data, both the raw, sensor-generated data and the data from external publishers described below, was transformed into more usable information. This information was then published via PubNub. In addition to serving as the primary publisher, the Messaging server saved the sensor data in MongoDB for post-event analysis.
- Data publishers
For our demonstration, we developed a mobile web application that served as just another publisher in our architecture. In addition, we developed standalone services (using node.js) that monitored social networking sites, such as Twitter and Flickr, and published related tweets and pictures to PubNub.
- Information consumers
We developed two interfaces that consumed and presented the data generated by the event. One was a web page that presented the data, most of which was geotagged, on a Google Map in real-time. The second was a visual dashboard that showed key performance indicators of sensor-related data.
As the lead developer, my role on the project was to create the software architecture to support the demonstration at Sakura Matsuri. The remainder of this article will focus on how PubNub was integrated in the last three components of that architecture.
PubNub served as the primary messaging backbone for our technical architecture. I developed a simple specification for how all messages should be formatted throughout our application. Once the team committed to the spec, we were able to integrate publishers and subscribers very easily, across a variety of locations, platforms and technologies.
Figure 1: Main Web Display
The mobile web application, developed with PhoneGap, included a function which simulated a parking garage that updated festival attendees on the number of spaces available for patrons. Instead of spending our limited resources building and maintaining a fast, robust and scalable messaging infrastructure, PubNub allowed us to focus our energy on integrating several varied sources of data and building creative ways to present the information.
I explored several messaging options before settling on PubNub. My goals were to build something quickly using node.js, host it in the cloud, and support our "bursty" traffic load without getting bogged down in managing multiple servers and services. The first option I looked at was building our application on top of Socket.IO, a terrific library developed by Guillermo Rauch, a superstar in the node.js community. While Socket.IO is a solid library, we didn't have the time or development resources to build up the necessary infrastructure to host, manage and tune a server running Socket.IO.
At the time I was considering various options, the primary (commercial) competitor to PubNub was Pusher. While there is a key technical difference between the two services - PubNub uses HTTP streaming/long polling while Pusher uses websockets - for our use case, the base feature set and pricing offered by both were pretty similar. Since I had already hacked together a quick-and-dirty prototype using the tutorials, documentation and libraries provided by PubNub, it made the most sense to stick with PubNub.
One key benefit of PubNub now is the availability of data centers worldwide through its Multi-Region Deployment add-on. As we look to deploy our solution across the U.S. and internationally, having a technology partner who has a global presence, will be a critical success factor.
In the end, I was very happy my choice of PubNub. Their feature set and customer support were key factors in my success.
Our demonstration at Sakura Matsuri went extremely well and was well received by the sponsor as well as curious attendees. If you're interested, you can watch a short video documenting our project here, http://vimeo.com/50101608. Now that the event is over, I've had an opportunity to sit back and take a hard look at what we accomplished and the role that PubNub played in our solution. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you're evaluating PubNub as a real-time messaging component for your solution:
For our demonstration at Sakura Matsuri, we did not take advantage of segregating messages via channels. One benefit of incorporating channels is that subscribers could decide which types of messages they were most interested in receiving. Traffic and parking messages would be useful to those driving to the event, but less helpful to folks taking public transportation.
PubNub is fast. While a comprehensive performance analysis is beyond the scope of this article, let's just say that there were plenty of other components that were part of the overall architecture that were much slower than PubNub.
- Customer Support
For paid customers, PubNub offers 24x7 phone support and a service level agreement (SLA). As it turned out, I did have to call PubNub support on the day of the event. Like any good developer, I decided to modify code at the last minute (!) and wound up breaking something that had worked previously. I spoke to a PubNub customer support engineer, and he addressed my issue quickly and completely.
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Sep. 3, 2015 06:00 AM EDT
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
Sep. 3, 2015 06:00 AM EDT
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
Sep. 3, 2015 05:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,017
The 3rd International WebRTC Summit, to be held Nov. 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 15th International Cloud Expo, 6th International Big Data Expo, 3rd International DevOps Summit and 2nd Internet of @ThingsExpo. WebRTC (Web-based Real-Time Communication) is an open source project supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera that aims to enable bro...
Sep. 3, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,582
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Sep. 3, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 493
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Sep. 3, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 730
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Sep. 3, 2015 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,684
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Sep. 2, 2015 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 641
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so they don't have to be replaced and are instantly converted to become smart, connected devices.
Sep. 2, 2015 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 234
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Sep. 2, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 311
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Sep. 2, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 470
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 2, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 274
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
Sep. 2, 2015 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 403
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Sep. 2, 2015 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 361
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Sep. 2, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,591
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 2, 2015 04:00 PM EDT
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Sep. 2, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 271
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 2, 2015 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 949
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 2, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 201
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Sep. 2, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 422