When IoT Throws You Lemons — Use a Reekoh Data Simulator

 

February 23, 2019  |  By Andrei Hawke

As a digital integration specialist, Reekoh spends a lot of time thinking about how data can enable business outcomes. Focusing on these business outcomes also means that we want to work with real data as much as possible.

However, this isn’t always the easiest thing to get access to while projects are in the early stages.

 

Some of the challenges that we’ve encountered in projects, and also product demonstrations, include:

  • Provisioning of IoT devices can be a long cycle (e.g. procurement, testing, deployment)
  • Devices may not even be available or ready for testing
  • Specifications for reporting formats may be off
  • Subject matter experts want to see real data rather than randomly simulated data
  • Project delays due to data not being available – how do we start a project and enable parallel development?

Reekoh has tackled these challenges with a number of approaches over the years, such as:

  • Building a desktop application (the now decommissioned “DeviceBot”) that allowed us to create device and data to test typical use cases (air quality, people counts, etc)
  • Scripted device vendor formats into applications like PostMan to allow us to test quickly and rapidly
  • Creating open data service plugins for agencies such as ARPANSA, Bureau of Meteorology, NSW Office Environment and Heritage, Queensland EPA. This allowed us to better understand what real field collected data looks like and provided us the ability to download historic data sets and replay them.

As we worked more with customers and partners, we discovered that we weren’t the only ones that were having these challenges.

Talking to users at hackathons such as GovHack taught us that making open data operational is not just a challenge for industry, but that it’s also a challenge for government. Collaboration with various government agencies showed us some of the internal policy complexity resulting in data is not being presented via APIs, and the reality of working in a disjointed ecosystem (different formats and data sources). Also, mentoring at universities showed us that “scripting” devices was an approach that was used often because accessing devices and/or configuring them was too much effort for most IoT projects.

 

An Ideal User Experience

Our Product Engineering Team took all of our experiences on board when looking at how to provide our customers with an experience around solving these challenges that was:

  • Easy to deploy (no need for scripts or external tools)
  • Able to present realistic data gathered from the field
  • Easy to use, understand and enabled customers to jump start their data journeys
  • Easy to add new functionality / new data in the future

 

Introducing Simulator Streams

Reekoh now has a new element called a Simulator Stream which can be dragged and dropped onto a Reekoh Pipeline. Simulator Streams can be found in our Streams Plugins Category.

 

The element can be configured to emit data (based on a pre-built open dataset) at a regular interval to be used with other downstream Reekoh plugins (e.g. Services, Converters, Connectors, Datasets)

By using these Simulator Streams, users are able to easily construct real-world data workflows, logic and business application integrations without the need to rely on live data, which can unblock projects quickly in the early stages and move projects onto milestones based around the data-driven business outcomes being targeted.

 

Documentation and context that Reekoh provides with each Simulator Stream

Each Simulator Stream is carefully documented to allow users to understand:

  • How to setup the Simulator Stream for maximum efficacy (any converters / services needed to work with the data)
  • What the data is  (i.e. what fields are present) and where it came from (original dataset owner)
  • What the data looks like (by providing a Reekoh Dashboard screenshot showing the data)

 

 

Simulator Stream Roadmap

Our plan has been to release Simulator Streams in batches, based around particular themes. So far we’ve already completed a range of “Smart City” themed simulators such as:

  • Air Quality for City of London
  • Pedestrian Counts from City of Melbourne
  • Smart Bin Fullness from Wyndham City Council
  • Solar Energy Generation Levels from Wyndham City Council
  • Urban Heat Values from City of Paramatta

Some of the upcoming Simulator Streams we’re developing are based around the themes of Transport and Water, and include:

  • Uber – Travel Times (Brisbane)
  • Transport for NSW – Opal Tap on And Offs
  • Transport for NSW – Train Occupancy
  • City of London – Electric Vehicles Loads
  • New York City – Traffic Counts
  • Townsville City Council – Daily Water Production
  • SA Water – Urban Water Quality
  • City of Adelaide – Torrens Lake Water Quality
  • Queensland Department of Environment and Science – Ambient Estuarine Water Quality
  • Water NSW – NSW Dam Levels

 

Special Thanks

We’d like to extend a special thanks to the open data sources who make Reekoh Simulator Streams possible: