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Introducing the IoT Sandbox Blueprint

By Felipe Fonseca and Liz Carbonel

The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving the increased availability and evolution of industrial grade sensors and devices into gadgets usable by non-technical end users in their homes and work environments. Miniaturization, large scale production, new materials, and production techniques all led to a point in which conditions were ready to see the rise of new products that can be assembled into innovative applications and services. There are many online resources on how to assemble these products, like sensors and actuators, and then connect them to data processing devices. Even DIY sites such as Instructables and Make magazine provide how-tos and recipes. What is not clear, though, is how to effectively handle the amount of data generated by this new network of IoT devices, products, and services.

Proprietary cloud platforms have been the usual choice for data storage. With IoT devices, this centralized configuration poses problems in terms of efficiency, privacy, security, and access. Data gathered far from central storage sites have to travel a long network distance through the Internet, becoming more vulnerable to attacks and manipulation along the way. Further risks abound as data is sent back or retrieved from the central site.

Advantage of Fog computing

Unlike centralized Cloud computing, data processing in the Fog should occur close to where it is generated. For instance, data generated every second by a weather station on top of a school shouldn’t need to travel thousands of miles to be stored, processed, and then sent back. Fog sits right there at the edges, neither far from the ground or the data source nor in remote or unknown locations. It can thus ensure data sovereignty, privacy, and security in ways that Cloud computing simply cannot offer, as well as optimization of the network’s performance.

Improved local data management efficiency in the Fog will  make it ideal for IoT uses, where real-time data transmission and retrieval are essential. Subutai treats the Cloud and the Fog as one and the same, in a single continuum, to prevent unnecessary round-trip device communication with servers in data centers from impacting performance and security. This, in turn, reduces latency, and decreases the need for increased  backbone traffic.

Introducing the IoT Sandbox Blueprint

The Subutai IoT Sandbox blueprint is created for IoT solutions and projects to easily store and visualize data. Instead of using obscure third-party proprietary cloud platforms, users can choose their own infrastructure or those of parties they trust. Without requiring special tools and equipment, the IoT Sandbox helps businesses, residential users, and project developers easily run fog applications on the edge.

“Internet of Things is sinking into everyday life. It is not really about the technology, but about the transparency that it brings to services. Delivering good quality services is something you can pay for, if you get to see why and how the costs are what they are. Subutai is trying to focus on this ease to set up an environment with the IoT sandbox. You can click next-next-finish and start sending data (as usually happens on proprietary platforms), but at the same time you can use your own infrastructure, or that of partners you trust. No need to know much about system administration, while on the other hand totally open for customization as free/open software is.”
— Rob van Kranenburg – Founder, IoT Council

If you have read my previous blog posts, you must’ve seen how easy it is to install and build applications using Subutai Blueprints. As a Subutai blueprint, the IoT Sandbox does not require advanced technical knowledge about system administration. Blueprints allow you to focus on your IoT setup — connecting hardware, and then handling data transmission and visualization. As the IoT Sandbox uses open source software and runs on top of Linux containers, you can extend and find more ways to make it more adaptable to your environment. To learn how to install the IoT Sandbox, check out the README file.

How the IoT Sandbox works

The IoT Sandbox utilizes the following software components: MQTT, Telegraf, InfluxDB, and Grafana. Upon installation, the blueprint builds an environment with a container where these applications reside and run from. Here’s a quick rundown of how they work together with your equipment:

Data can be sent from IoT devices via MQTT, a lightweight messaging protocol supported by both DIY kits and industrial equipment. Sensors, Raspberry Pis, and other such devices can send data directly to the Subutai environment in which IoT Sandbox (with the set of applications) is run. The data is received by Telegraf and stored automatically on the Influx database. As shown in the image below, users can create dashboards using Grafana to display data in tables, charts, and graphs.

On-site testing: IoT Sandbox at work

Early IoT Sandbox adopters include:

1) Guima San, a Brazilian technologist who was part of the team that created and developed Mãe d’água, a water quality sensor kit built on Arduino hardware. It was deployed to test the quality of drinking water offered to villages along the Amazon river. Test results are sent to interested parties within the community.

“The IoT Sandbox is a great way to quickly prototype sensor-related projects. In less than 20 minutes, I can start sending, mixing and analyzing data.  That saves time and avoids the headache of having to set up and administer servers, and allows me to focus on what matters.”
Guima San, environmental technologist

Readings from the sensors are captured every hour and then processed and plotted into charts and graphs. See below how the time series data or metrics such as humidity and temperature are displayed in real time.

2) Francisco Simões is a technology educator and producer of his own craft beer under the label Cervejaria Clandestina. He recently bought the iSpindel sensor developed in Germany to improve his overall brewing process and maintain high levels of quality.

The iSpindel is a Wi-Fi-enabled IoT device with an accelerometer and temperature sensor, that reports its metrics at specific intervals. Using the IoT Sandbox, Francisco can regularly check the conditions of his production online from anywhere.

“Subutai allows Cervejaria Clandestina to use a small robot called iSpindel that measures the density and temperature of our beer during fermentation and maturation. These data are sent in real time to our P2P cloud, protected and managed with Subutai. It allows us to follow up on the brewing process without the need to open the tanks, which increases considerably our precision and consequently the standards in our recipes, as well as allows us to better explore the possible nuances of taste and aroma. Another important point for us is remaining true to our 100% free/open philosophy and ready for war. In a P2P intelligent network, our data is safe and we’re not contributing to nefarious establishments that profit from our data, relationships, our life. We are brewing our part to build a better world!”
Francisco Simões, Owner Cervejaria Clandestina

These users have attested to the ease of use and functionality of the IoT Sandbox Blueprint. They are confident about the performance and connectivity of their devices; and, more importantly, the protection of their data within the Subutai environment.

How to get started

Have you thought about other uses for the IoT Sandbox in your business, industry, community, or home? Then, get started now:

If you need more information, assistance, or would like to share how you are using Subutai, get in touch with our community on Slack. We’d love to hear from you!