Needless to say there is no dearth of IoT Platforms offering you the opportunity to get your “things” and “devices” connected, and reap the benefits of IoT.
It is interesting to note that Amazon continues to dominate in this segment of Cloud Computing as well. I ran a rudimentary script to lookup up where the developer sites are hosted for different IoT platforms, the results were pretty interesting – 8 out of 10 are being hosted on AWS (Disclaimer – it is not clear to me if their entire platform is on AWS or only the developer front end). This is actually 8 out of 9 since I wrote the script originally because Thingworx and Axeda platforms have merged (all three URLs, the two old ones, and the new ThingWorx.com resolve to the same IP – 126.96.36.199).
And the surprise was Nest – an Alphabet/Google Company is still (after more than two years of being acquired) – has its Developer site running on AWS!
Take a look at the screenshot of the output below, and if you want to run the script yourself, and try other sites – copy the script at Gist.
It also brings up an interesting challenge for these companies now that Amazon has AWS IoT – Cloud Services for Connected Devices. AWS IoT may not offer the level of completeness that others may offer such as Ayla or Exosite but the AWS IoT feature set is comprehensive enough to reduce the differentiation between them. The other choice is to go with Google, Microsoft and IBM – and all three of them also have IoT enhancements and features to their cloud offerings.
The choice of not going with Cloud PaaS is equally devastating because it is going to be costly for IoT platforms or they will lack the scalability.
I feel this will accelerate consolidation in the IoT platform space (like Microsoft’s acquisition of Solair) or companies being unable to offer the scale that is needed for IoT.
I was hesitant, for good reasons, on pulling the trigger on getting an iPad Pro. I managed to locate a Space Grey 128GB version yesterday at a Best Buy location near my home (it was the only one in the City of Atlanta and suburbs across all different stores that I could get my hands on physically – one day after launch).
My primary reason for hesitation was what if I won’t put it to use – and it would be a wastage of the money. Case in point I had bought the 1st and 3rd Generation iPads – and both were used only for watching movies on flights but no real work. I had also bought a Logitech Keyboard case for the 3rd Generation iPad (the model before they switched to Lighting connectors) hoping I would do real work on it. I did use the iPad but I could have also done without it. Here were the reasons:
- Too heavy to hold in the hands and read especially in contrast to the iPad Mini or the Nexus 7 tablets.
- Did not have enough capabilities to do real work besides email mostly
My hesitation before buying the iPad Pro was also related to the Pro being big, may be bulky – and I knew reading wise it could be a challenge. None the less – I wanted a “device” that had a large screen, and could function for work and entertainment – mostly after 9 to 5. I use for my work a 15″ Retina Mac Book Pro connected to a 27″ Apple Thunderbolt Display – and everyday I would undock it and carry it around for meetings or after work.
I had mixed feelings if the iPad Pro would fill the void described above so when I bought it yesterday I mentally prepared myself that this could very well be a waste of money just like the earlier iPads were more or less.
Having spent less than 24 hours with the iPad Pro, I am pleasantly surprised that I am actually loving it, here are the reasons:
- I read on the iPad Pro last night – in my bed – while I could not hold it in my hands I propped it up against my legs folded up. It was pretty good to read on it and browse and do email last night – simply because it has a large screen.
- The display is simply awesome. And I caught up on videos that I had transferred over to the Pro
- Email, writing thsi blog post, Microsoft Office experience was much better than previous iPads – not good as a laptop but for the objective I have in mind it does the trick.
- Reading Comics on iComics App or even on the Kindle App (I had bought Calvin & Hobbes) was fantastic on the large screen.
- I don’t sketch but I like to doodle or scribble when taking notes or thinking – and it was much better to do it than any digital experience before this. I scribbled and played around with the Jot Script Pro stylus in Penultimate and with the “Pencil” in Paper by 53.
I am going to wait on getting a Smart Keyboard. The Logitech Create is supposed to be better than the Apple one but I read that it is not easy to remove the iPad Pro from the Logitech Create – and being able to go without Keyboard or with it easily is going to be the key to success for my experience with the iPad Pro.
