Using Droplit to Bring the Cloud to the Edge

Friday 12/14/18 02:44pm
Posted By Dmitry Shipilov
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If you’re an IoT device developer, you know the "I" in "IoT" means your device will, at some point, need to communicate with the cloud. But what if your device development expertise or schedule doesn’t extend to cloud development?

Enter (Droplit) — a cloud-based, protocol-agnostic platform, that provides a rich API for integrating networked devices through the cloud, such as consumer wireless products, building automation systems, and PLCs.

Droplit can simplify the process for OEMs looking to add cloud connectivity to their devices, potentially reducing development time and creating a more robust experience for customers. Droplit’s solutions can help our OEM customers integrate apps, services, or other devices into their own Qualcomm Technologies-based devices for use with other products and ecosystems.

In this blog, we’ll explore these Droplit integrations, and highlight some of the cool things you can develop with it.

How Does Droplit Work?

Droplit provides a drop-in "edge-to-app" software stack, allowing IoT and edge device manufacturers to expose their devices to the cloud, and to integrate with IoT ecosystems such as Alexa and Google Home with little-to-no code. Droplit also provides white-labelled production-ready mesh gateways and custom firmware services for those gateways.

Let’s take a look at a few of Droplit’s key components.

Droplit’s "Edge Server" is a network agent with device-specific plugins, allowing Droplit-supported devices to communicate over a network. Similarly, the platform’s "Conduit" is a cloud-to-cloud system with an API allowing for integration of non Droplit-supported devices that communicate via their own proprietary cloud APIs. Together, the Edge Server and Conduit allow almost any IoT device to work with Droplit.

Droplit provides its cloud-based REST API, which allows applications to programmatically interact, organize, and maintain devices. This includes service class modelling, where developers create reusable object oriented-like models of device types complete with properties, methods, and event handlers that provide a data driven software interface for device communication.

For example, you can create a model for a smart binary switch device with a property to store its on/off state, methods to set this state, and event handlers that trigger when the state changes. You can also combine this with another model into a more complicated device model. For example, you could create another model that controls RGB color values, and then combine both models into a smart bulb model in which the bulb’s on/off state and color can be controlled. Additional metadata can also be attached (e.g., to provide additional information for rich user interfaces).

You can also organize devices using "environments", "zones", and "routines" and then send scoped commands to groups of devices regardless of the manufacturer or protocol. For example, you can create an environment containing all devices in a building, and then partition those devices into zones which represent each floor of that building. These services are then accessible through Droplit’s local and cloud REST API where they can be programmatically controlled from almost anywhere.

Droplit works with directly-connected devices and gateway-connected devices but isolates developers from implementation complexities. Additionally, Droplit provides a heuristic, fog-based behavior engine that coordinates devices based on triggers, sequences, and animations, and distributes rules intelligently both in the cloud and to the edge of the network, depending on what information is needed to execute the behaviors.

Tying into Other Services

An exciting aspect of Droplit is tying it with other cloud services. For example, your app could utilize voice-based personal assistant services like Homekit or Google Home to gather voice commands, and then translate those commands to control the devices through the models you created with Droplit’s API.

Integrations that live across multiple device types form application "platforms" where features can be added over time. This bodes well for device makers launching cloud-supported devices who want new revenue streams to potentially increase profits, cover product support costs, or to get a foot hold when preparing for commercial availability.

For developers, this affects the amount and types of data accessible. Developers should think about what products will co-exist with theirs in the target operating environment (e.g., home, business), how users will interact with the other products in the context of their product, and how data gathered can be used for feature development, product improvement, marketing, sales, etc.

How Droplit and Qualcomm Technologies Work Together

Droplit’s solutions currently include our QCA4531 SoC, and Droplit is working on supporting these features on our QCA4024 SoC. Droplit is also working on support of plugins for hubs built on our QCA4020 SoC to control Zigbee, Thread, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth mesh networks over the cloud, and integrations to other popular IoT ecosystems such as Nest and Ecobee.

Some of the cool things that can be done with this integration include: controlling devices using cloud services like Alexa Homekit and Google Home, gathering measurements and other data, and integrating other IoT ecosystems into the product experience (e.g., lighting, HVAC, access control, and asset tracking) with little-to-no code.

Droplit provides a command-line tool, a developer portal, full API documentation, and end-to-end development services. The Droplit team has been working with our SoCs, and are no strangers to designing, implementing, and solving challenges around custom firmware for a variety of QTI-based gateways and edge devices. So, whether you need a little bit of assistance or full-on help to make your firmware Droplit-ready, Droplit can help.

Creating and Controlling Your Own Devices

Droplit makes it easier for developers to add cloud connectivity to their IoT devices, leaving you time to develop feature-rich experiences for your users. We’re excited for Droplit’s continued support of features supporting a range of our devices, and look forward to hearing about how this helps you. For more information see Droplit’s API documentation and check out some of their YouTube videos. For additional information about QTI connectivity solutions, we encourage you to check out our development kits and modules based on our QCA4020 and QCA4024 SoC.