Node-RED included in Raspbian Jessie

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Node-RED is an open-source project created by the Emerging Technology Services team in the UK. It allows you to visually wire together flows in the browser that can combine streams of events, both physical and digital, to create applications.


It started life as a small side project at the beginning of 2013 as a means to play with some new technologies. We quickly realised there was something of real value in what we had created. After using it successfully in a number of client engagements, we knew we needed to find a way to get more people using it.

To us, the only real option was to open-source the project. We could then continue to develop it in the open and build a community around it. Toward the end of that summer we got the approvals we needed, and the code was published to GitHub soon after.

We got the word out to a number of the IoT and Maker communities in the UK and saw an instant response.

Edge-of-network devices

With our focus on edge-of-network type devices, we already had a set of nodes for devices such as the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi. For example, our nodes for interacting with the GPIO pins made it really easy for users to create applications that could bridge between the physical and digital domains. The community has continued to create a range of nodes for various Raspberry Pi accessories and we’re always excited to see what gets created next.

In the very early days, it took a bit of work to get Node-RED installed – you had to clone the git repository and install the dependencies for yourself. Upgrading to new versions was also a bit of headache. We made installing Node-RED much easier when we published it to the standard package manager repository for node.js. This meant it took a simple npm install to get started.

Node-RED included in Raspbian Jessie

Fast-forward to the end of November 2015 and we now find ourselves part of the default install image provided by Raspberry Pi – the Raspbian Jessie image. This means everyone who installs a new Pi will get Node-RED preinstalled and available in the desktop menu.

Node-RED on the Raspberry Pi

Having it pre-installed on the Pi, alongside other wonderful tools like Scratch, is a great step forward for the project.

It also coincides with the release of the new Raspberry Pi Zero – an even smaller, cheaper variant of the Pi. At just $5, it was given away for ‘free’ on the cover of MagPi Magazine and sold out within hours. This surge in popularity will help introduce Node-Red to an even wider audience.

Running Node-RED in IBM Bluemix

Node-RED continues to be very popular on Bluemix. Since making it available on the node.js package manager 18 months ago, just over half of its 120,000 installs have been made on Bluemix. Some proportion of those will be due to instances being restaged rather than installed, but it still shows an ever growing level of interest, with a few hundred new installs happening daily.

With our palette of Bluemix-specific nodes, such as those for the Watson services, we see Node-RED getting used to create anything from simple proofs-of-concept and demos through to real applications handling real workloads.

It also provides the developer tooling for the recently launched Connect & Compose service that is currently in beta.

If you want to try Node-RED out you can either head over to the Bluemix catalog and create an instance of the Node-RED Starter application, or just click the button below:

Deploy to Bluemix


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Nick O'Leary
Nick is an Emerging Technology Specialist at IBM where he gets to do interesting things with interesting technologies and also play with toys. With a background in pervasive messaging, he is a contributor to the Eclipse Paho project and sits on the OASIS MQTT Technical Committee. He is the creator of Node-RED, an open source tool for wiring the Internet of Things.
Nick O'Leary

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