I am using an Apple small Bluetooth Keyboard, and the “Compass” by Twelve South to prop up the iPad Pro.
I have been exploring Docker technology for projects leveraging Node.js. My experimentation was all on my Retina Mac Book Pro – running Yosemite. Docker is a relatively new breed of virtualization technologies known as Containers. A commonly used analogy for Docker is to compare it to actual real-life containers or lego bricks: it provides a fundamental unit, and with it a way for an application to be portable and moveable, regardless of hardware.
Here is a quick snapshot from the “What is Docker?” page:
“Docker” encompasses the following:
- Docker client: this is what’s running in our machine. It’s the docker binary that we’ll be interfacing with whenever we open a terminal and type
$ docker pullor
$ docker run. It connects to the docker daemon which does all the heavy-lifting, either in the same host (in the case of Linux) or remotely (in our case, interacting with our VirtualBox VM).
- Docker daemon: this is what does the heavy lifting of building, running, and distributing your Docker containers. (Refer to the “Docker Engine” in the diagram above)
- Docker Images: docker images are the blueprints for our applications. Keeping with the container/lego brick analogy, they’re our blueprints for actually building a real instance of them. An image can be an OS like Ubuntu, but it can also be an Ubuntu with your web application and all its necessary packages installed.
- Docker Container: containers are created from docker images, and they are the real instances of our containers/lego bricks. They can be started, run, stopped, deleted, and moved.
- Docker Hub (Registry): a Docker Registry is a hosted registry server that can hold Docker Images. Docker (the company) offers a public Docker Registry called the Docker Hub which we’ll use in this tutorial, but they offer the whole system open-source for people to run on their own servers and store images privately.
Docker is a Linux technology, so it doesn’t run natively on Mac OS X. So we need a Linux VM to run the containers. There are two ways this could be done on a Mac OS X:
- Use Docker’s Mac OS X approach. This involves using Boot2Docker – that has a built-in Linux Machine. This is straight-forward and well described. The boot2docker tool makes this about as easy as it can be by provisioning a Tiny Core Linux virtual machine running the Docker daemon and installing a Mac version of the Docker client which will communicate with that daemon.
- Use a VM such as VirtualBox or VMWare Fusion – run Linux as the Guest OS in the VM. I will be covering this approach – there are several blog posts covering doing it with VirtualBox. The challenge with this approach, unlike, the boot2docker approach – is that all Docker commands need to be handled in the by logging into the Linux VM. This post gets into how to get native-ish experience on your Mac but you’re running a Docker host that doesn’t work with boot2docker specifically the Docker host is running on Ubuntu Trusty host running as a VMWare Fusion Guest OS.
1. I have a Ubuntu 64-Bit (Recommended for Docker) 14.04.02 Server (Command Line Only) installed as one of the Guest OSes under VMWare Fusion. I am using VMWare Fusion 7.1.2.
2. Install Docker following instructions from the Ubuntu/Linux section. There are prerequisites that need to be taken care of if you are running something other than Ubuntu Trusty 14.04. The install primarily involves the following command (details in the link above):
$ wget -qO- https://get.docker.com/ | sh
3. Our goal is to run Docker commands from Mac OS X terminal. The trick is to know that the Docker client does all of its interaction with the Docker daemon through a RESTful API. Any time you use
docker build or
docker run the Docker client is simply issuing HTTP requests to the Docker Remote API on your behalf. So we need to open up a “communication channel” and making the API to the Docker host in the virtual machine accessible to Mac OS X. Two steps are involved:
– Edit the /etc/default/docker file in Ubuntu Trusty to the line shown below
and then restart the Docker service:
$ sudo service docker restart
4. The following command from the Ubuntu OS won’t work now since Docker access through a TCP Connection:
$ docker ps
This on the other hand should work:
$ docker -H tcp://127.0.0.1:2375 ps
5. Now we need to forward the IP Address / Port so that the Docker commands can be issued from Mac OS X. This involves configuring the VMShare Fusion NAT Settings for the Ubuntu Trusty Guest OS. We know we need to forward Port 2375. In addition we need to get the IP Address of the Docker engine or Docker Host running in Ubuntu. The way to get that is to run the command
This will dump the networking settings – look for docker0 – and note down the IP Address. In my case it was 172.17.42.1. This is important to understand. We are NOT looking for the IP Address of the Guest OS or the eth0 of the Guest OS but the Docker Host IP Address.
