System Overview

This guide is intended to provide a high-level understanding of what SiteWhere does and how it is implemented.

What is SiteWhere?

SiteWhere is an open source IoT platform. It provides a system that facilitates the ingestion, storage, processing, and integration of device data. SiteWhere provides the following functionality:

IoT Server Platform

  • Supplies a server based on proven technologies that acts as a controller for the processing of device data. The server can be installed on a local machine or run in the cloud and is built on technologies that are designed to scale to billions of processed device events per day.
  • Provides long-term persistence of data sent from devices. Historical device event data is valuable and SiteWhere offers a platform where data is never deleted, no matter the volume of events.
  • Offers service provider interfaces (SPIs) that provide a core object model for the platform and allow third parties to extend and customize the system to work with new technologies.
  • Delivers an advanced device communication system that allows control of the full lifecycle of registering devices, sending commands based on hardware type, receiving data responses and aggregating them. The system is based on a core set of interfaces that allow new communication protocols and encoding schemes to be added and configured easily.
  • Provides an HTML5 administrative application that allows all of the system data to be viewed and manipulated in a way that makes it easy to understand the data. The admin app uses REST services provided by the core platform to interact with the data. Third party applications can use the same REST services to interact with SiteWhere data without having to use the admin application.

Device Management

  • Provides a complete device management model. Device specifications allow classes of devices to be declared along with metadata that provides extended context for devices. Devices are created based on specifications along with unique information such as a hardware id and device-specific metdata. Device assignments allow devices to be associated with physical assets. Device groups allow many devices to be targeted based on group relationships and metadata.
  • Provides a model for standard types of data generated by devices. Events such as value measurements, alert conditions, and location updates are stored in massively scalable time series datastores. Device command invocations and responses are tracked and correlated along with state events such as device registrations and presence detection. All events are linked to based on the currently assigned asset for fine-grained tracking.
  • Associates devices with external assets such as people or physical items. For instance, a badge may be associated with the person wearing it. A tracking device can be associated with the piece of heavy equipment it is attached to. The asset information is offered via an asset management framework that allows external systems to drive the information. For instance, the list of people that badges can be assigned to can come from an existing LDAP data store. SiteWhere tracks the assignment of devices to assets over time and ties events to the assignment so at a later date you can query what were the locations of the badge when it was assigned to this person.

Integration

  • Integrates with third party integration frameworks such as Mule AnyPoint, allowing event data to trigger complex interactions such as adding data to Salesforce or notifying alert conditions using text messages generated by Twilio.
  • Offers a Java client that can interact with most of the provided REST services. For external systems with existing Java code, interfacing with SiteWhere is as simple as a few lines of code.
  • Protects information by limiting access to data based on a proven user management system. The system can be configured to use external sources of identity data such as LDAP data stores.

Core Platform Technologies

Rather than reinventing the wheel, SiteWhere depends on many supporting open source technologies to accomplish its goals. Most of the technologies used have been tested for years in production environments and have been continuously upgraded thanks to many iterations of improvements. The following open source components are used by SiteWhere:

Apache Tomcat 7

Tomcat provides the core server in which SiteWhere runs. SiteWhere is deployed as a web archive (WAR file) that runs when the Tomcat server is started.

Spring Framework

Spring delivers the core configuration framework that bootstraps SiteWhere and allows it to be configured and extended. Rather than using a hard-coded set of components, SiteWhere has a core set of service provider interfaces and default implementations of the interfaces. By using the same interfaces in custom classes and plugging them in via Spring, a third parties can extend SiteWhere without touching the core code.

Spring Security

Spring Security provides the core security infrastructure for SiteWhere. SiteWhere has its own user management interfaces, but also implements interfaces from Spring Security, allowing it to use existing security components for authenticating access to system resources. For instance, Spring Security annotations are used to control who can access the REST services.

Hazelcast

Hazelcast is an in-memory data grid that allows for high performance data processing across a cluster of servers. SiteWhere uses Hazelcast to provide subscription-based access to events being processed. An external entity can use the Hazelcast client to connect to a running SiteWhere instance and listen to a feed of events including location data, measurements, alerts, and command invocations.

Data Storage Technologies

SiteWhere supports storing data in many of the most scalable persistence stores available. The storage implementations are plugged in via service provider interfaces so SiteWhere interacts with them in a consistent fashion. This allows new storage technologies to be added easily.

MongoDB

MongoDB is a NoSQL database that can be used to store SiteWhere data. It is very quick and easy to install, has great performance, and does not require the computing resources of HBase.

Apache HBase

HBase is a distributed, non-relational data store that allows relatively unlimited data storage with near linear scalability as new hardware is added to the cluster. SiteWhere uses a customized HBase schema to store device events as time series data that is optimally distributed across a cluster, allowing fast access to events based on the time they were gathered.

InfluxDB

InfluxDB is a highly-scalable time series database that supports advanced clustering. SiteWhere can use a hybrid approach where device management data is stored in MongoDB while event data is stored in InfluxDB. With this approach, tools such as Grafana can be used to visualize SiteWhere data.

Integration Technologies

In addition to the technologies used to implement core SiteWhere features, there are a number of complementary technologies that enhance SiteWhere. These include:

Mule AnyPoint Platform

Mule AnyPoint is an integration platform that provides access to almost any communication protocol or cloud technology you can imagine. For instance, using Mule you could read messages from a folder on the file system, parse them, then deliver them to SiteWhere via REST services. On the other side of the coin, you could have Mule respond to events after the fact. For example, if an alert event of a given type and severity is detected, Mule can interface with Twilio and send out an SMS message to alert the responsible party to respond. Mule AnyPoint Studio is a powerful IDE that allows mule flows to be designed graphically. SiteWhere has a plugin for Mule Studio that allows flows to subscribe to device events using a drag-and-drop visual approach.

Apache Spark

Apache Spark is an engine for large-scale data processing. SiteWhere provides a connector for streaming device events into Apache Spark via a Hazelcast connection. Spark can feed SiteWhere data into other components for applying machine learning algorithms or extracting analytics data.

Asset Management Systems

SiteWhere supports the use of asset management systems in associating devices with external entities such as people, locations, or hardware. Assets can be stored internally using the built-in SiteWhere asset management features. Assets can also be loaded from external systems so that existing information can be leveraged.

WSO2 Identity Server

WSO2 Identity Server is an identity management solution that allows user information to be accessed from a number of different storage providers using the SCIM protocol. This allows SiteWhere's asset management framework to use a single API to access user information stored in databases, LDAP stores, or any other supported format. The person assets may then be assigned to devices so that SiteWhere has more context in reacting to events. For instance, if an alert condition occurs, SiteWhere can originate an automated call to the cell phone registered to the user assigned to a device.

Potential Use Cases

The possible uses for SiteWhere are endless. Almost any industry can benefit from some level of monitoring, automation, and analytics. Below are a few examples of real-world uses for SiteWhere:

Vehicle Tracking

Whether monitoring a rental car fleet or a few very expensive pieces of heavy equipment, it makes sense to track the location of vehicles and monitor their condition over time. An automated system based on SiteWhere could help in theft prevention, monitor service intervals or point out trends in maintenance costs based on vehicle type.

Home Automation

Home automation is one of the fastest growing areas in IoT. Many devices that were once passive now contain microcontrollers and have the ability to be monitored or actuated externally. SiteWhere provides a central system for extended retention of measurements from devices and facilitates sending commands in response to various conditions. Many off-the-shelf systems are customizable, but SiteWhere is truly programmable. An example of the power of SiteWhere in the cloud is a climate control system. A system could be designed to learn wake/sleep patterns and temperature preferences. Since SiteWhere can operate in the cloud, your climate profile could follow you when you check into a hotel, so that the room is already confortable when you check in and adjusts itself on your schedule.

Medical

The medical industry is full of opportunities for monitoring, automation, and analytics. For instance, monitors attached to patients could gather a patient's vital signs on a short interval, storing them in SiteWhere. Doctors could use the stored data to look for signs of abnormal readings. Better yet, SiteWhere analytics could automatically analyze the data and look for outlying data, even cross-referencing data between patients to draw more global conclusions. Data from local hospital SiteWhere instances could be aggregated with data from other hospitals to create larger study groups, revealing otherwise hidden trends.