Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Microservices Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Microservices Journal, Wireless, Virtualization, Web 2.0, Cloud Expo

Microservices Journal: Case Study

Case Study: Real-Time Pedestrian Monitoring with PubNub

How we used PubNub and why it was the right platform for us

The electromagnetic spectrum buzzes with activity. Smartphones, wireless headsets, desktop computers, in-car navigation systems, GPS-enabled gadgets, and many more devices compete for bandwidth as well as our attention. I served as the lead software developer for a team that recently completed a demonstration of a real-time, pedestrian monitoring system at Sakura Matsuri, a major street festival in Washington, D.C. We chose PubNub as our real-time messaging backbone and this article will provide some insight into how we used PubNub and why it was the right platform for us.

The Project
Our project team, which included members from Traffax, Inc., Michael Belisle Design and Agile Media Ventures, was awarded a grant via the Reliability IDEA program, which is administered by the Transportation Research Board. The program (http://www.trb.org/IDEAProgram/IDEAReliability.aspx) funded proposals with potential to test innovative ways to improve the consistency or dependability of travel times, improve travel time prediction, and provide information to travelers and other highway system users when dealing with unexpected delays. A major goal of our project was to develop, implement and document a real-time pedestrian monitoring system at a large, outdoor event.

We approached the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., sponsors of the Sakura Matsuri Festival, the largest one-day display of Japanese culture in the United States. It's held each April as the climax of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. In years past, the festival has attracted well over 100,000 visitors in an area that covers several city blocks near the National Mall.

Technical Architecture
The technical architecture for our project consisted of five key elements:

  • BluFax sensors
    Sensors were deployed in strategic locations, primarily entrances/exits and performance stages, at Sakura Matsuri. The sensors listened for BluetoothTM devices that are set in "discover" mode and uploaded detected devices to the Data server.
  • Data server
    The Data server received packets of data transmitted by the BluFax sensors, did some limited processing, and forwarded them to the Messaging server.
  • Messaging server
    The Messaging server was the heart of the system. It's where all of the incoming data, both the raw, sensor-generated data and the data from external publishers described below, was transformed into more usable information. This information was then published via PubNub. In addition to serving as the primary publisher, the Messaging server saved the sensor data in MongoDB for post-event analysis.
  • Data publishers
    For our demonstration, we developed a mobile web application that served as just another publisher in our architecture. In addition, we developed standalone services (using node.js) that monitored social networking sites, such as Twitter and Flickr, and published related tweets and pictures to PubNub.
  • Information consumers
    We developed two interfaces that consumed and presented the data generated by the event. One was a web page that presented the data, most of which was geotagged, on a Google Map in real-time. The second was a visual dashboard that showed key performance indicators of sensor-related data.

As the lead developer, my role on the project was to create the software architecture to support the demonstration at Sakura Matsuri. The remainder of this article will focus on how PubNub was integrated in the last three components of that architecture.

PubNub served as the primary messaging backbone for our technical architecture. I developed a simple specification for how all messages should be formatted throughout our application. Once the team committed to the spec, we were able to integrate publishers and subscribers very easily, across a variety of locations, platforms and technologies.

The standalone services we developed to monitor Twitter and Flickr for posts related to the event, either by tag or geolocation information, used the standard node.js libraries provided by PubNub to publish tweets and pictures. The web page (shown below), which showed a Google Map of the event with custom overlays that were based on data it consumed, included the standard JavaScript libraries that were hosted by PubNub via its content delivery network (CDN).

Figure 1: Main Web Display

The mobile web application, developed with PhoneGap, included a function which simulated a parking garage that updated festival attendees on the number of spaces available for patrons. Instead of spending our limited resources building and maintaining a fast, robust and scalable messaging infrastructure, PubNub allowed us to focus our energy on integrating several varied sources of data and building creative ways to present the information.

I explored several messaging options before settling on PubNub. My goals were to build something quickly using node.js, host it in the cloud, and support our "bursty" traffic load without getting bogged down in managing multiple servers and services. The first option I looked at was building our application on top of Socket.IO, a terrific library developed by Guillermo Rauch, a superstar in the node.js community. While Socket.IO is a solid library, we didn't have the time or development resources to build up the necessary infrastructure to host, manage and tune a server running Socket.IO.