Next run ‘ifconfig‘ on the Mac OS X terminal, and getthe IP Address or rather the Adapter name assigned to the Ubuntu Guest OS. I have two Guest OSes installed – Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu Trusty. When I run ‘ifconfig’ command – I see a number of networking interfaces – and two that are labeled ‘vmnet1‘ and ‘vmnet8‘. The way to ensure that you pick the right interface is to look at the IP Address assigned to the ‘vmnet‘ in Mac OS X, and look at the eth0 interface in the Ubuntu Trusty. Pick the one that is on the same subnet, here is what I had:
vmnet8 on Mac OS X IP Address: 192.168.112.1 eth0 on Ubuntu Trusty Guest OS running VMWare Fusion: 192.168.112.129
Now that we know what instance we have to deal with for the VMWare Fusion – we need to modify the nat.conf for the right instance, I will use vmnet8 as the example:
$ Mac OS X> sudo vi /Library/Preferences/VMware\ Fusion/vmnet8/nat.conf
In this file look for the [incomingtcp] section, and add the following:
2375 = 172.17.42.1:2375
The format of this section is <external port number> = <VM’s IP Address>:<VM’s Port Number>. Note in the above example – the IP Address used for the VM’s IP Address is actually the address of the docker0 interface provided in the ifconfig command when run in Ubuntu.
6. We are close now. Make sure that you have brew on your Mac OS X (if you are developing on Mac, you probably already have it!). Install the Docker client in Mac OS X using (you :
$ Mac OS X> brew update $ Mac OS X> brew install docker $ Mac OS X> docker --version
The last command should tell you if Docker was installed correctly and the version number. Assuming you have installed Docker on the Ubuntu Guest OS and Docker client on Mac OS X using brew minutes apart – you would have the latest version and they would be the same. The versions have to be identical for this to work.
7. Now you are set to access Docker commands from the Mac OS terminal, run the same command as above
$ Mac OS X> docker -H tcp://localhost:2375 ps
and it should work. The
-H flag instructs the Docker client to connect to the API at the specified endpoint (instead of the default UNIX socket).
To avoid typing the flag, and the endpoint followed by the command add the following export, and you can access all Docker commands as you would natively.
Opening/forwarding ports on the OS is NOT recommended on Production Environments. This is merely to ease development effort if you are doing it on your own Mac Book.
Chances are, if you are in the business of technology, you have come across the term “Full Stack”. It started few years back with the notion of a (software) developer being able to program all layers for web applications – you can find a great description from 2012 here: What is a Full Stack developer?. The momentum, and market for Full stack developers kept going up. And then it started being discussed at the level of a company or rather a startup – and I would attribute it to the VC firm A16Z to define it at this level. A16Z has dedicated a page on the Full Stack Startup as a part of their ‘trends‘ in investing. The ideal full stack company is Apple – they do everything top to bottom, providing the best user/consumer experience to their customers (readers may be familiar with the previous iteration of full stack – the Vertically Integrated Company – I’m not sure how it is different from the definition of Full Stack).
This got me thinking on what are the attributes, skills, expertise needed by a Full Stack IoT Company – a company that build a complete solution based on the benefits of IoT, and here they are:
1. Hardware design, development and manufacturing: This may or may not be part of a full stack IoT company but the reality is that the T in IoT stands for “Things” – physical things. And interfacing with them requires hardware. Full Stack IoT companies will own or control significant aspects of the hardware required in their solution. This implies the Full Stack IoT company needs skill around design, development of hardware. And as many delayed Kickstarter hardware projects prove – these companies would need expertise and experience in manufacturing, and supply chain. The hardware would involve both the sensor and the gateway being used.
2. Embedded / Firmware (resource-constrained) Programming: IoT has re-surfaced the lost art of an embedded programmer. Imagine the code running inside the wearables or sensors – it is all embedded code and in some cases running without any real operating system. Design, development and debugging is fundamentally different than cloud or mobility or application level programming.
