September 13th, 2018
The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly taking over our day to day interactions with the world. Forbes has predicted the global IoT market to grow to $8.9T in 2020, while the manufacturing and healthcare industries are predicted to spend $890B and $1.335T respectively. Is IoT a good fit for your business? We take a look at how the the Internet of Things can help improve your productivity and quality.
Let’s first define IoT. To put it simply, IoT is connecting any device to the internet. Now you may be thinking my cell phone connects to the internet, is it an IoT device? The answer would be yes. However for the purpose of this discussion we are focusing on use cases that can be applied to a common business problem using a simple device: a button.
IoT in Business
IoT has many uses today from inventory control, temperature monitoring, asset management, and product optimization. Much like FileMaker itself many IoT solutions are custom built to fit the needs and requirements of the individual business. Let us imagine your company produces the latest and greatest widget. These widgets require material to be supplied to each machine. As the material supply for each machine can run out at random times, how will you know when to resupply?
Many companies rely on radios or other employees to constantly monitor and check to ensure the material remains supplied. What if each machine had a simple mechanism to request new material, allowing your FileMaker application to simultaneously gather metrics and notify key people when a machine needs material, maintenance, or went offline.
IoT to the Rescue
Amazon’s AWS IoT Button is a cloud-programmable button that allows for a quick setup to get you up and running. We chose this for our article because of its simple deployment and programming. For a larger scale deployment a custom IoT device can be built from scratch to fit your business needs. This button allows you to configure 3 separate button pushes (short, long, and double), which can be used to trigger separate actions within your custom FileMaker Application.
Integrating with FileMaker
Continuing with the AWS approach we look to AWS Lambda to handle the communication between the physical world and digital world. Lambda is serverless computing allowing you to run code without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume – there is no charge when your code is not running.
AWS Lambda acts as a middle man between the physical button and the FileMaker application. The sample code provided for Lambda is written in node.js. It allows you to enter your own information as environmental variables making it even simpler for you to configure.
When the IoT button is pressed, Lambda will perform our node.js code that makes use of the FileMaker Data API to communicate with FileMaker Server. In this example we create a record in a WEB_LOG table then perform a script to handle the type of button pushed. Out of the box the button can distinguish between a single, double, or long click type.
The beauty of this approach is that with the power of FileMaker scripting you can do anything with this information. Just a few ideas to get you started.
- Display a chart on a dashboard to monitor the count of maintenance requests by department.
- Broadcast on a series of TV monitors throughout the facility for everyone to keep an eye on production status.
- Email or send a text message to key members of the company.
- Fully automate your reorder process by creating a PO within FileMaker and integrating suppliers to purchase inventory.
Integrating your custom FileMaker app with a custom IoT solution gives you endless possibilities to streamline, monitor, and create an overall better business environment. Feel free to contact us if you need further assistance or to discuss getting your IoT device integrated with FileMaker.
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Michael is a FileMaker Certified Developer who joins DB Services with nearly a decade of experience as an Information Technology Manager in the printing industry. Originally from San Diego, he moved to Iowa during his teens and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems from Iowa State University.