Tweeting chair demonstrates the power of the Internet of Things

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

Xively, a subsidiary of LogMeIn and creator of one of the first public cloud platforms for the commercial Internet of Things (IoT), successfully connected the chair of the presenter of BBC TV’s Newsnight to Twitter. Whenever the presenter sat down or stood up, the chair automatically tweeted.
Xively believes the IoT is creating a new industrial revolution. By the end of this decade, over one trillion objects are expected to be connected to the Internet, generating somewhere between $1.2 trillion and $14.4 trillion in revenue for businesses and telcos savvy enough to recognise the opportunity.
The project used a platform from Electric Imp for rapid prototyping IoT solutions. This is an SD-card size hardware development platform. Its built-in WiFi and ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller take care of Internet connectivity and all the onboard processing for connecting to the switch. On top of the Cortex-M3, electric imp allows server-side code to run which makes connecting to Xively and Twitter much easier.
The Electric Imp is seated in an April application board which allows the pad, or any peripheral, to be connected directly to the pins of the Electric Imp. The pad switch connects to the board on a digital input pin. A pull down resistor on this pin helps keeps the pin low when not being switched. The Electric Imp also has an LED connected to a digital output pin, which indicates when the device is turned on, configured, and connected to WiFi.
With the hardware set up, the Electric Imp code was configured to trigger an interrupt when the normal open pad switch is closed. However, first there was the issue of “button bouncing”, where it was necessary to ensure reading one switch state per event. This ruled out shifts in position in the seat so the chair wasn’t Tweeting every time the anchor shifts in the seat. This was accomplished by pausing for a fraction of a second when the first interrupt is detected, then rereading the switch state to determine the proper sitting or standing state. When the switch is triggered, it goes through a “button bounce” delay and then the status and time are recorded. If the status is 0, that indicates a standing event, then the duration from the last 1 (sitting) status is calculated and recorded. All of this data is passed to the Electric Imp agent.
This agent is the server side code associated with each Electric Imp device, and allows robust integration through a REST interface with the Xively Cloud Service. Once this data is collected, the web services side of things begins. The status is turned into binary data, 1 for sitting, 0 for standing. This status along with the time is then sent to Xively, which allows for long term logging and historical time calculation after the fact.
Once a single event was successfully detected and parsed, the current time was read and added to a template Tweet. Xively added a timestamp that made the Tweet unique, which is a requirement for Twitter to post it. It is also essential in calculating the duration that someone was sitting in the chair. For standing events, the current time stamp is subtracted from the last sitting time stamp resulting in the duration. This value is then added to both the time and the duration to the Tweet. The agent authenticates with Twitter using oAuth and sends one of two preset tweets: one for standing and one for sitting.
Cambridge-based Elektron Technology is using the Xively IoT platform for a new breed of IoT-powered, subscription-based monitoring and control services designed to enhance customer relationships and create new revenue opportunities.
Elektron is also engaging Xively Consulting Services launched this week to help conceptualize and design its new offerings, which will build on the company’s core technologies, skills and market leading brands.
“We’re committed to helping customers transform their operations by harnessing the data our products produce and turning it into highly actionable, business-changing information. The Internet of Things is the best way to make this happen and Xively is the ideal partner to help accelerate the migration from innovation to practical solutions. Xively is the only vendor that could provide the complete set of IoT enablers—the IoT platform, consulting services and partner ecosystem—we needed to create truly connected experiences,” said David Davies, Group Head of Instrumentation, Monitoring & Control at Elektron Technology. “Xively’s IoT platform enables the reliably-connected, highly-scalable and easy-to-manage offerings that are critical to our success. And by working with Xively Consulting Services, we benefit from experts who understand what it takes to develop and manage connected solutions that deliver real value.”
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