A Simulated IoT device with Node-RED

In the last few months, I have gradually shifted to use Node-RED as the tool for demonstrating and prototyping Azure IoT solutions. In particular, I configure a dashboard to display the ambient information sent from the device and verify the data received by an Azure IoT Hub and stored in an Azure storage account using Azure Storage Explorer form my desktop. Ideally, I would configure all on an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi. To make it more portable, I also do it with a local Ubuntu VM, so no need to plug in anything and I can demo a simple IoT setup anytime and anywhere on demand with Internet connectivity. Briefly, here’s an outline of what I did.

1. Installing & Starting Node-RED

On my Ubuntu (16.04 LTS) VM, update and upgrade everything, followed by install Node-Red.

If you need to make a require node module globally available in Node_RED, edit the file, ~/.node-red/settings.js accordingly. Here, I made the module, math.js, globally available and used it to round the ambient data to two decimal points.

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Now, start Node-RED, as the below.

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As activities being carried out in Node-RED, this session displays the log with diagnostics in real-time.

In Ubuntu, when close out the terminal session running Node-RED, somehow it also stops the Node-RED service. This is different than how it behaves in Raspberry Pi where closing a Node-RED terminal session will not stop the service.

2. Accessing Node-RED IDE

The default port for Node-RED IDE is 1880, as shown below accessing the service from localhost. If preferred, authentication can be enabled and port changed by following what is stated in documentation and the above-mentioned settings.js file.

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By default, there are a number of nodes installed as show on the left panel. And you may install addition nodes to better fit the needs.

3. Install additional Nodes

There are ample nodes and flows in Node-RED web site which you may install a from and contribute to. In addition to install these node modules with a command line interface, doing it interactively is also an option. In the IDE, click the upper right waffle within the Node-RED session and click ‘Manage palette’. If you do not see the option, update npm to the latest should make this option appear. As shown below, the Nodes tab presents the nodes installable directly or already installed currently. The

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and on the install tab, you may keyword-search the Node-RED repository for relevant modules. Below, I search the modules relevant to Azure.

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A few modules, I frequently install including:

4. Develop & Deploy a Node-RED Process Flow

To create a flow, start dragging selected nodes from the left panel to the canvas and construct flows by connecting the nodes. There copious amount of contents with how-to instructions on Node-RED in Internet already. Or if you like to do it in an old fashioned way, like me, by reading the document. The following is a simulated device with a few nodes to send and display ambient data to an Azure IoT Hub call thisiothub, as the following.

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Global Variables

Here, I added a config node to set the global variable to set the baseline temperature, humidity and pressure for a simulation run. Node-RED will always initialize a config node prior to executing all flows presented on the canvas.

Timestamp

The timestamp node sets the time interval for sending data. When developing and troubleshooting, I set it to a long period between messages to minimize the noises. When demoing, I will then set it based on a customer’s requirements. Each time, the timestamp triggers, the connected nodes are consequently executing the programmed the logic, respectively.

The Functions

In this setting, each emission by the timestamp node has the following effects.

  • This IoT Device function prepares the message payload and updates current ambient data which are global variables.
  • The temperature, humidity and pressure functions pipe the data stored in the global variables to a configured Node-RED dashboard.

This IoT Hub

This node has the host name of a target Azure IoT hub, here thisiothub, and the device connection information is provided in the function, This IoT Device.

msg.payload

This is a debug node. Once dragged to the canvas, it will automatically rename itself to msg.payload. Once connected, this node becomes a standardout of Node-RED. And you can examine the output in the debug tab in the right panel. In the screen capture above, you will find that I rounded the data to two decimal points and send it with mqtt.

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Gauges and Charts

A main reason motivating me to use Node-RED is the simplicity to configure and deploy a dashboard directly on an IoT device. Data visualization is essential for an IoT solution which is all about data. The ability to deploy a dashboard right there and when on demand is a significant time saver and a noticeable advantage. It did however took me some practices to correctly place those gauges and charts the way I wanted. Once configured, the dashboard is published automatically at http://node-red-instance/ui and here is what I got.

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Verifying the Data Sent to Azure IoT Hub

There are two tools I use for managing and examining the activities between an IoT device and Azure IoT Hub. Namely, iothub-explorer for Linux and Device Explorer for Windows. The latter is a sharp tool for Windows users to examine data, .

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And a convenient way to get the connection strings.

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I also deployed a sample web app which plots the temperature and the humidity data received form thisiotdevice in real time, as shown.

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So either from Azure IoT Hub or directly on the device, we may present the data visually.

Some Gotcha

Ubuntu frequently stopped Node-RED when a deployment had failed connecting to Azure IoT Hub, and the node will also lost the host name data. And I had to frequently restart the services and re-enter the Azure IoT Hub host name in the node configuration. And it is better to leave the terminal session where you started the Node-RED service visible at all time to restart the service as needed. I once spent hours troubleshooting a flow, researching material and was not able to figured out why, only to later find out the Node-RED service exited its session upon a failed deployment behind the scene.

Closing Thoughts

Node-RED is a great learning and prototyping tool. And once learned, you can create process logic based on data flows relatively easily. It is visual and a picture is always worth a thousand words

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p align=”left”>Azure IoT Hub is the Swiss army knife for formulating an IoT solution. It does the heavy lifting for registering, securing and managing devices with interfaces to integrate other Azure or 3rd-party services. The recent announcement of Azure IoT Edge opens up many scenarios and opportunities to increase ROI by processing data right where they are collected. Which is what I plan to include to the next version of my Node-RED flow. Stay tuned.

