Progressive Web Apps in Chrome

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are HTML based applications that run as though they are desktop applications.  Google Chrome received support for PWAs on Chrome OS in May with the release of Chrome 67.  Linux and Windows received support in August with the release of Chrome 70.  Support for Mac OS X is yet to come.

Download code (415 KB)

siderealLarge

One of the first differences that stands out for PWAs is that they can run in their own application window and are indistinguishable from other applications running on a machine. That difference is largely visual. But the differences extend well beyond what is visible. Resources that are not usually available to an HTML page are available to a PWA such as access to Bluetooth, serial ports, UDP networking, and more.  Chrome PWAs can be installed and have their own icon in your programs menu and function offline.

There are requirements that must be satisfied before an HTML page can be installed as a PWA.  These are the conditions that must be met.

  • The page must be served over SSL/HTTPS.
  • The page must have a service worker with a fetch handler.
  • User engagement requirements must be met (interaction with the domain for at least 30 seconds).
  • A manifest must be present.
    • 192px and 512px icons must be included.
    • Application must have a short name and long name.
    • The display mode must be specified.
    • start_url must be specified.

 

If all of these requirements are met Chrome will trigger a beforeinstallprompt event for the web page. Once this event is triggered your application can present the user with an install prompt.  Depending on the Chrome version your application may be able to suppress this prompt and display it to the user later (allowing you to decide where in the interaction flow that the prompt shows up) or your app might not be allowed to suppress it.

I’ll make a minimilastic application that satisfies the requirements for being a PWA.  The application that I’ll make will calculate sidereal time. Sidereal time is a time tracking system used by astronomers and is always expressed in 24 hour format. The usual system of tracking time was formed around trying to map the time of the day to the position of the sun (solar time, though it is far less than perfect). Sidereal time is based on the position of the stars relative to the observer. I will not talk much about the algorithm behind this calculation much here. I talked about calculating sidereal time in an application I had made for the now defunct Windows Phone 7; while that OS is no more the description I gave on how sidereal time works is still applicable.

Using SVG I’ve made a simple 24 hour clock face. The clock face is really there for aesthetics. Chances are if you try to read the hands of the clock the hour hand will cause confusion since it’s position on a 24 hour clock will not meet expectations that have been formed from being able to read a 12 hour clock.  The digital readout is the part that will actually give the information of interest. Every second the time is updated and the hands animate to their new position. There’s also a gear icon for opening the settings interface.

sampleApp

Satisfying the SSL/HTTP Requirement

A lot of the necessary features are only available if your application is being served over SSL. If you don’t see HTTPS in the address bar then these features simply will not work. To satisfy this requirement for now I’m using Google Firebase and the temporary URL that it has assigned to me. I don’t plan on keeping this URL forever, but at the time of this post you can play with the application over at https://siderealtimepiece.firebaseapp.com.

Satisfying Manifest Resources Requirements

The manifest for my application is in the root directory of the application. It is a JSON formatted file with information on where the program icons can be found, the starting URL, and the name of the application as it should appear on the user’s machine.

{
    "short_name": "Sidereal",
    "name": "Sidereal Time Piece",
    "icons": [
      {
        "src": "./images/sidereal192.png",
        "type": "image/png",
        "sizes": "192x192"
      },
      {
        "src": "./images/sidereal512.png",
        "type": "image/png",
        "sizes": "512x512"
      }
    ],
    "start_url": "index.html?pwa=true",
    "background_color": "#000080",
    "display": "standalone",
    "scope": "./",
    "theme_color": "#FFFFFF"
  }
  

The Service Worker

To satisfy the service worker requirement there’s a JavaScript file in the root of this application’s files named sw.js. The service worker works in the background behind the page. For this application we only want the service worker to do two things; respond to an install event by caching the required files locally and serve up those files when needed. The list of the files that are to be cached are in an array named urlsToCache. When the service worker response to the install event it will pass this list of URLs to a call of the addAll method on the cache object. The cache object will then download the resources at these URLs and save them locally where we can use them offline.