At the time I was considering various options, the primary (commercial) competitor to PubNub was Pusher. While there is a key technical difference between the two services - PubNub uses HTTP streaming/long polling while Pusher uses websockets - for our use case, the base feature set and pricing offered by both were pretty similar. Since I had already hacked together a quick-and-dirty prototype using the tutorials, documentation and libraries provided by PubNub, it made the most sense to stick with PubNub.

One key benefit of PubNub now is the availability of data centers worldwide through its Multi-Region Deployment add-on. As we look to deploy our solution across the U.S. and internationally, having a technology partner who has a global presence, will be a critical success factor.

In the end, I was very happy my choice of PubNub. Their feature set and customer support were key factors in my success.

Conclusion
Our demonstration at Sakura Matsuri went extremely well and was well received by the sponsor as well as curious attendees. If you're interested, you can watch a short video documenting our project here, http://vimeo.com/50101608. Now that the event is over, I've had an opportunity to sit back and take a hard look at what we accomplished and the role that PubNub played in our solution. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you're evaluating PubNub as a real-time messaging component for your solution:

  • Channels
    For our demonstration at Sakura Matsuri, we did not take advantage of segregating messages via channels. One benefit of incorporating channels is that subscribers could decide which types of messages they were most interested in receiving. Traffic and parking messages would be useful to those driving to the event, but less helpful to folks taking public transportation.
  • Latency
    PubNub is fast. While a comprehensive performance analysis is beyond the scope of this article, let's just say that there were plenty of other components that were part of the overall architecture that were much slower than PubNub.
  • Customer Support
    For paid customers, PubNub offers 24x7 phone support and a service level agreement (SLA). As it turned out, I did have to call PubNub support on the day of the event. Like any good developer, I decided to modify code at the last minute (!) and wound up breaking something that had worked previously. I spoke to a PubNub customer support engineer, and he addressed my issue quickly and completely.

