Event-Driven Architectures with AWS DynamoDB Streams

November 2nd, 2018 | Greg Straw | Development,Engineering

We’ve been working with AWS DynamoDB Streams on our customer projects, and we’ve found it to be a really powerful solution for creating event-driven pipelines. DynamoDB is one of the more recent features added to DynamoDB and can help address some of the common challenges when migrating from a relational schema to DynamoDB.

What are DynamoDB Streams?

If you don’t know the basics around DynamoDB, there are many good articles, blogs, and of course the AWS Documentation. I’d like to focus on some of the use cases, and the benefits of using one of its more recent features: DynamoDB Streams.

DynamoDB Streams enable you to trigger downstream actions based on the activity occurring in a DynamoDB table. Every time an item is added, changed, or removed, a stream event is triggered by capturing that change. This feature is very powerful when integrated with other AWS components.

When streams are enabled for a given table, AWS stands up a new service endpoint for making API requests specific to stream events. You can select from four options for the stream events:

  1. KEYS_ONLY – the key attributes of the changed item
  2. NEW_IMAGE – what the item changed-to
  3. OLD_IMAGE – what the item changed from
  4. NEW_AND_OLD_IMAGES

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Sparking the IoT Journey with Big Data Ignite

October 25th, 2018 | Jeff Ekdom | Events,IoT Notes

Big Data, Analytics, Cloud Computing, and IoT, these were the overwhelming undertones at the Big Data Ignite event at the DeVos Place on the shores of the Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI this fall. Pair these topics with the creative and electric vibes from that of the first days of ArtPrize (a large international art competition in the heart of downtown), and it was sure to be a great event to attend, learn, and network.

What is Symbiosis?

The theme for this year’s event was “Symbiotic Intelligence through Automation.” Symbiosis can be defined as “mutual and collective benefits derived from interaction” or, “benefits from connecting things & systems.” Here at SpinDance, this resonates well. This “connecting a physical thing to compute resources, and adding connectivity” is how we define IoT and what an “internet thing” is.

The Correlation of Big Data to the IoT Journey

Throughout the keynotes, panels, and talks we noticed a few trends and takeaways. At SpinDance, we know that every customer is on a unique path when it comes to IoT. We refer to this as their IoT Journey. There are four “stops” on this path – Awareness, Acceptance, Adoption, and Strategic. At this event, we saw a large correlation on these stops, with how customers are collecting, analyzing, and using their data. For some, they could be categorized more in the awareness or acceptance stage when it comes to their data….

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Interusability: IoT User Experience Beyond the Level of a Single Device

September 7th, 2018 | Brian Tol | Engineering,IoT Notes,SpinDance

In 2014, publisher and technology guru Tim O’Reilly gave a speech entitled “Software Above the Level of an Individual Device.” In it, he described the foundational pattern that IoT enables: instead of individual computers, we’re building a network of devices that “make it possible to completely rethink how we organize work, play and society itself.”

Implicit in O’Reilly’s argument is the need for new ways of interfacing with these device networks to unlock their potential: What we need are user experiences that go beyond the level of a single device.

This multi-device experience design is called interusability, and it is central to building successful IoT products.

What is Interusability?

The term “interusability” was coined in 2005 by Charles Denis and Laurent Karsenty. They argued that conventional UX design was ill-equipped to handle multi-device interfaces. The discussion continued in 2010 when a group of researchers published a practical framework for interusability. In 2015, O’Reilly Media launched Designing Connected Products, which we at SpinDance consider the current definitive work on the subject.

If you don’t have time for articles or books, Claire Rowland’s 49 slide presentation on the subject is worth checking out. In particular, this chart is a good guide for thinking about where interusability fits in the larger UX/software world:

So what is interusability?…

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The Future of Voice: A Recap of VOICE Summit 2018

August 10th, 2018 | Jeff Ekdom | News,Opinion,SpinDance

About the Event

This summer over 2,800 thought leaders within the voice space gathered at the campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology for the 2018 VOICE Summit. This first-time event sponsored by Amazon Alexa and designed for all those getting into natural language AI, NLP, and Alexa Skills programming.  The event included powerful keynotes, informative breakout sessions, thought-provoking panels, and valuable professional networking.

