Making the most of Docker for .NET development

Lead Developer Peter Duerden – who is currently working on Control F1’s Innovate UK-funded “i-Motors” telematics project – gives his top tips on how to best utilise Docker’s containerised solution for .NET development. 


The recent rise in popularity of the Micro-Services Architecture has resulted in a shift in the way architects and developers design and develop their solutions. This architecture allows developers to build software applications which use independently deployable software components.

To assist in the paradigm of the Micro-Services Architecture, Solomon Hykes released an open source project called Docker in March 2013. Docker provides a lightweight containerised solution that builds upon the Linux kernel’s ability to use namespaces, but – unlike a virtual machine – a Docker container works with resource isolation using namespaces.

.NET developers

From the background above, you would think that the ability to utilise Docker for .NET development would be limited. However, Microsoft has invested time in Docker Tools for Visual Studio 2015 – Preview. This adds support for the building, deploying and debugging of containers using Mono and, more recently, .NET Core, which can be deployed or debugged locally when used in conjunction with Docker Toolbox or Docker for Windows (or Mac).

The Docker Tools have changed quite dramatically from their early releases, and during conversations with the development team in Seattle I was able to request, amongst other things, the inclusion of .NET Console apps to receive support for deployment. That request has been included into the current toolset.

The Docker Tools are a real benefit for fast development, but understanding the Docker processes before using them can help, and actually manually writing a Dockerfile for building your own images can prove valuable if you are to reap the full benefits of what Docker can offer.


Docker containers can be hosted on any Linux machine running the Docker daemon, but you need more than one in a production environment, and will need to run a Docker Swarm that can manage the allocation of containers, resourced over multiple machines to ensure resilience should one machine fail.

NB certain Cloud providers offer their own “Container Services” which ease the deployment of containers, but don’t use the standard Docker tools for composing or scaling.

Helpful tips

Although you may want to just dive in and try your first Docker container, be mindful of the following:

  1. Understand the Docker build process
    • What is it doing when it builds the images using the Dockerfile?
    • How are things layered?
    • Exposing ports – make sure you think about why and when
    • Have you considered tagging?
  2. Experiment with Docker Compose
    • Build your application by linking services
    • “Internal” services do not need ports exposing to the Host machine
  3. Build your own Docker Swarm
    • By building a swarm you can understand and identify the related challenges this will have, such as service registry or load balancing
  4. Use Docker natively. Don’t use one hosting provider’s container service, as this will tie you in and mean further work to unstitch your solution if you ever decide to host elsewhere.
  5. Be aware that not all .NET Nuget packages support .NET Core. There are certain ones that do, but quite a few still aren’t supported.

The future

At the time of writing this, quite a few changes are occurring in both the Docker and .NET Core spaces, which will no doubt have an impact on future development.

  1. .NET Core has now been released. Hopefully this will drive an increase in the number of Nuget packages available to developers.
  2. Docker Swarm has been simplified and should hopefully make it easier to build and manage swarms.
  3. Microsoft are close to the release of Windows Container Service, which offers similar functionality to Docker, but on Windows Server 2016. This will therefore allow for full .NET framework capabilities rather than the .NET Core version.

Getting an HTTP REST server running on the iMX233 OLinuXino-MICRO

Control F1 Lead Developer Phil Kendall gives some handy pointers on how to get an HTTP REST server running on the iMX233 OLinuXino-MICRO.

As part of an on-going client project, Control F1 was asked to get an HTTP REST server running on the iMX233 OLinuXino-MICRO – a little ARM-powered small board computer. There’s a lot of documentation out there for the OLinuXino board, but it’s not always clear which is the most up to date, so this post covers how we managed to get everything working in 2016.

Before you begin…

…always buy the right kit. You’ll obviously need a board, but as well as that remember to get:

  • A 5V power supply with a 5.5mm jack
  • A MicroSD card
  • A composite video lead (or another cable with RCA connectors)
  • A USB keyboard
  • A powered USB hub – we found that the OLinuXino didn’t put out enough power over its USB port to get keyboards to function
  • A WiFi dongle, which uses the RealTek 8192cu chipset. It’s always a bit tricky to determine exactly which chipset is in a dongle, but as of February 2016, the TP-LINK TL-WN823Nwas using the right chipset

In theory, that’s all you absolutely need, but I’d also strongly recommend a composite to HDMI converter, just because most monitors don’t have composite inputs these days.

