According to Gartner, the number of devices connected to the Internet of Things will reach 26 billion by 2020, marking substantial growth from the 0.9 billion in 2009. With this amount of data streaming from our fridges, phones and things that don't even exist yet, it is little wonder many are looking at ways to organize and make sense of this impending tsunami of information. New York-based Bug Labs has focused its attention on this problem, last week launching Freeboard, a simple Web-based dashboard that tracks different Web-connected devices in real time.
In creating Freeboard, Bug Labs is hoping to provide a platform for developers to easily build applications for the Internet of Things. Its creators liken Freeboard's function to the impact of Dropbox on the world of cloud storage, in that it is designed to bridge the gap between well-versed programmers and those with little to no coding expertise.
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It all begins with a software module Bug Labs calls "dweet.io." This tool was released in March and is essentially a messaging service for anything that can connect to the internet. Connecting your device to the dweet.io platform will see it assigned a name and begin sending data, or "dweeting" to the cloud. This could pertain to the position of your cursor on screen, the GPS location of a device or the tilt of your smartphone at that precise moment.
The role of the Freeboard interface in all of this is to gather these "dweets" and present them as meaningful graphs, text and gauges. It might be tracking the temperature in the home alongside its energy usage, or having a dashboard that monitors pollution around the city using GPS and air quality sensors attached to shared-bicycles.
At a basic level, Freeboard is clean and simple to use. Using very little time (and even less programming prowess) I was able to create a widget that tracked the position of my phone along two axes simultaneously.
As you sign in to the Freeboard interface on your computer, you are prompted to connect your dashboard with a third-party device such as smartphone or tablet. This is done by signing into the interface on that device, at which point it is assigned a name and begins to dweet data as seen in the image above.
In the dashboard, you then select your device as a data source and configure a widget to present the data, which in this case was the smartphone's x, y and z axis, along with its longitude and latitude. These metrics can be displayed as text, a sparkline graph, a gauge, or even a circle with a pointer indicating the direction the device is facing. The widget was surprisingly responsive and the style easily customizable, meaning it could potentially be adapted to an almost endless amount of applications.
Examples demonstrated on the Freeboard site include a sensor designed to fit inside a cigar humidor to monitor lid position, humidity and temperature, and a dashboard configured to monitor the environment, security and power usage of a residential home.
Bug Labs isn't alone in attempting to position itself for a sea of data spawned from the Internet of Things. Start-ups such as Relayr are developing hardware kits like the WunderBar to break down barriers between would-be developers and networks of interoperating gadgets. Even in terms of software Freeboard isn't short of company, with projects such as IBM's Node-Red in the works to help facilitate device-to-device communication.
Whether or not Freeboard can make a name for itself by staking an early claim in the Internet of Things arena that is sure to attract a lot of competitors in the coming years remains to be seen, but what is clear is that in offering a platform that is clean, simple to use and free (at least to begin with), Bug Labs sees removing barriers to entry as crucial in the development of practical applications for communicating devices.
You can head over to the Freeboard website if you'd like to try it out for yourself.
Source: Bug LabsView gallery - 7 images