A Solid Foundation for a Seamless ExperienceBehind the scenes of the Lightbender installation, Assembly Line Technologies an embedded network and server infrastructure to support the mobile web interface and intelligent lighting systems. The constraints of the Lightbender project dictated that the underlying hardware be robust, space efficient, and nearly maintenance-free. Every piece of the installation needed to be able to withstand the extreme conditions of Michigan weather for the lifetime of the project, which was slated to be 10 years.
Simplicity and integration were important cornerstones we considered when choosing hardware for this project. Fewer components meant that there was physically less equipment to fail over time. A current-generation Raspberry Pi 2 B+ was chosen to act as router, web server, and lighting gateway. The small form factor of this computer along with its energy efficiency made it an optimal choice.
Lightbender generates many small messages that need to be handled quickly for a seamless experience. Using traditional web requests to update all clients simultaneously proved to be too slow, so Assembly Line opted to implement Websockets, a new and very efficient network protocol. Websockets made it possible to keep every node on the network completely updated on the status of the installation, allowing users to see what the installation is doing on their mobile devices and in the viaduct simultaneously.