First steps

As with any of these kind of projects, the first step is always to get something running on the board. Thankfully for the OLinuXino, this turns out to be relatively easy: grab the “iMX233 Arch image with kernel 2.6.35 WIFI release 4” image as linked from the Olimex wiki, and then simply follow the steps listed there to copy the image onto the MicroSD card, put the card into the board, plug in the keyboard and video and you should get the standard Tux splashscreen, followed by a login prompt.


The first thing to check is that you’ve got any sort of communications at all; the easiest way to do this is to run a scan for any wireless networks:

ip link set wlan0 up
iwlist scan

That should be enough to give you a list of all the wireless networks that the board can see. Find your network and run:

wpa_passphrase SSID PASSWORD > MyNetwork.conf

Now edit /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf, delete all the example configurations from the file and then add in MyNetwork.conf as you created above. After that, it should just be a matter of bringing everything up:

wpa_supplicant -B -i wlan0 -Dwext -c /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
ifconfig wlan0 <ip address> up
route add default gw <gateway address>

…and finally editing /etc/resolv.conf to add an appropriate nameserver. With a following wind, you should now have fully working networking on your board and be able to SSH into it.

HTTP server

I’m a big fan of’s spray-can as a lightweight HTTP server. As spray-can is in Scala, the first thing to do is to get a JVM onto the box. This also turns out to be nice and easy – grab the “ARMv5/ARMv6/ARMv7 Linux – SoftFP ABI, Little Endian” version of the Java SE Embedded JDK from Oracle’s site. This contains the JRE as well as the JDK, so copy the JRE onto the board and ensure that java is on the PATH somewhere. Test this with your favourite “Hello, world!” implementation if you so wish.


Getting Scala running on the board was also relatively easy: simply copy scala-compiler.jar, scala-library.jar and scala-reflect.jar from whichever version of Scala you’re using on the board, and then run your Scala code as:

java -Xbootclasspath/a:/full/path/to/scala-compiler.jar:/full/path/to/scala-library.jar:/full/path/to/scala-reflect.jar -jar helloworld.jar

I packaged that up into a shell script and put that on the PATH just to make things easier.


The biggest issue with getting spray-can running is ensuring that all its dependencies are available. The easiest way I found to do this was to use the sbt-assembly plugin to produce a “fat JAR” and deploying that onto the board. sbt-assembly importantly does the right thing out of the box and merges Typesafe Config configuration files so that they all work properly. Other than that, the only change I needed to make was to increase spray-can’s start up timeout a bit, just due to the relatively slow speed of the board; this can most easily be done by adding the following stanza to application.conf:

spray.can {
  server {
    # spray-can can be a bit slow to start on the board, so give it more time to start
    bind-timeout = 10s

After all that, you should be able to run any of the spray-can demos on the board.


Can small businesses benefit from the Northern Powerhouse?

Control F1 MD Andy Dumbell on his perceptions of the Northern Powerhouse initiative and why it’s so important to support small businesses in the region.

As cofounder and MD of a small tech business based in Yorkshire, and as a resident of the north-east, I have a vested interest in the North and support initiatives that will benefit the region.

With this in mind I recently attended the 2016 “UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition” held in Manchester, with the objective to understand what the NPH (Northern Powerhouse) is all about, and how it could benefit our region and its small businesses.

Prior to the event, like a lot of delegates I only had a vague understanding of what the NPH is; a concept that aims to rebalance the UK economy, pushing growth outside of London into Northern cities – from Liverpool through Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Teeside and Newcastle. It’s also a vision backed by the Chancellor George Osborne, who some say has staked his political reputation on its success.

That’s all well and good, but what does this actually mean for small businesses? What is the plan and who is leading it? How do we get involved and where are the opportunities? My hope was that the event would help answer these questions and leave us all feeling inspired and brimming with enthusiasm!

The conference was hosted by John Humphrys, who as you can imagine was witty, engaging and tenacious. It was split over two days and predominantly consisted of individual presentations and panel discussions. The calibre of the speakers was high and the format encouraged audience interaction through a social networking technology called slido.