The theme of this year’s event was “Voice First.” The term voice-first refers to devices that use voice as the primary input method that points the way towards more integrated and useful user experience.  The event provided an opportunity for sharing, learning, and discussion about the future and the value of voice-first from both a consumer and business perspective.

The Future of Voice

In business and as consumers, we live very busy lives, and we are frequently searching to find ways to be more efficient.  Voice is a powerful tool; it is an efficient input modality: it allows users to give commands to a system quickly and on their terms. Hands-free controls allow users to multitask, and effective natural language processing eliminates the need for complex navigation menus, at least for familiar tasks and common commands.  Voice-first can meet user goals and business objectives for efficiency now and in the future.

Since children are exposed to digital and voice experiences at a very young age,…

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Internet of Manufacturing – Patterns of IoT Success

July 3rd, 2018 | Jeff Ekdom | IoT Notes,News,SpinDance

Internet of Manufacturing

Technology leaders, business strategists, and product innovators from manufacturers across the globe gathered together a few weeks ago at the Internet of Manufacturing event based on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL. The event presented valuable opportunities to learn, network and discuss challenges and trends in IoT for the Industrial sector. Key themes at the event were digital transformation, changing customer expectations, workforce demographics, connectivity opportunities and revenue growth.

Challenges for Industrial IoT

There is a lot that goes into digital transformation and adopting IoT within the Industrial space. To make a successful shift from traditional thinking (decisions with certainty, 5-year plans, success at all cost) to digital thinking (calculated risks, failing smart, and agile thinking) takes time and buy-in from the entire organization.

New innovative use cases such as autonomous shop floor drones, cobots, AI-based predictive maintenance, AR/VR/MR for training and field support, and blockchain based supply chain are fuel for smarter business. Manufacturers can collect and utilize data (that was obsolete before IIoT) to make better decisions for the organization, reduce production & training costs, decrease risks of injury, and allow for greater focus on value and improved customer experiences.

Patterns of IoT Success

This digital transformation age for IIoT is affording countless lessons. Trends of success are emerging with clear & aligned objectives, repeatable innovation,…

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IoT Blossoms at Technology Symposium

June 5th, 2018 | Tom Miller | News,SpinDance

Tulips were in full color all around the downtown area in Holland, MI this spring when 100,000 visitors converged on the Great Lakes coastal community to allow Tulip Time, a spring festival in Michigan, to renew and inspire with a fresh outlook. SpinDance, our Holland-based IoT design, development and support company, followed the lead of this annual tradition by hosting Technology & Tulips: Blooming Strategies for IoT, an event on the top floor of the beautiful City View hotel

Companies large and small, new and established, face big questions about IoT’s role and strategic contribution. What is IoT? How does it impact my industry and company?  What should I do? IoT is technically challenging and is a significant shift from traditional product development.  So what did a day of IoT & tulips yield you ask?

Stages of IoT  
Companies are all on an IoT journey either through their product or process, or with the engagement of the customers, suppliers, and partners they rely on in their business. Each company is in one of several stages: awareness, exploration, adoption, or strategy.  Regardless of stage, most are feeling anxious about the step they are in wondering how the next step impacts their industry and company.  The IoT Symposium allowed attendees in all stages to share and listen to stories of both challenge and success….

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Common IoT Team Gaps and Solutions: IoT Immigrants and Corporate Makers

April 23rd, 2018 | Brian Tol | Operations

At SpinDance, we get to interact with a huge variety of businesses, from international brands like Whirlpool to startups like Dogtelligent. Every week we talk with organizations making their first leap into the world of IoT.

All of these organizations have a unique heritage of products and services and thus, unique challenges to suit. But regardless of the company or product, we see a definitive pattern in the people who are being tasked with succeeding at IoT. Broadly speaking, we can categorize engineers and product managers into two groups: Those engineers who understand traditional product development without expertise in end-to-end strategy, and those who can build a physical product but lack expertise in embedded systems.

