TICK Stack: The Open source solution for managing sensor data

Step Zero of your IIoT Analytics journey

Applications of IoT in Supply Chain and manufacturing  are evolving from hype to maturity and considering the pace of technology explosion, industrial scale IoT solutions become the norm in next 2-3 years in my opinion. You need to get on the learning curve now and start experimenting, if you plan to leverage the technology as a differentiator in a couple of years.

At a very high level, there are two aspects to IoT solutions. One aspect is to create the IIoT network – The network with IoT devices, sensors, hubs, analytics platforms etc.

The second aspect is leveraging the data generated by these devices. Depending of the objective of implementation, the data can be leveraged in various ways. However, the very first step, or what I like to call Step Zero is collecting the data. It is critical to develop a good understanding of the process to establish the infrastructure required to collect sensors data using open source tools.

An example of architecture is shown below:

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The TICK stack to collect and manage sensor data 

Data generated by sensors has two aspects that makes it complex: One is the volume, 1000s of sensors transmitting data to 1000s of gateway devices obviously translate into the true “Big Data” scenario. The second aspect is that this data is also distributed, on 1000 different devices (gateways).

Get your hands dirty to get a deeper understanding

Since it is still an evolving architecture, I strongly suggest enthusiasts to experiment with cheap kits and open source tools to gain a better understand of how the IIoT architecture works, how the data is collected, processed, visualized and analyzed.

Some may insist that since their job will be primarily analyzing the data, should they be even bothered to understand the full architecture and stack? In my mind, it is extremely essential to understand the end to end aspect in order to master the technology, even if you deal only with the analytics portion. I personally now have five IoT kits that I have assembled in last few months. Having the understanding of the entire architecture and stack allows me to validate the integrity and consistency of my IoT data.

One critical aspect of building a kit at home is the software stack to interface with the hardware. I use the TICK stack, a stack configured using four open source softwares.

The TICK Stack

The TICK stack is a stack configured to  collect, store, manage, visualize and manipulate time series data generated by sensors. The good aspect of this stack is that it is made of four open source software components. The four components are:

  • Telegraf (T)
  • Influx DB (I)
  • Chronograf (C)
  • Kapacitor (K)

Let us start by going through each of these to understand the role they play in the stack.

Telegraf: is a plugin based data ingestion engine that gathers incoming data streams from multiple sources and feeds that collected data to data storage platform.

Influx DB: Influx DB is a data storage platform designed specifically as a Time series database. As it is designed specifically for time series database, the ease of use is amazing.

Kapacitor: Kapacitor is a streaming processing engine that generally is made to run alongside InfluxDB for more complex data processing and process alerts.

Chronograf: Chronograph, the C in the TICK stack is the front end of the stack. It is the data visualization and management front end for other components in the stack. You can quickly build high quality dashboards for data monitoring.

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There are plenty of resources on the internet on IoT kits that you can build and configure using the TICK stack but if you are interested in an actual application, I can share an assembled kit (if you are based in Greater Boston area). So go ahead and get your hands dirty by building the stack .

 

 

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