The conference also offered some powerful networking opportunities with CEOs and other top executives of some of the largest companies and organisations in the UK, across various sectors. I formed promising connections with people whom I’d normally struggle to meet. For instance, I secured a private meeting with the President and CEO of one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK to talk about his challenges, what my business does and where we could potentially add value to his. We swapped business cards and my business has been invited to present to some of his senior team, to explore how we might work together.

On day 1 Lord O’Neil of Gately, Commercial Secretary to H M Treasury, kicked the conference off with his keynote speech on the governments’s NPH agenda with a focus on connectivity, communication and education. He talked about the NPH being a two phase project with the first currently underway, targeting awareness, devolution and improvements to transport links to better interconnect the North.

Phase 2 will be a continuation of the first, extended to address challenges in education and skills and their interplay with business. Lord O’Neil aspires to improve the outcomes and aspirations for the North, and central to phase 2 will be a low cost travel card similar to London’s Oyster card that can be used to commute across the North of England.

O’Neil’s introduction was a good start. The intention to provide better transport links should create new business opportunities whilst making commuting to work quicker, simpler and more cost effective, opening up access for businesses to a wider talent pool and encouraging local people to work in the region. However, connectivity issues within cities was not discussed and needs to be addressed in parallel to this wider piece.

There was considerable focus on education and skills throughout the event, especially given recent negative press on declining education standards in the North. I raised a question during a panel discussion on Science, Research and Skills: “what role will the NPH play in improving education standards and building a skills pipeline to meet future business demands?”

Professor Liz Towns-Andrew, Research and Enterprise, Yorkshire Universities, gave a passionate response and talked about her efforts to embed enterprise in the curriculum to create more business savvy graduates. She also highlighted the importance of listening to what employers and industry needs, and the necessity of getting these parties more engaged with further education.

This was encouraging and we heard about a number of further promising initiatives throughout the event. For instance, the International Festival of Business (IFB 2016) hosted in Liverpool later this year, a global gathering of international reach and significance. Over three weeks business leaders and thousands of international business delegates will get together, opening up opportunities in new markets. The festival includes a series of events, workshops and panel debates, with the intention to forge new connections and help businesses to secure new customers from key markets around the globe.

What wasn’t clear, though, was the role the NPH will play in all of this. Will it simply remain a concept; a platform for interested parties that share their ideas, debate and network, or will it be a real entity and the true driving force behind significant change? This wasn’t crystallised and the NPH is facing a fair amount of criticism. Social networks are loaded with frustration over the lack of a clear plan with some critics labelling the NPH as a gimmick without substance.

Geographical focus also presents a bit of an issue. Manchester is likely to become the capital of the NPH; it was quite telling that the chancellor’s first speech on the concept was delivered here, with events such as this one hosted in the city. But it’s important that the organisers rotate event locations across the north and don’t neglect cities such as York, Sunderland and Hull. It would be great to see future NPH events hosted in Newcastle and other major cities; otherwise we risk Manchester becoming the northern powerhouse and a new divide forming, breeding imbalance within the North which will undermine the initiative’s whole purpose.

So was the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition worth attending? Personally, I didn’t achieve all of my objectives and like a lot of delegates, my understanding of the NPH is still relatively vague. Yet whilst I didn’t leave feeling wholly inspired, I am hopeful, and believe that the NPH – which is still in its infancy – can accomplish its vision if given the necessary support: as delegates we are responsible for ensuring ROI when investing our time and money into such activities. Returning to my original question – can small businesses benefit from the Northern Powerhouse? – I would say yes! Get involved; network, debate, collaborate and help play an active role in the NPH story – it’s what we make of it that counts.

Control F1 takes Intel prize at IoT Hackathon

Head of Development Nick Payne describes his time at London Olympia’s IoT Hackathon, at which Control F1 proved victorious, taking the Intel Prize for our team’s “Personal Comfort Monitor”.

About two weeks ago friend of Control F1 Steve Cowper dropped us an email about attending an IoT Hackathon at London Olympia. Having never attended a hackathon on this scale before it seemed like a great idea. The prizes looked interesting and it fitted in quite nicely with what CF1 are doing in the space too.