We call these two groups “IoT Immigrants” and “Corporate Makers,” respectively. As you can imagine, each group has its own specific challenges in adopting IoT. By identifying the patterns, we’re able to better predict the a project’s needs much earlier in the process, which leads to a more successful project timeline.

Let’s dig a little deeper into these two groups of people and how their wide range of expertise affects their project goals:

IoT Immigrants

IoT Immigrants are people with a background in traditional embedded systems and product development, but have little “end-to-end” IoT experience. They are engineers who know PCB design,…

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Dusk over CityVu Events Building with graphic depiction of tech symposium

Join us in May for our Technology Symposium

April 6th, 2018 | Erin Bernhard Erno | News,SpinDance

There’s no denying it – the Internet of Things is here to stay. However, about 61% of executives in the United States believe that they’ve barely scratched the surface of what IoT can do for their business. For most, the question is, “How can I best integrate IoT solutions into our existing business strategy?”

If this is a question you’ve been asking, then you’re in luck. You just need to block out your calendar on May 10, 2018.

Technology Symposium: Blooming Strategies for IoT

May 10, 2018
IOT Bootcamp and Journeys in IoT
City Flats Hotel, Downtown Holland

Join us in Holland, Michigan, to learn from pioneers in the IoT industry. Participating in any part of this free event will give you the opportunity to better understand how to enhance your business goals by including the Internet of Things.

In the morning, you’ll receive key insights into the nuances of IoT from the highly-trained staff at SpinDance by participating in our IoT Bootcamp ($1500 value), which we’re making available to you free of charge. After lunch, you’ll hear from key business leaders who have prioritized IoT for their businesses. By the end of the day, you’ll have created your own IoT strategy, learned about a wide variety of IoT solutions, and networked with leaders from a variety of industries….

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Booths and Attendees at the International Home and Housewares Show, March 2018

Trends Shaping the Future of the Connected Home

April 4th, 2018 | Jeff Ekdom | IoT Notes

When it comes to connected products, is the priority to save time, money, energy, or all of the above? Our fast-paced world deals brands with this question and we answer with innovative new technologies, which consumers are purchasing by the millions. In fact, some researchers are pinning the smart-home market at $40 billion by 2020, but that growth can only be accessed by focusing on the consumer’s needs rather than focusing solely on innovation. This shift in focus was the theme of last month’s International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.

Shifting focus from technology to the consumer

“OK, Google: How do I get started?” or “Alexa, what do I do now?” – both of these questions are driving the experience of the newly connected consumer. As a consumer’s experience with connected products increases, engineers have opportunities to introduce multiple device solutions that provide crossovers between mobile, web, and in-home. But the mere introduction of these technologies doesn’t mean that consumers will automatically buy in. In fact, the act of saturating the market with products has only made consumers more skeptical and slower to buy.

During his IHHS keynote, Kevin Young from Continuum remarked that, “we are in an age now where the technology will always be there, it will now just become more naturally connected into our everyday lives.”

This mindset is critical to the direction engineers must take when innovating new products….

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A Pattern for Secure Uploads and Downloads in AWS IoT

March 15th, 2018 | Greg Straw | Security

Suppose you have a large fleet of connected sensors, all gathering data and triggering events based on conditional logic within the device. It’s one thing to provide event notifications, but what about all the continuous readings and status data? This data is likely to be much larger than what is selected for triggering an event or notification. This data may be able to provide valuable insights, and is where analytics can provide incredible value.

If we want to leverage this data we first must consider how to ship it to the cloud, which forces us to think about security. Uploading data is not the only consideration when it comes to IoT. We must also consider the secure delivery of large amounts of configuration or firmware data to and from a connected device.

How to secure file transfers in AWS IoT: A Use Case

In the AWS ecosystem where we have a device connected using AWS IoT, you could download or upload a large amount of data by partitioning the data into individual MQTT messages and re-assembling after receipt. Assuming the packetization process also encrypts the data, this would certainly be secure. However, that’s not an efficient use of AWS IoT costs (paid by MQTT Message), and unnecessarily complicated since it requires partitioning and reassembling, and likely some form of acknowledgement or QoS increase to ensure all the data arrives successfully….

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