var CACHE_NAME = 'siderealclock-cache';
var urlsToCache = [
  './',
  './styles/main.css',
  './scripts/app.js',
  './scripts/jquery-3.3.1.min.js',
  './images/sidereal192.png',
  './images/sidereal512.png',
  './images/siderealLarge.png',
  './404.html'
];

self.addEventListener('install', function(event) {
  // Perform install steps
  event.waitUntil(
    caches.open(CACHE_NAME)
      .then(function(cache) {
        console.log('Opened cache');
        return cache.addAll(urlsToCache);
      })
  );
});

For the fetch event I’m using code from a Google recommendation. This handler will serve the contents from the cache when there is a cache hit and also add new files to the cache when a request is made for a file that isn’t already there.

self.addEventListener('fetch', function(event) {
    event.respondWith(
      caches.match(event.request)
        .then(function(response) {
          // Cache hit - return response
          if (response) {
            return response;
          }
  
          // IMPORTANT: Clone the request. A request is a stream and
          // can only be consumed once. Since we are consuming this
          // once by cache and once by the browser for fetch, we need
          // to clone the response.
          var fetchRequest = event.request.clone();
  
          return fetch(fetchRequest).then(
            function(response) {
              // Check if we received a valid response
              if(!response || response.status !== 200 || response.type !== 'basic') {
                return response;
              }
  
              // IMPORTANT: Clone the response. A response is a stream
              // and because we want the browser to consume the response
              // as well as the cache consuming the response, we need
              // to clone it so we have two streams.
              var responseToCache = response.clone();
  
              caches.open(CACHE_NAME)
                .then(function(cache) {
                  cache.put(event.request, responseToCache);
                });
  
              return response;
            }
          );
        })
      );
  });
  

This file must be registered as the service worker for it to be able to do anything. In one of the JavaScript files loaded by the page I check the navigator object to ensure there is a serviceWorker member (if there isn’t then the browser in which the code is running currently doesn’t support service workers). If it is there then the service worker can be registered with navigator.serviceWorker.register(path_to_service_worker).

if('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
    navigator.serviceWorker
             .register('./sw.js')
             .then(function() { console.log("Service Worker Registered"); });
  }

Handling the Install Prompt

If your code is running on a Chrome implementation that supports it you can defer the presentation of the installation prompt. In my case I’ve decided to defer it and make a button available in the settings UI. The variable installPrompt will hold the reference to the event object that when activated will present the user with the Chrome install UI. When the event is raised the variable is populated with the event object and the install button within my settings UI is made visible.

var installPrompt;


function beforeInstall(e) { 
    console.log('beforeInstallPrompt()')
    e.preventDefault();
    installPrompt = e;
    $('.installUI').show();
}


window.addEventListener('beforeinstallprompt', beforeInstall);
    $('.installButton').on('click', function(){
        installPrompt.prompt();
        installPrompt.userChoice
          .then((choiceResult) => {
            $('.installUI').hide();
            installPrompt = null;
          });
      
    });

Testing the application on Chrome on Ubuntu Linux when I select my install button the Chrome install prompt shows.

Chrome Desktop Install Prompt
The Install Prompt that shows on Google Chrome on a desktop

Program Launchers on the Desktop

On the desktop once installed the icon for the PWA shows up in the computer’s program launcher.  It also shows up in the Chrome app list. When launched since this application was made to run in standalone mode the application runs in it’s own window with the OS appropriate buttons for going full screen, minimizing, and closing the window. My test application uses location services to acquire the longitude at which the sidereal time is being calculated. When run in a regular browser window I’m prompted each time I visit the page to give permission for location information. This gets a little annoying after a while. When the application is running in stand alone mode the application’s border shows an icon indicating that the location is being detected. Clicking on the icon gives the user the ability to change the location permissions for the application.