3. Application-level & Middleware Programming: Programming on the IoT Gateway, Cloud and the distributed middleware to integrate all of the elements together
4. Cloud development, and operations: All IoT applications require a cloud component, you would need the cloud infrastructure (e.g. Amazon AWS), the IoT middleware portion running on the cloud and the IoT application which provides the functionality.
5. Management – of devices, of applications, of network (even though the network belongs to a third party): as the solution provider – managing devices, and apps – for version control, updates would be needed as a part of the integrated offer and solution. Once again – the Full Stack IoT company may license or integrate a third party solution but would own the responsibility.
6. Smartphone & Tablet Apps: Do I really need to justify this? You would need apps to both for management of the IoT application and also for consuming the experience provided by the application.
7. Analytics, Mining, Business Intelligence: ideally the company provides basic analytics with its solutions, and can be integrated with other products and solutions for advanced analytics. Full Stack IoT companies may leverage analytics solutions from other companies, but would still retain control of the data.
8. Integration with IT & other systems – to interface, and integrate with business applications in order to deliver the contextual value provided by the IoT system. Your IoT application may also need to integrate with other services to enhance your service – for example you may need to integrate with a Weather reporting web service if you are offering an application that controls/manages air conditioning (HVACs).
Bottom line – IoT applications are distributed across multiple systems and that is both a challenge and an opportunity! Whether your company is a “Full Stack” IoT company or not – if you building IoT applications – you cannot escape the 8 attributes described above. You will have to partner, build or integrate that help address all the 8 elements.
Full Stack Reading
I am generally accustomed to Click Bait especially related to Internet of Things – after all it has been the buzzword in the Technology industry for the last few years:
However I was surprised to find investment advice being provided at a reputed site like Fool.com. It is titled: “Intel Corporation’s New Internet of Things Chip Looks Like a Powerhouse“. I read through the entire article, and found the following justification for why the new chip is an “IoT Powerhouse”:
I suspect these new chips should help Intel further grow its already rapidly rising Internet of Things business, as the substantially better performance in both graphics and computing should be quite attractive to potential customers.
Clearly the Click Bait worked because it made my weekly Google Alert – it probably has enough shares or enough page rank that it made it my list of weekly alerts.
Now don’t get me wrong – Intel is investing heavily in IoT, and all the news indicates that they are serious about IoT. What I am taken aback is that the article is encouraging readers to invest on the basis of this new chip – indicating that it will change the “game” but no real evidence on how the attributes of this chip are suited for the IoT market. No discussion if it will be used in the 50 Billion things connected, and if so how do the “graphics” core help the IoT scenario.
There has been a steady movement to build dedicated networks for connecting sensors and devices to address the challenges posed by existing data networks (e.g. Cellular/3G/4G or Satellite) networks. The two primary contenders in the long or wide range IoT/Sensor networks are LoRA (by Semtech) and SigFox. Two recent events indicate the momentum is building:
Actility has received $25M funding led by Ginko Ventures. Two notable things – it will enable Actility to put momentum behind its ThingPark platform. The platform leverages the LoRA wide area network. Ginko is backed by Foxconn (world’s largest electronics manufacturing company – Apple manufactures the iPhone with Foxconn). Additional investors include KPN, Swisscom & Orange.
I have Google Alerts set up on “Internet of Things”. While most of the alerts from the weekly email were clogged with the announcement of Google’s Brillo – one of the links was about Dell’s IoT Strategy. The title of the post was classic click bait:
I was curious on what beans are being spilled. What I read was utter disappointment and made me think of every technology company is trying to hitch itself to the IoT Bandwagon. The essence of the Dell’s IoT Strategy seems to be centered around selling an Intel Celeron based PC that is being called a “Gateway”, and without any specific OS! I was expecting more but then I had to remind myself – building IoT applications is not trivial, and requires understanding and executing the notion of distributed applications that integrate with various business processes to unlock value. And that something Dell is not good at. It is a “box” company trying to cash on the IoT buzz.