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US TechNet on Tour | Cloud Infrastructure – Resource Page

This wave of TechNet events focuses on Azure (IaaS) V2, namely Azure Resource Manager or ARM. It is part of IT Innovation series currently delivered in US metros and many other geo-locations in the spring of 2016. For those outside of the US, go to http://aka.ms/ITInnovation to find out events near you. Come and have some serious fun in learning.

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The presentations, available in PDF format, and the following lab material are included in this zip file.

GitHub repository for Lab Files if using your own machine

If you are not using the hosted virtual machine and are using your own workstation, any custom files the lab instruction call out can be found in a GitHub repository. The repository is located here: https://github.com/AZITCAMP/Labfiles.

Required Software

Description

Steps

Required software will be called out throughout the lab.

  1. Microsoft Azure PowerShell – http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9811175&clcid=0x409 (also installs the Web Platform Installer, minimum version 0.9.8 and higher)
  2. Visual Studio Code – https://code.visualstudio.com/
  3. Install GIT at: http://git-scm.com/download/win
  4. GitHub Desktop for Windows – https://desktop.github.com/
  5. Windows Credential Store for Git (if VSCode won’t authenticate with GitHub) – http://gitcredentialstore.codeplex.com/
  6. Iometer – http://sourceforge.net/projects/iometer/

Optional Software

Description

Software

Any additional software that you require will be called out in the lab. The following software may be useful when working with Azure in general.

  1. Remote Server Administration Tools – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2693643 (Windows 8.1) or http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/download/details.aspx?id=45520 (Windows 10)
  2. AzCopy – http://aka.ms/downloadazcopy
  3. Azure Storage Explorer – http://azurestorageexplorer.codeplex.com/downloads/get/891668
  4. Microsoft Azure Cross-platform Command Line Tools (installed using the Web Platform Installer)
  5. Visual Studio Community 2015 with Microsoft Azure SDK – 2.8.1 (installed using the Web Platform Installer)
  6. Msysgit – http://msysgit.github.io
  7. PuTTY and PuTTYgen – (Use the Windows Installer) http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html
  8. Microsoft Online Services Sign-In Assistant for IT Professionals RTW – http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=286152
  9. Azure Active Directory Module for Windows PowerShell (64-bit version) – http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?linkid=236297

Announcing U.S. TechNet on Tour Events for Fall, 2015

You are invited to join us for free, interactive events led by Microsoft Technology Evangelists.

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Cloud is making DR a feasible solution, technically and financially, for companies of all sizes by utilizing a cloud solution provider, i.e. someone else’s infrastructure. In these deliveries, attendees will learn the fundamentals of cloud and see how to employ Microsoft Azure as part of a wider disaster recovery (DR) plan! This is an opportunity to learn, experience and gain technical depth of DR, and network with IT pros in your areas and grow together.

Attendees will receive a free Microsoft Azure pass and spend most of the day in a hands-on lab environment. Customers should attend the event to learn:

Who should attend: The event is technical by nature and is aimed at IT pros who get hands-on with technology as part of their day to day jobs.  Previous experience of Microsoft Azure is beneficial but not essential. Here are the city registration links, dates and presenter. And we are looking forward to meeting you all.

 

City State Event Date Presenters
Seattle WA 9/1/2015 Jennelle Crothers and Brian Lewis 
San Francisco CA 9/3/2015 Jennelle Crothers and Yung Chou 
Houston TX 9/22/2015 Kevin Remde and Yung Chou 
Charlotte NC 9/29/2015 Tommy Patterson and Yung Chou 
Philadelphia PA 9/30/2015 Dan Stolts and Blain Barton 
Indianapolis IN 10/6/2015 Brian Lewis and Yung Chou 
Tampa FL 10/7/2015 Blain Barton and Tommy Patterson
New York NY 10/8/2015 Dan Stolts and Kevin Remde 
Irvine CA 10/14/2015 Jennelle Crothers and Yung Chou 
Dallas TX 10/16/2015 Kevin Remde and Yung Chou 

Get a head start with Azure today:

Application Deployment as a Service, A Sample Implementation of with Microsoft Azure PowerShell

This is a lab delivered in the spring of 2015 for Microsoft US IT Camps, Extend Your Datacenter to Azure, which is a whole day event with hands-on experience on deploying and migrating workloads to Azure. This lab is specifically for IT pros to experience an automatic deployment of a business function/application, instead of deploying just VMs. The ability to deploy VMs are important and essential. Deploying VMs are however not the ultimate goal of moving to cloud. As I have addressed elsewhere, cloud goes way beyond virtualization and deploying VMs, instead it is about the anytime readiness and on-demand abilities to grow and shrink resource capacities based on demands, i.e. being elastic. And this lab does just that to prove this concept using Azure and PowerShell.

The script is published in github and one can run the script as it is and without making changes. In the recording below, I walked through the steps to acquire and run the script. The intent is to run it as a service, i.e. on demand, to deploy application instances from zero to running instances. Notice this script is for learning and testing Microsoft Azure and PowerShell. It does hard-code and not encrypt employed password, has very limited error handling, is not intended for production use.

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For those who are not familiar with the essentials of Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Services, compliance, pricing, and cost structure, here are additional resources:

Microsoft Azure 102 – Installing and Configuring Azure PowerShell

In this presentation, screen by screen I walked through the installation and configuration of Azure PowerShell. There are two ways to connect PowerShell with an Azure subscription. One uses Azure Active Directory and the other is with a publish-settings file. Both are detailed in this delivery. I also demonstrated a simple routine to remotely stop and deallocate a VM instance with Azure PowerShell cmdlets.

To benefit most form this content, you should have already reviewed Azure 101 Series, http://aka.ms/Prerequisites, which is a prerequisite for those to attend Microsoft IT Camp or Azure-related events