Samsung Internet Compatibility

Samsung Internet, the default browser for a long period on many Samsung phones, also supports PWAs. (Samsung Internet can also be installed on non-Samsung phones). Samsung Internet is a Chromium based browser and Samsung is one of the contributors to the Chromium project.  It may come as no surprise that no code changes are necessary for this application to work on  The UI it presents for installing PWAs is different than what Chrome presents. When Samsung Internet detects that a page can be installed as a PWA an icon is shown in the address bar that resembles a house with a plus in the center. Selecting it will add the icon to the home screen. The icon shows with a smaller image of the Samsung Internet icon indicating that it is a PWA.  The beforeinstallprompt event will never be triggered. Since the presentation of the custom install button was driven by this event it simply will not show.

SamsungPWACentered

Adding iOS Compatibility

If you saw the original iPhone announcement back in 2007 Steve Jobs had announced that making apps for the iPhone could be done with HTML; at the time there was no SDK available to developers and if they wanted to target the iPhone they were making a web app that had an icon on the home screen. From 2007 to 2018 Apple didn’t do much to advance the platform. It wasn’t until March 2018 that Apple made significant updates to their support to HTML based applications. Apple added support for web manifest, and services workers, web assembly, and other features.

There’s not 100% parity between iOS and Android for available features in PWA. On iOS storage is limited to 50MB per app. On Android the application can request more storage. Android BWAs also have access to Bluetooth features, speech recognition, background sync, and other features. For my sample application none of these mentioned differences matter. While the Android implementations have UI notifications that let the user know that the app can be installed on iOS there’s no visual notification. To install the application the user must select the share option and add the page to their home screen.

Safari ignores most of the attributes of the manifest. It also doesn’t save state if the user leaves the application. So the developers must make their own implementation to save state as the user jumps in and out of the application. If you want a custom icon to show in Safari for your application Apple has a document on specifying the icon using the link tag. An icon can be specified like the following.

    <link rel="apple-touch-icon"  href="./images/icons/apple-icon-57x57.png">

If you want to specify multiple icons and allow the phone to select the most appropriate one for the user’s resolution add a sizes attribute to the tag.

   <link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="57x57" href="./images/icons/apple-icon-57x57.png">
    <link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="60x60" href="./images/icons/apple-icon-60x60.png">
    <link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="72x72" href="./images/icons/apple-icon-72x72.png">

My clock icon for the program shows up in the iPhone favourites list as the following.

FavouriteIcon

Offline Functionality

This application doesn’t need the internet for any functionality. It’s only inputs are the current local time and the user’s longitude. With the lack of need for any network resources and the service worker caching the required files for the application it will work just fine offline after it has been installed. If you make an application that requires network access you will want to give some thought to what to do when there is no data connection. Even if the application can’t do anything without a connection it would be better to show a friendly message than to just let the application not work.

An Alternative to the App Store

PWAs longtime might turn out to be a good alternative to app stores for some types of applications. Whether or not it is a good fit for the needs that you have will depend on the functionality that your applications require and what is available on the devices that you need to target. Apple appears to be behind on this front at the moment. But I hope that the attention that they’ve put on the platform this year to be indicative of future efforts. I’m personally am interested in what could be done when PWAs and WebAssembly are combined together. These are topics to which I hope to give a good bit of attention over the following months.

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Simplified Sidereal Time

While preparing for a full moon / blue moon, I was looking at an algorithm for calculating sidereal time and had a mini epiphany. The algorithm is basically an elaborate modulo operation. Modulo is generally applied to integer values, but it can be used with decimal numbers and even fractions.

For the algorithm that I have generally used, a lot of the calculations are only for converting the date to some linear expression of time. The calendar that is usually used does not express time linearly.

The amount of time from the beginning of one month to the beginning of another month could be 28 to 31 days. With linear representations of dates, a subtraction operation is all that is needed to know the amount of time between two moments in time.