A couple of impromptu phone calls later, we’d come up with the idea of the “Personal Comfort Monitor” – PCM for short! We were taking on Intel’s challenge of creating an application for the Intel Edison board, together with an Arduino breakout board and a bevvy of Grove sensors. Of course, all plans could change having had the hardware pitched to us on arrival…

Fortunately, they didn’t! Intel has built a Cloud IoT platform, loosely based on MQTT and hosted on AWS (again, a perfect fit for CF1).

The brief told us that there had to be a business case and route to market for whatever we were building. Steve had done plenty of market research and field data collection previously and promptly set out on the documentation for our project (whilst keeping the dev machine oiled with coffee and cake).

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 16.31.20

Control F1 Lead Developer Phil Kendall made light work of the hardware, iterating quickly over the Intel examples to get various sensors wired up and talking to the backend. Meanwhile I configured the backend platform and made sure that the project was registered so we stood a chance of winning, having set up a github repo for the code.

After about five hours we had a board that was able to ingest data from various sensors (with air quality fudged by a rotary switch in true hackathon style) and a mobile application that displayed the data. In short order we also got a red LED lighting up when the derived “comfort level” dropped below 50 (Steve kindly produced an algorithm for Phil to convert into NodeJS together with Excel proof). Time was called on the first day, and we retired happy that we’d achieved a fair amount.

Day 2 arrived and we implemented the LCD display board to give a user friendly read out. After much hacking (and a bit of swearing) Phil converted the Edison IoT agent to TCP sending, as UDP sending messed up the LCD – it turned it off!

Nick embarked on polishing the mobile app (a rewrite followed!) and by the end of the morning it looked half decent. The Intel EnableIoT api was able to be called to give the mobile app what it needed.

With a few hours to spare, we helped a few of the other hackers and checked out the competition. Then, once the presentation was finished, we had some lunch.

The pitches drew quite a crowd at the Expo. We were next to last, so at least we didn’t have too long to wait for the judges to finalise the results.

I’m proud to announce that we won 1st prize from Intel! They were impressed by the amount that we achieved in the time we had, and with the idea and pitch (and maybe that we raised a few bugs for them to go and fix too!)

Many thanks to the organisers, and to Richard Kasteline in particular. The prizes will definitely be used back at CF1 HQ to continue our “After School Clubs”, and who knows – maybe the Personal Comfort Monitor will come in handy at Control F1 HQ – we have three Edisons to play with now, and a Surface 3 to display results on!

i-Motors receives £1.3m from Innovate UK

We are excited to be able to share that i-Motors – a new Control F1-led telematics project – has been awarded a grant of £1.3M by Innovate UK.

We’ll be partnering with the University of Nottingham’s Geospatial Institute and Human Factors Research Group, traffic management specialists InfoHub Ltd, remote sensing experts Head Communications and telecoms gurus Huduma to deliver the project.

Picture a future without gridlock. A future in which our city streets, roads and highways are safer, cleaner and greener. In which vehicles can self-diagnose a fault and order a new component, or automatically detect a hazard such as ice on the road before it’s too late and warn other vehicles around them too. A future in which cars can drive themselves…

That future isn’t far away: it is predicted that the UK will see huge growth in the production of autonomous (driverless) cars by 2030. Meanwhile the production of connected cars – cars with inbuilt “telematics” devices, capable of communicating to other vehicles and machines – is forecast to rise from around 0.8 million in 2015 to 2 million in 2025, accounting for 95% of all cars produced in the UK.

Yet whilst the number of cars with the technology to connect is already rising, little progress has been made towards putting this technology to use.

i-Motors plans to address this issue. Capitalising on our extensive telematics experience (read about our telematics partnership with the RAC here), we plan to establish a set of universal standards on how vehicles communicate with each other, and with other machines. Making use of connected cars’ ability to support apps, we’ll be working with academics from Nottingham University’s Geospatial Institute and Human Factors Research Group to build a mobile platform that allows vehicles of different manufacturers and origins to transfer and store data.

We’ll use patented technology, allowing data to be collected and analysed at greater speeds than ever before. We’ll also be working alongside traffic management experts InfoHub Ltd to combine these data with other data sources such as weather reports, event data and traffic feeds, easing congestion and increasing safety through realtime updates and route planning. In addition, the i-Motors platform will allow vehicles to report errors, which can be automatically crosschecked against similar reports to diagnose the problem and reduce the chance of a breakdown.

