Open up the Internet of things with Node-red

How do you even begin to wrap your head around developing applications for the Internet of things? For Node.js devs, Node-red provides a useful visual development environment

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The Internet of things promises much, with connected devices instrumenting and actuating the world. But it’s not easy to build code for, with different classes of devices needing different application frameworks -- and with tooling that’s often primitive when compared to modern IDEs.

Developed by IBM and open-sourced, Node-red is an interesting alternative to traditional development techniques. Designed to link Node.js instances to the Internet of things, it’s perhaps best thought of as a visual programming tool that runs on top of Node.js, allowing developers to build and manage information flows quickly.

The heart of Node-red is the concept of the flow, tracing the path information takes from input to output. It’s a conceptual model that makes a lot of sense when considering how code needs to interact with both Web services and with devices. While you can build complete applications in Node-red, it’s more a tool for transforming inputs and pushing them to outputs, much like the devices it’s working with.

Installation is quick and easy, building on an existing Node.js install. Node-red installs as an NPM module, up and running in mere minutes, ready for you to start coding. You can choose from a library of modules to add to your install, including specific tooling for key Internet of things platforms. It treats some, like Arduino, as serial connections, while more-capable platforms can host Node.js and Node-red directly.

Writing code in Node-red is a lot easier than working with raw Node.js. Once Node-red is installed and running, you use a browser to work with the Node-red development tools. Connect to localhost on your development system, and you’re presented with a visual development surface that’s reminiscent of the MIT Media Brick-inspired Lego Mindstorms robotics toolkit or Microsoft’s Robotics Development Studio.

Node-red

Node-red is a visual programming tool that allows developers to build and manage information flows for the Internet of things.

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