More Stories By James Sun

James Sun is a Principal with Agile Media Ventures, LLC in Springfield, Virginia. Before starting his own company in 1998, he worked for several other firms, including Grant Thornton, American Management Systems (now CGI) and American Technology Services. He is a father, husband, problem solver, node.js enthusiast, Python newbie, soccer fan (U.S. Men’s National Team and Swansea City), and an overall nice guy. You can find James on Twitter as @jamessun.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ciqada will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ciqada™ makes it easy to connect your products to the Internet. By integrating key components - hardware, servers, dashboards, and mobile apps - into an easy-to-use, configurable system, your products can quickly and securely join the internet of things. With remote monitoring, control, and alert messaging capability, you will mee...
of cloud, colocation, managed services and disaster recovery solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. TierPoint, LLC, is a leading national provider of information technology and data center services, including cloud, colocation, disaster recovery and managed IT services, with corporate headquarters in St. Louis, MO. TierPoint was formed through the strategic combination of some of t...
Public Cloud IaaS started it's life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in ado...
Dave will share his insights on how Internet of Things for Enterprises are transforming and making more productive and efficient operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures in the cleantech industry and beyond. Speaker Bio: Dave Landa is chief operating officer of Cybozu Corp (kintone US). Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave has been on the forefront of the Cloud revolution driving strategic business development on the executive teams of multiple leading Software as a Services (SaaS) ap...
Microsoft is releasing in the near future Azure Service Fabric as a preview beta. Azure Service Fabric is built to run microservices - a complex application consisting of smaller, interlocked components that enables updating components without disrupting service. Microsoft has used this over the past few years internally for many of its own applications and the new release is for general use, a new product. OSIsoft is an early adopter of this system and run with it to expand into the explo...
ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure IaaS, today released its SDK for Ruby, written against the company's new RESTful API. The new SDK joins ProfitBricks' previously announced support for the popular multi-cloud open-source Fog project. This new Ruby SDK, which exposes advanced functionality to take advantage of ProfitBricks' simplicity and productivity, aligns with ProfitBricks' mission to provide a painless way to automate infrastructure in the cloud. Ruby is a genera...
ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure for IaaS, today announced the release of a Node.js SDK written against its recently launched REST API. This new JavaScript based library provides coverage for all existing ProfitBricks REST API functions. With additional libraries set to release this month, ProfitBricks continues to prove its dedication to the DevOps community and commitment to making cloud migrations and cloud management painless. Node.js is an open source, cross-pl...
ProfitBricks has launched its new DevOps Central and REST API, along with support for three multi-cloud libraries and a Python SDK. This, combined with its already existing SOAP API and its new RESTful API, moves ProfitBricks into a position to better serve the DevOps community and provide the ability to automate cloud infrastructure in a multi-cloud world. Following this momentum, ProfitBricks has also introduced several libraries that enable developers to use their favorite language to code ...
ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure IaaS, announced the launch of its new DevOps Central and REST API, along with support for three multi-cloud libraries and a Python SDK. This, combined with its already existing SOAP API and its new RESTful API, moves ProfitBricks into a position to better serve the DevOps community and provide the ability to automate cloud infrastructure in a multi-cloud world. Following this momentum, ProfitBricks is also today introducing several l...
What exactly is a cognitive application? In her session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ashley Hathaway, Product Manager at IBM Watson, will look at the services being offered by the IBM Watson Developer Cloud and what that means for developers and Big Data. She'll explore how IBM Watson and its partnerships will continue to grow and help define what it means to be a cognitive service, as well as take a look at the offerings on Bluemix. She will also check out how Watson and the Alchemy API team up to off...
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding bu...
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the...
SYS-CON Events announced today the DevOps Foundation Certification Course, being held June ?, 2015, in conjunction with DevOps Summit and 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. This sixteen (16) hour course provides an introduction to DevOps – the cultural and professional movement that stresses communication, collaboration, integration and automation in order to improve the flow of work between software developers and IT operations professionals. Improved workflows will res...
So I guess we’ve officially entered a new era of lean and mean. I say this with the announcement of Ubuntu Snappy Core, “designed for lightweight cloud container hosts running Docker and for smart devices,” according to Canonical. “Snappy Ubuntu Core is the smallest Ubuntu available, designed for security and efficiency in devices or on the cloud.” This first version of Snappy Ubuntu Core features secure app containment and Docker 1.6 (1.5 in main release), is available on public clouds, ...
There is no quick way to learn Jython API but to experiment with it. The easiest way is to start with Jytutor extension for XL Deploy. Now you can also use the code snippet for exposing jython/python context in XL Deploy environment by running it directly in Jytutor Here’s how you can go ahead with that Download the Jytutor extension referring to the Jytutor Blog or from the following link https://github.com/xebialabs-community/xld-jytutor-plugin/releases Shutdown your XL Deploy server...
79% of new products miss their launch date. That was the conclusion of a CGT/Sopheon Survey in which the impact of such market misses were also explored. What it didn't dig into was the reason why so many products and projects miss their launch date. When we start digging into the details with respect to applications, we can find at least one causal factor in the delivery process, specifically that portion which focuses on the actual move into production, from which consumers (internal and...
Security is one the more prominent of the application service categories, likely due to its high profile impact. After all, if security fails, we all hear about it. The entire Internet. Forever. So when one conducts a survey on the state of application delivery (which is implemented using application services) you kinda have to include security. Which of course, we did.
The world's leading Cloud event, Cloud Expo has launched Microservices Journal on the SYS-CON.com portal, featuring over 19,000 original articles, news stories, features, and blog entries. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. Microservices Journal offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Follow new article posts on T...
The concept and subsequent adoption of 'Containerization'' is growing at a rapid speed with the support of almost every other major player in the industry. This concept is much more efficient than the Virtualization which has been a major option for Infrastructure optimization in the past decade. The following factors distinguish a Container from a Virtual Machine. Containers contain Only the Application Specific libraries and binaries. They do not include a guest operating system. Rather ...