We will also be working with Head Communications to address the issue of limited connectivity by developing sensors capable of transmitting data to the cloud in realtime. Through installing these sensors – known as Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) – vehicles can remain connected with sub-metre precision, even when out of internet and GPS range. And we will be collaborating with telecoms gurus Huduma to make i-Motors sustainable and commercially successful in the long term.

i-Motors has the backing of Nottingham, Coventry and Sheffield City Councils, where the new technology will first be piloted, and a letter of support from the Transport Systems and Satellite Applications Catapult, and fleet management experts Isotrak. The project will make use of live vehicle data provided by Ford, which has an ongoing relationship with the University of Nottingham.

Our MD Andy Dumbell commented:

“We are delighted to have been awarded the funding by Innovate UK to lead on this ground-breaking project. Connected and driverless cars offer us the opportunity to make huge strides in terms of reducing congestion, bringing down emissions, and even saving lives. Yet as is always the case when dealing with big data, it’s only effective if you know how to use it. We believe that through i-Motors we can set the standard for connected and autonomous vehicles and redefine the future of our streets, highways and cities.”

Just how innovative is the UK?

Our Product Development Director Dale Reed shares his thoughts from the 2015 Innovate UK Conference. 

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency; an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. They host an annual event to highlight the best and brightest of British Innovation, with exhibitors and seminars held over a two day period in London.

What was constantly highlighted throughout the event was just how innovative we actually are in this country. Consider these statistics:

The UK represents around 1% of the total global population and yet; we produce 16% of the world’s published scientific papers, and we host 4 out of the world’s top 10 Universities.

Then consider some of the inventions that have really shaped the world we live in today:

Computers? Charles Babbage, British.

Telephone? Alexander Graham Bell, British.

World Wide Web? Tim Berners-Lee, British.

Television? John Logie Baird, British.

You can also add to that list radar, the endoscope, the zoom lens, holography, in vitro fertilisation, animal cloning, magnetically levitated trains, the jet engine, antibiotics and, indeed, Viagra!

Some years ago, Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry made a study of national inventiveness and concluded that modern era Britain had produced around 55% of the worlds ‘significant’ inventions, compared with 22% for the US and 6% for Japan. The point is that the Brits have a long history of innovation and it’s something we should be mightily proud of.

The downside is that however good we’ve been at inventing things, we’ve not been that great at commercialising them. Almost all of those inventions mentioned above have been vastly commercialised by businesses outside of the UK (really only jet engines and antibiotics contribute anything significant to our GDP). We also lose a great deal of our brightest minds to businesses overseas.

Fortunately this seems to be one of the areas that’s being changed, as evidenced by some of the talks I sat in on at the event. Many universities are now teaming up with businesses to place students and under-graduates – something which benefits all parties. Despite some difficulties around IP protection, it’s a huge boon to the student to learn some business sense and commercial ability before being employed full time. The employer gets some very bright minds to help them think around their problems. Many students go on to work with the business full time on graduation, and many businesses continue with the scheme year on year because it’s been so successful for them.

There are also now a lot of Catapult Centres right here in the UK ( These are a network of world-leading centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth. They are a series of physical centres where the very best of the UK’s businesses, scientists and engineers work side by side on late-stage research and development – transforming high potential ideas into new products and services to generate economic growth.

By bringing together the right teams who can work together and innovate, and just as importantly commercialise, the centres are ensuring the UK can continue to be at the forefront of innovation, particularly in technology and the sciences.

Graphene of course is a well-known British invention which I think will soon be joining the list of the world’s most life changing innovations in fairly short shrift. The number of applications seems almost limitless at the moment. We already have the National Graphene Institute, built as part of Manchester University, and fortunately the UK is working hard to ensure we are capable of commercialising the potential for Graphene. Work on another £60,000,000 building – the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre – is currently underway, which will help look at how to move the research into actual production.

We also have a lot of expertise in quantum mechanics, and again companies in the UK are now working towards commercialisation of highly accurate sensors utilising quantum – for example an accelerometer based on the quantum interference of ultracold atoms. These will be able to provide highly accurate location and accelerometer information without any need for GPS or external factors. Although quite large at the moment it’s expected that they’ll be microchip sized within the next two years. Obviously this could be a huge boon to mobile, telematics and asset tracking systems. It’s currently being developed for use with submarines so they can determine their position accurately without having to surface to use GPS.

