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Octoblu

created by Greg Roll

Hello and welcome to the first ever oobe (that’s oo-bee:) blog post. My name is Greg Roll. I am a principal consultant here at oobe and have also been recently anointed as a Mobility MVP by Citrix.

One of my roles within oobe is to look at new technologies and products and see how we can best deliver them to our customers to drive efficiencies and productivity. In this first of three posts I want to give you an overview of the Octoblu demo we delivered at our booth at the Technology In Government (http://www.acevents.com.au/techingov/) conference this year.

Some time ago I was set a challenge by one of our colleagues, Hamish Podger, who is a sales engineer for Citrix based here in Canberra. Hamish’s challenge was to harness the power of Octoblu to dispense a lolly when someone retweeted an oobe tweet. All of us thought it was a very creative idea so I set myself the challenge to finish it before this year’s conference.

For those of you who may not know, Octoblu was acquired by Citrix in 2014. Citrix describes Octoblu as the Integration of Everything – a play on words for the phrase the Internet of Things (IoT). Chris Matthieu, co-founder of Octoblu describes Octoblu like this:

Our original mission was to connect everything to everything (people, systems, and things).  We have been focusing on building a secure Internet of Things (IoT) mesh network/platform and web application to easily create and deploy flows that run 24/7 with the click of a button.

Octoblu is a secure IoT platform. Wikipedia describes IoT like this:

The Internet of Things (IoT, sometimes Internet of Everything) is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to exchange data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices based on the infrastructure of International Telecommunication Union's Global Standards Initiative. The Internet of Things allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.

If you weren’t able to attend Technology In Government this year, the remainder of this post is a quick overview of what we achieved with Octoblu. Before I begin I just want to say a big thank you to the Octoblu team for their help and support, especially Peter DeMartini. Without their help and quick response to my questions I wouldn’t have met my goal.

Now I have the introductions out of the way let’s get in to the good stuff – Octoblu!

Amongst all the cool things we had on display at our booth (Google Search appliance, Google cardboard, 3D printer, application and web mobility) was a Lego Mindstorm lolly dispenser and display. On the display at our booth we asked people to follow @oobeaus and retweet the tweet displayed on screen.

When someone retweeted us the following steps occurred in the Octoblu flow:

  • Twitter would notify the Twitter Streaming thing running on Gateblu a new retweet had been received based on our search criteria
  • Gateblu would notify Octoblu of the tweet and twitter handle details
  • Octoblu would then send a HTTP post message to the Display Application via Gateblu. This post message contained all the details from twitter
  • The Display Application would then display the persons twitter handle on screen and dispense a lolly from the Lego Mindstorm
  • The Display Application would then return a success response to Octoblu
  • Octoblu would then send a direct twitter message to the person to say thanks for visiting our booth

To see the lolly dispenser in action play the video below.

As you can see I’ll never be a Lego Master Builder but it was perfect for our demonstration.

So now you know what Octoblu is and what we achieved you’re probably asking yourself how did we do it exactly?

The demo consisted of six main components:

  • Twitter Steaming
    One of the many “Things” that Octoblu has is the Twitter Streaming “Thing”. Twitter Streaming allows real time updates of tweets that match a certain criteria. For example you may want to receive information in Octoblu about the hash tag #OctobluIsAwesome. Every time someone tweeted and included the hashtag #OctobluIsAwesome a flow in Octoblu would be triggered enabling you could consume the tweet information however you wanted.
  • XenDesktop
    Hopefully if you’re following oobe you know what XenDesktop is. If not check out http://www.citrix.com/products/xendesktop/go/overview.html. In our demo XenDesktop provided connectivity of the Lego Mindstorm on the display computer to the XenDesktop session running in our lab. Within the XenDesktop session the Frontend Display Program was running. This was possible thanks to the great USB redirection options available with Citrix HDX.
  • Gateblu
    Gateblu allows you to connect smart devices, motors, servos, sensors, and additional protocols to Octoblu. In this demo Gateblu was installed on a XenApp desktop. Generally you would install this on a dedicated Gateblu “gateway” machine but for our demo this approach sufficed.

    Gateblu provided the connectivity from our Octoblu flow in the cloud to the frontend program and Twitter streaming.
  • .Net Frontend Display Program
    This was the main display that I custom designed to display Twitter handles on screen, control and manage the Lego Mindstorm and provide connectivity to Octoblu. The application itself was a self-hosted WPF application with a web API self-host. Octoblu would forward any tweets that matched out search criteria to the .Net Frontend Display Program via Gateblu. Octoblu would also query the status of the left and right lolly trays every two minutes. If either tray was empty Octoblu would send me an SMS letting me know that I should refill the tray.
  • Octoblu
    Octoblu is the main brains of the demo. It brings together the “Internet of Things” to produce great workflows with disparate devices and services. Octoblu consists of many “Things”. These “Things” range from home automation products, to Twitter to connected cars! Below is a screen shot of the Octoblu flow for this demo.
  • Lego Mindstorm
    This was my creation that actually dispensed the lollies. The Lego Mindstorm was connected to the Frontend Display Program via Citrix HDX USB redirection. The .Net application used a great framework called MonoBrick http://www.monobrick.dk to control the Lego Mindstorm. Thanks to its’ creator Anders for making connectivity to Mindstorms from .Net so easy.

Want to try Octoblu for yourself? Luckily you can try Octoblu Beta for free. Just visit https://www.octoblu.com and click ‘Get Started’. Once signed up you will have a demo flow that you can play with.

Once you feel a little bit more comfortable with Octoblu you can import the flow we used for our demo. Just click this link https://app.octoblu.com/design/import/fc82841a-50e6-49e8-b3c0-7d84563b401f then the import button.

In future posts I will detail the Octoblu flow and installation of Gateblu on Windows so stay tuned!

To stay up to date with oobe follow us @oobeaus.

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