In JavaScript, this linear representation of time is shown by calling getTime() on a date object. The time value for 2019 January 10 @16:40:20 UTC  is 1547138420000. This value is the number of milliseconds since another date and time. This time and date is also 00:00:00 Sidereal time. The number of milliseconds in a sidereal day (23 hours 56 minutes 4.1 seconds) is 86164100. For any date after 2019-01-10T16:40:20 we could get the Sidereal time by doing the following:

  • Acquire the getTime() value for the date in question.
  • Subtract 1547138420000 from that value.
  • Get the modulo 86164100 for the resulting value.
  • Multiply the result by 24/86164100.

The result of these operations is the sidereal time in decimal. If you want to convert it to hour:minute:second format do the following:

var hour = Math.floor(result);
var minute = (result % 1) * 60;
var second = (minute % 1) * 60;
minute = Math.floor(minute)

solstice

-30-

NodeJS on BrightSign

When I left off I was trying to achieve data persistence on a BrightSign  (model XT1144) using the typical APIs that one would expect to be available in an HTML application. To summarize the results, I found that using typical methods of checking localStorage and indexedDB show as being available; but indexedDB isn’t actually available; and localStorage appears to work, but doesn’t survive a device reset.

The next method to try is NodeJS.  The BrightSign devices support NodeJS, but the entry point is different than a standard entry point of a NodeJS project. A typical NodeJS project will have its entry point defined in a JavaScript file. For BrightSign, the entry point is an HTML file. NodeJS is disabled on the BrightSign by default. There is nothing in BrightAuthor that will enable it. There is a file written to the memory card (that one might otherwise ignore when using BrightAuthor) that must be manually modified. For your future deployments using BrightAuthor, take note that you will want to have the file modification described in this article saved to a back-up device so that it can be restored if a mistake is made.

The file, AUTORUN.BRS, is the first point of execution on the memory card. You can look at the usual function of this file as being like a boot loader; it will get your BrightSign project loaded and transfer execution to it. For BrightSign projects that use an HTML window the HTML window is actually created by the execution of this file. I am not going to cover the BrightScript language. For those that were ever familiar with the language, it looks very much like a variant of the B.A.S.I.C. language. When an HTML window is being created it is done with a call to the CreateObject method with “roHtmlWidget” as the first parameter to the function. The second parameter to this call is a “rectangle” object that indicates the coordinates at which the HTML window will be created. The third (optional) parameter is the one that is of interest. The third parameter is an object that defines options that can be applied to the HTML window.  The options that we want to specify are those that enable NodeJS, set a storage quota, and define the root of the file system that we will be accessing.

The exact layout of your Autorun.js may differ, but in the one that I am currently working with, I have modified the “config” object by adding the necessary parameters. It is possible that in your AutoRun.brs that the third parameter is not being passed at all. If this is the case, you can create your own “config” object to be passed as a third parameter. The additions I have made are in bold in the following.

is = {
    port: 3999
}    
security = {
        websecurity: false,
        camera_enabled: true
}
    
config = {
    nodejs_enabled: true,
    inspector_server: is,
    brightsign_js_objects_enabled: true,
    javascript_enabled: true,
    mouse_enabled: true,
    port: m.msgPort,
    storage_path: "SD:"
    storage_quota: 1073741824            
    security_params: {
        websecurity: false,
        camera_enabled: true
    },
    url: nodeUrl$
}
    
htmlWidget = CreateObject("roHtmlWidget", rect, config)

Once node is enabled the JavaScript for your page will run with the capabilities that you would generally expect to have in a NodeJS project. For my scenario, this means that I now have acces to the FS object for reading and writing to the file system.

fs = require('fs');
var writer = fs.createWriteStream('/storage/sd/myFile.mp4',{defaultEncoding:'utf16le'});
writer.write("Hello World!\r\n");
writer.end()

I put this code in an HTML page and ran it on a BrightSign. After inspecting the SD card after the device booted up and was on for a few moments I saw that my file was still there (Success!).  Now I have a direction in which to move for file persistence.