Overall I came away from the event feeling extremely positive and excited to be here in the UK at a time when there is so much potential for new technologies and innovation. I’m very much looking forward to Control F1 being a part of it!

Control F1 wins an Examiner Business Award!

Last night the Control F1 team were suited and booted for the Examiner Business Awards, and we’re delighted to share that we were the proud recipients of the University of Hudderfield’s Innovation and Enterprise Award.

We fought off stiff competition from worthy finalists Wellhouse Leisure and The Flood Company Commercial Ltd. to win the accolade.

Our Co-founder and Technical Director Carl said:

We’ve put a lot into research and development – to the point of really pushing the boundaries – and it’s wonderful to see it paying off. Innovation is a core value for us and we’re delighted to have this recognised through tonight’s award.”


Control F1 named a Little British Battler!

We are extremely pleased to announce that Control F1 has been named as a Little British Battler as part of the “Magnificent Seventh” TechMarketViews Little British Battlers Day. This accolade is awarded to innovative SMEs who are punching above their weight in business – a category we are very proud to fit into!

Out of hundreds of applications, we have secured one of the 12 highly sought after places. The other 11 SMEs from across the nation include enterprise auction platform Perfect Channel, analytics providers Aqila Insight and nanotechnology experts Memset. As the only winner that’s headquartered in Yorkshire, we’re extremely proud to be distinguished as an example of the innovation, expertise and drive of the Northern Powerhouse.

The award provides a platform to showcase the skills and ability of our fantastic – and ever growing – team at Control F1. We are currently expanding at an extraordinary rate, working in many different sectors and innovating in all.

The Control F1 team will head to London on 12th November to receive bespoke feedback from TechMarketView Research Directors and Senior Partners from London’s technology merchant bank MXC Capital.

Our Managing Director Andy Dumbell has commented:

“We’re delighted to have been named a Little British Battler – we may be relatively small in size, but our ambitions are big! In fact, it has been a big year for us all round – we’ve quadrupled our turnover, created over 30 job opportunities and secured external investment. Winning this accolade is the icing on the cake!”

Knowing of the success of the previous winners of the Little British Battler Programme, this takes us a step closer to achieving our goals, and we are extremely honoured to have won this coveted title.

TechMarketView will be publishing highlights from the day as well as the Little British Battler Report, which will be published in early December. Keep an eye on our social media channels – we’ll be live tweeting from the event, as well as covering the release of the highlights and subsequent report from TechMarketView.

Internet of Things World: Europe 2015 – it’s not just about robots

This post is an extract taken from Control F1 MD Andy Dumbell’s piece for Internet of Things (IoT) World News, following the IoT Europe conference in Berlin. Read the full piece here.

I’m writing this post whilst flying home from Berlin, feeling enthused, excited and inspired, after attending the first “Internet of Things World: Europe” conference. The show itself brought together thought leaders, alliances, and companies big and small from all parts of the evolving IoT (Internet of Things) sector.

Why did we go? Apart from the usual reasons for attending a conference – to learn, network, and pick up free t-shirts – we hoped to gain a better understanding of the IoT ecosystem; to crystallise where we can add value, and to find communities to collaborate with.

So, what exactly do we mean by IoT? This question was raised throughout the event, and I felt quite reassured by the lack of consensus, as we often debate the issue here at Control F1 – “it’s not just about robots!” Everyone had their own definition. One speaker’s presentation started with “IoT = Big Data”. Another view was that the IoT is a less organised version of M2M (machine to machine). Others pondered over whether it’s simply the next generation of M2M.

Here’s my stab at this: the IoT is connecting everyday objects across digital networks – such as the internet – trying to infer meaningful information whilst creating value.  Connected things can include just about any asset: clothing, appliances, vehicles, parcels, people, pets, buildings, planets – the list goes on. The IoT enables communication with such assets, to monitor them through sensing solutions, create intelligence, and manage and control them remotely.

However, for me the more important question is: why does it matter? The simple answer is that the IoT can make our lives better, but it is only worthwhile when it creates real value. For example, IoT innovations can save lives! By generating information and enabling timely communication, we can solve problems and make informed decisions, which leads to intelligence, convenience, efficiencies, effectiveness, smart socks and so on.

