Monday, October 13, 2014

Node-RED: Simple "phoney" JSON entries in Cloudant

Node-RED Starter
on IBM Bluemix
Want to automatically store data about who called you on which phone number? Last Friday tried exactly that on IBM Bluemix and was amazed how simple it is, no real programming involved. All I needed was the Node-RED starter boilerplate (icon is on the right) on Bluemix and a new API of my mobile service provider.

The Node-RED boilerplate automatically creates a Node.js runtime environment on Bluemix and installs the Node-RED tool into it. In addition, a Cloudant JSON database is created. Once everything is deployed I opened the Node-RED tool in a Web browser. It offers a basic set of different input and output methods, processing nodes, and the ability to connect them in a flow graph. One of the input nodes is a listener for http requests. They help to react to Web service requests. I placed such http input node on the work sheet and labeled it "phone" (see screenshot).
Node-RED tool on Bluemix

How did I obtain information about callers and the numbers they called? Well, I tapped my friends at a security agency. I used a new free service offering at one of my phone service providers. It is called "" and allows to configure an URL/Web address that is accessed whenever someone calls one of the account's phone numbers (you could have multiple phone numbers). An http POST request is sent to the configured URL and the caller's phone number and the called number are included as payload. In my Node-RED application the "phone" node would answer to this request.

What I needed now was the data processing flow of the Web services request. On Friday I already tweeted the entire flow:

On the left we see "phone" node as http input. Connected to it is the "ok" node which sends an http response back, telling the phone company's Web services that we received the information. The other connected node is a "json" processor which translates the payload (who called which number) into a meaningful JSON object. That object is then moved on to the "calls" node, a Cloudant output node. All we needed was to select the Cloudant service on Bluemix and to configure the database name.
Cloudant Output Node, Node-RED on Bluemix
The magic itself was pressing the "Deploy" button on top of my Node-RED worksheet. It created the Node.js code for my Bluemix app. I was a little bit nervous about testing the app because I didn't code anything, just clicking. For my test I took the phone in my home office and dialed the number of my mobile phone number. The result? A new, nice and shiny, "phoney" JSON document in Cloudant:
"Phoney" record in Cloudant
Almost too easy. Great stuff, but unfortunately no code to share... :) (You can find the flow on Github)