Christmas feels like a lifetime ago with Valentine’s Day firmly behind us and the Mendix office gearing up to the Easter holidays. But just last week we had the pleasure of presenting a generous check to Action for Children as a result of the Christmas IoT app we created back in December 2016.

With the convergence of the digital and physical worlds, enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), we are seeing an explosion of data. We are entering the era of IoT applications, and Christmas was a perfect opportunity to showcase the types of IoT applications that can be built on the Mendix Platform. We created an IoT app that would tie our themes of Christmas cheer and revolutionary technology together with the goal of giving back and bringing light to children at Christmas.

Our developers Simon and Chris created an app that allowed users to turn on the lights on a Christmas tree in the Mendix UK office with the click of a button. With four buttons, users were able to turn on four different sets of lights on the tree. Every time a light was turned on, Mendix donated money to the Action for Children charity. Each click was documented with a visible counter on the live streaming screen for all to view at any time. The goal was to reach 10,000 clicks in order for us to donate 4,000 GBP to Action for Children.

How We Built Our Christmas-Themed IoT Application on Mendix

Our developers identified the fact that we would need a webcam for live streaming so participants would have 24/7 access to view the lighting up of the tree. In addition, we would also need a device that would enable users to switch on the Christmas tree lights remotely.

Our engineers thought back to their own personal experiences using IoT devices in their homes and employed a similar method with this app. They used a Raspberry Pi in combination with Energenie (a product that helps control your energy and home automation) plugs to control the plug sockets. This was made globally available with the magic of MQTT a machine-to-machine (M2M)/Internet of Things connectivity protocol. It is an extremely lightweight protocol that allows devices to publish and subscribe to messages over topics.

The Value of IoT for Action for Children

We had a fantastic response from the public given that we launched a week before Christmas and had a tight deadline to hit 10,000 clicks by Christmas day. At our peak, we had more than 150+ users turning on the tree lights at the same time. In total, the app helped raise 3,500 GBP for Action for Children, although we donated the full 4,000 GBP as promised. Thanks to all you clickers!

We had such fantastic feedback from everyone that participated. Lucy Polling, Community Partnerships Fundraiser, described how much of a hit the app was in the Action for Children office stating, “It was one of the most digitally innovative campaigns we had ever seen! We couldn’t stop clicking on the baubles, and we’re looking forward to seeing what Mendix will create this year.”

IoT Applications Can Reshape Entire Industries

The Internet of Things presents huge business opportunities. Technologies like IoT, big data and machine learning promise to reshape entire industries.  According to McKinsey, IoT alone could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025.

There is no shortage of ideas for innovative products and services. The challenge is to build IoT Apps at the speed of these ideas. In order for organizations to unlock the value of IoT, IT teams need a way to experiment quickly and cost effectively. Above all, they need an approach that facilitates frequent iteration and close collaboration between business and IT, so they can turn new ideas into value-driving IoT applications.