One of the nice things about using the ServiceWorker object for caching files is that you can treat a file as either successfully cached or failed. When using a file system writer there are other states that I will have to consider. A file could have partially downloaded, but not finished (due to a power outage; network outage; timeout; or someone pressing the reset button; etc.). I’m inclined to be pessimistic when it comes to guaging the reliability of external factors to a system. I find it necessary to plan with the anticipation of them failing.

With that pessimism in mind, there are a couple of approaches that I can immediately think to apply to downloading and caching files.  One is to download files with a temporary name and change the name of the file from its temporary to permanent name only after the download is successful. The other (which is a variation of that solution) is to download the file structure to a temporary location. Once all of the files are downloaded, I could move the folder to its final place (or simply change the path at which the HTML project looks to load its files). Both methods could work.

I am going to try some variations of the solutions I have in mind and will write back with the results of one of the solutions.

-30-

BigInt in JavaScript

As a developer, there are some problems for which I get enjoyment out of solving.  There are some problems for which JavaScript had not been my tool of choice because of its limits on precision of the Number type.  That is no longer the case with the JavaScript type BigInt.  The number of bytes used to store a BigInt scales with the magnitude of the number.  On some browsers the following JavaScript code will show a difference between Number and BigInt.  The value in the BigInt variable increases as one would naturally expect it to.  The value in the Number variable will stay the same.

var myBigInt = BigInt(Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER);
var myBigResult;
console.log('BigInt value ', myBigInt);
myBigResult = myBigInt * 4n;
console.log('BigInt value * 4 = ', myBigResult);

var myNumber = Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER-0.9;
var myResult;
console.log('Number value ', myNumber);
myResult = myNumber *4 ;
console.log('Number value * 4 = ', myNumber);

The output for the above was as follows:

BigInt value  9007199254740991n
BigInt value * 4 =  36028797018963964n
Number value  9007199254740990
Number value * 4 =  9007199254740990

For any operation that involves values that are beyond the maximum safe integer value, the resulting value could be wrong. It is also possible to have values that appear identical when printed as a sting, but are unequal to each other when compared.  BigInt literals are expressed as an integer number suffixed with a lowercase ‘n’.  If you use the typeof operator on a BigInt the string 'bigint‘ is returned.

While there are no additional floating number types that offer high precision, BigInt can be used for some types of calculations.  For example, if you needed a big decimal value for money calculations  you could use BigInt and have your presentation of the results take into account that the number type is not storing a decimal position.  For example, if the result of a calculation were 1234 when printing the number it could be converted to a string and a period could be inserted into the right position producing the string 12.34 to the user.

The BigInt type is supported in Chrome 67.  Apple added support for Safari version 12.  Mozilla is currently working on support.  Microsoft is also working on an implementation.

 

Basic Hue Lighting Control: Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part post.  The first part can be found here.

At the end of the first part, I had gotten discovery of the bridge implemented and had performed the pairing of the bridge.  In this part, I will show you how to create a query for the state of the light groups and control them.

Querying Group State

I’m only allowing the modification of the state of groups of lights on the Hue.  First I need to query the bridge for what states exist.  The list of groups and the state of the group are available at `http://${this.ipAddress}/${this.userName}/groups`. Here the data in this.userName is the user name that was returned from the Hue bridge in the pairing process.  With this information I am able to create a new UI element for each group found.  I only show groups of type “room” from this response.  It is also possible that the user has grouped an arbitrary set of lights together in a group.  I don’t show these.

var hueDB = (function () {
    var db = {};
    var datastore = null;
    var version = 1;
    db.open = function (callback) {
        var request = indexedDB.open('hueDB', version);
        request.onupgradeneeded = function (e) {
            var db = e.target.result;
            e.target.transaction.onerror = db.onerror;
            var store = db.createObjectStore('bridge', { keyPath: 'bridgeID' });
        };
        request.onsuccess = function (e) {
            datastore = e.target.result;
            callback();
        };
    };

    db.getBridgeList = function () {
        return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
            var transaction = datastore.transaction(['bridge'], 'readonly');
            transaction.onerror = function (e) {
                reject(e.error);
            };
            transaction.oncomplete = function (e) {
                console.log('transaction complete');
            };

            var objStore = transaction.objectStore('bridge');
            objStore.getAll().onsuccess = function (e) {
                console.log('bridge retrieval complete');
                resolve(e.target.result);
            };

            var bridgeList = [];


