Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Michel Courtoy, Shelly Palmer, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Ed Featherston

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Mobile IoT, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

Microservices Expo: Case Study

Case Study: Real-Time Pedestrian Monitoring with PubNub

How we used PubNub and why it was the right platform for us

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.

The Project
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.

Technical Architecture
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.

The standalone services we developed to monitor Twitter and Flickr for posts related to the event, either by tag or geolocation information, used the standard node.js libraries provided by PubNub to publish tweets and pictures. The web page (shown below), which showed a Google Map of the event with custom overlays that were based on data it consumed, included the standard JavaScript libraries that were hosted by PubNub via its content delivery network (CDN).

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.

Conclusion
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:

  • Channels
    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.
  • Latency
    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.

More Stories By James Sun

James Sun is a Principal with Agile Media Ventures, LLC in Springfield, Virginia. Before starting his own company in 1998, he worked for several other firms, including Grant Thornton, American Management Systems (now CGI) and American Technology Services. He is a father, husband, problem solver, node.js enthusiast, Python newbie, soccer fan (U.S. Men’s National Team and Swansea City), and an overall nice guy. You can find James on Twitter as @jamessun.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st 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 and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists examined how DevOps helps to meet the de...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists looked at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deliver...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...