Using Drupal for IoT Projects
28 billion devices — such as the expected scale of the global IoT network in 2021 according to the Ericsson predictive report. Sounds pretty promising, especially for everyone out there involved with the implementation of solutions based on the concept. To make things a bit clearer for the experts in the Drupal camp, let’s discuss the prospect of working with both the Internet of Things and Drupal in the near future.
The Internet of Things: Current Trends
The IoT has seen its biggest rates of growth since humanity entered the 21st century. Software and hardware vendors have started to build massive numbers of authentic projects targeting logistics, commerce, analytics, and smart system development in an advanced, "interconnected" way.
Below we have identified several of the most fruitful tendencies to date of further IoT development.
Standardization of protocols
Among the main difficulties of implementing IoT-based solutions is the absence of a universal standard which all IoT devices must follow. In other words, even if you can find the best fitting device for your readymade IoT system, you wouldn’t be able to use it if it isn’t compatible with the data transmission protocol of all other connected devices (at very least, you will have to reprogram it).
Generally speaking, there is a single format for peripheral equipment called Plug and Play. Not all products available on the market support it, however, and the ones that do, on top of everything, are usually costly. We believe that in the next few years, companies will focus on end-to-end compatibility so that a regular user would be able to painlessly connect new and various IoT devices to existing systems.
Integration with artificial intelligence
Big data, which requires IoT devices for transmission in a vast majority of cases, only brings practical value when it can be promptly processed. To date, artificial intelligence is considered the most efficient tool to solve such speed issues.
Right now, business organizations, in particular, tend to actively create and integrate with their existing packages of corporate applications software products based on cloud AI platforms, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM. This in turn increases the accessibility of provided solutions for all businesses, even small ones. All in all, we believe that in the next 2-3 years, companies will make the IoT and AI duet a part of their digital arsenals by default.
Cloud services, once considered a major IT achievement, aren’t able to handle current business requirements; they simply cannot cover more desolate zones where there are issues with the Internet connection.
Because of this, we expect data processing tendencies to gradually migrate toward IoT sensors. Additionally, by combining IoT with artificial intelligence (as we’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph), developers can achieve a truly perfect structure for collecting and transferring data that is practically 100% universally accessible.
The creation of digital twins is a modern solution for production processes that imply a virtual representation of all products and systems an organization owns and manages. Such digital representations will help manage whole factories as well as predict the results of sending new models into production. Such an approach will allow establishments to boost efficiency while reducing financial losses.
Note that in order to make such a twin, one has to use physical modeling algorithms and artificial intelligence systems. In turn, good old IoT devices are employed to collect data. This isn’t a widespread approach as of yet. However, as the IoT and AI gain more and more popularity in common use, the number of organizations choosing to use the "digital twins" method will grow.
Drupal & the Internet of Things
Why did we give an overview of the concept and its main prospects in terms of pairing it with Drupal? It’s simple: the IoT is at its peak of popularity right now. In the next few years, this popularity is expected to increase dramatically. That’s why many developers out there who specialize in a variety of technologies and products try to figure out whether the IoT concept is compatible with their areas of expertise.
So, how can we employ Drupal and IoT together? The main options can be subdivided into two categories: passive employment (projects focused on collecting and representing data) and active employment (remote device management via a centralized controlling website). Let’s take a closer look:
- Extraction of data from IoT devices and its representation for Drupal website users. The pioneer of this case is a microcontroller connected wirelessly to the ESP8266 network that was created in 2017 especially for the purpose of digitalizing the agricultural sector. It determines whether a website is in a tech servicing state or in autonomous mode with the help of light-diode indicators. These indications can be traced in reverse as well. For instance, some developers managed to connect a Drupal resource to a Raspberry Pi mini computer to measure changes in temperature and gather relevant data for the website. You can come across similar solutions on the market in quite a primitive form — wearables. A team of speakers at DrupalCon New Orleans 2016 demonstrated how iPhone wearables, working via the API ThingSpeak, collect data on the current location of an object and send it to a Drupal 8 in order to determine the exact geolocation. All of these primitive wearables were basically created to explicitly demonstrate the capabilities of passive interaction between IoT devices and web resources.
- Management of sensors via a website. The aforementioned developers went even further at DrupalCon 2017. They connected an ESP8266 circuit board to a remote control that allowed them to enable and disable the controller's functionality through infrared signals. The state of the board could be monitored via a Drupal website, which served as a server part of the IoT system and provided intelligent management of all the involved devices. Any controller that can be connected with sensors (e.g., Arduino) can be used in a similar way. This means that the Drupal+IoT combination can be actively employed by remote management systems such as smart homes.
Integration of Drupal 8 with IoT-Based Solutions
If you want to combine Drupal 8 with the IoT with your own effort, you can use any of the following open-source platforms as a starter kit - Raspberry Pi, Arduino, ARM mbed enabled or Project MangOH - and don’t forget to bunch it with a sensor. Here’s a common plan of actions you’ll need to implement next:
- Integrate any of the mentioned circuits with optimal sensors.
- Select a cloud platform such as AWS IoT, IBM Bluemix, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, ThingSpeak or some other option.
- Create a data-transferring channel in your new platform.
- Provide the code to enable interconnection algorithms (here’s a particular piece for temperature sensors).
- Implement wireless connection (technologies such as ZigBee, Bluetooth, 3G, LoRa will come in handy).
Check out these steps in more detail.
In turn, you can use a special module for simple Drupal IoT integration, which, however, is only available in a form that doesn’t adhere to the security policies official Drupal developer teams have to follow.
The IoT with Drupal can make a pretty efficient symbiosis of technologies that allows to develop the website functionality of a principally new level of quality. Do you want to find out about this aspect in more detail? Contact us using the form below and we’ll tell you all about the most proper, efficient Drupal for IoT development techniques.