One of the highlights from the show was Katja von Raven’s talk on opening doors. Her business, Chamberlain, a manufacturer of smart home control products sold worldwide, has embraced the IoT to create a market leading smart garage door opener. The obvious benefit is increased convenience versus traditional products – you can ask your iPhone “did I leave the door open again?”, and then close it remotely. And Chamberlain has created new value for its customers through an alerting service – 70%+ of them use this feature, and 40% of subscribers say they could not live without it. A simple and effective solution made possible through the IoT.

I always enjoy hearing an inspiring success story – especially a technology driven one. Chamberlain took the brave decision to adopt the IoT and rethink its business model, transforming into a manufacturing and digital tech company. This was driven through consumer-guided decisions to create a useful product, rather than a misguided attraction to shiny new toys adding to the Internet of Pointless Things.

Advancements in connectivity also provided for interesting discussions. We heard about 5G. We heard about LoRa’s mission to standardise low power wide area networks to meet the IoT market needs. And we heard about SIGFOX’s low-cost, low-throughput, low-energy-consumption network – which can literally see through walls!

I was, however, surprised that Bluetooth didn’t have a stronger presence. I attended the Bluetooth Europe conference in London last month where they presented their planned roadmap, which includes mesh network capability, IPv6 support, as well as other interesting advancements that the IoT community could benefit from. The conference would have also been a great place for Amazon to showcase their new AWS IoT services.

Unsurprisingly Big Data and Analytics were also part of the theme, with insights drawn from various verticals on how to get value from billions of connected things. For example, the automotive sector is providing near real-time intelligence to motorists through connected vehicles, interpreting data from sensing solutions and broadcasting updates on congestion, road risk and better route options.

The European Commission talked about their continued support for IoT innovation and future deployment, with hundreds of millions of euros committed to funding research and experimentation, from smart farming and food security, to autonomous vehicles in a connected environment.

The IoT still feels a bit like the Wild West – fast, risky, but an exciting place to be. Past scepticism has subsided, with developments from major players making the IoT a tangible business opportunity. The pace of innovation is incredible. It has been catalysed by major advancements in connectivity, cloud tech, hardware, and driven by a generation of enthusiastic startups, innovators, forward thinking businesses, and communities, driving industry forward.

As a company we have worked in IoT from our conception in 2010, providing innovative software solutions and consultancy for big brands and startups alike. These have ranged from high-end fashion accessories that double as a personal security device, to the technology that allowed Nestle to launch a competition with hidden tracking devices in its chocolate bars (lucky winners were hunted down and handed a briefcase containing thousands of pounds!)

In summary, the IoT Europe conference served to reaffirm our strategy, and inspired us to continue innovating. There is no doubt that the IoT is changing our lives for the better, emerging as the third wave of development for the internet. The future will be quite different from the world we know today. We want to be part of the driving force that gets us there.

Configuring Elastic MapReduce 4 applications from the AWS console

Lead Developer Phil Kendall recently blogged about getting started with Spark on EMR. In this follow up post he explains how to configure EMR 4 applications from the AWS console.

Update 12th November: Jon Fritz, one of the Elastic MapReduce PM team, let me know that they’ve now fixed this bug in the console

Back in July, Amazon released “v4” of their Elastic MapReduce platform which introduced some fairly big changes as to how applications are configured. While there are some nice examples on that page, those examples don’t work if you try them in the AWS console: if you copy and paste an example into the “Edit software settings” box and then try and create a cluster, you get the following error:
…which is perhaps not the world’s most informative error ever, and definitely a bit disappointing when all you’ve done is taken an AWS-supplied example. After much frustration, I finally discovered that it’s the capitalisation of the keys that is significant: if you change the supplied example to

    "classification": "core-site",
    "properties": {
      "": "250"
    "classification": "mapred-site",
    "properties": {
      "": "2",
      "": "90",
      "mapreduce.tasktracker.reduce.tasks.maximum": "5"

…then everything works just fine – note the lower case “c” and “p” in “classification” and “properties” as opposed to the upper case versions used in AWS’s example. I’ve sent feedback to the AWS team on this one so I suspect it may end up getting fixed pretty soon, but if anyone else is suffering from the same problem then hopefully this gets you out of a hole!