        });
    };

    db.addBridge = function (bridge) {
        console.log('adding bridge ', bridge);
        return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
            var transaction = datastore.transaction(['bridge'], 'readwrite');
            transaction.onerror = function (e) {
                reject(e.error);
            };
            transaction.onsuccess = function (e) {
                console.log('item added');
            };
            var objStore = transaction.objectStore('bridge');
            var objectStoreRequest = objStore.add(bridge);
            objectStoreRequest.onsuccess = function (e) {
                resolve();
            };
        });
    };

    return db;
})();

Changing the State of a Light Group Attributes

There are several elements of a light group’s state that can be modified.  I’m only considering two: the brightness of the light group and whether or not the group of lights is turned on.  Both can be set with a PUT request to the bridge at the the URL http://${this.ipAddress}/${this.userName}/groups/${id}/action`.  This endpoint accepts a JSON payload.  Turning a group of lights on or off; changing the brightness; activating a scene to change the color; and many other options can be changed through this end point.  It is not necessary to specify all of the possible attributes when calling this endpoint.  If an attribute is not specified it will remain at its current state.  I have made a method named setGroupState that will be used by all other methods that make use of this endpoint.  The methods will differ in the payloads that they build and pass to this method.

    setGroupState(groupName, state) {
        var id = this.groupToGroupID(groupName);
        var reqBodyString = JSON.stringify(state);
        return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
            fetch(`http://${this.ipAddress}/api/${this.userName}/groups/${id}/action`, {
                method: "PUT",
                headers: { "Content-Type": "application/json" },
                body: reqBodyString
            })
                .then(resp => resp.json())
                .then(jsonResp => {
                    resolve(jsonResp);
                })
                .catch(err => reject(err));
        });
    }

Of the many attributes that could be packaged in the payload are bri and on.  The on state sets whether or not the lights are turned on.  The bri attribute accepts a value in the range of 0 to 254.  Note that a value of 0 doesn’t mean off.  Zero is the value level assigned to the lowest level of illumination above off that the light will provide.

Activating Scenes

Scenes, or a collection of settings that applies to lights, can by associated with a predefined light group or with some arbitrary group of lights.  The Hue API labels scenes as either LightScene or GroupScene accordingly.  I am only working with groups scenes.  A list of all of the scenes defined on the bridge is retrievable through the the endpoint http://${this.ipAddress}/api/${this.userName}/scenes.

The object returned is a dictionary of the scene IDs and the attributes.  The scene ID is a string of what appears to be random characters.  It’s not user friendly and should only be used internally by the code and never presented to the user.   Here is a response showing only two scenes.

{
    "8AuCtLbIiEJJRNB": {
        "name": "Nightlight",
        "type": "GroupScene",
        "group": "1",
        "lights": [
            "2"
        ],
        "owner": "rF0JJPywETzJue2G8hJCn2tQ1PaUVeXvgB0Gq62h",
        "recycle": false,
        "locked": true,
        "appdata": {
            "version": 1,
            "data": "5b09D_r01_d07"
        },
        "picture": "",
        "lastupdated": "2017-01-16T23:35:24",
        "version": 2
    },
    "7y-J6Qyzpez8c2R": {
        "name": "Dimmed",
        "type": "GroupScene",
        "group": "1",
        "lights": [
            "2"
        ],
        "owner": "rF0JJPywETzJue2G8hJCn2tQ1PaUVeXvgB0Gq62h",
        "recycle": false,
        "locked": false,
        "appdata": {
            "version": 1,
            "data": "Nmgno_r01_d06"
        },
        "picture": "",
        "lastupdated": "2017-01-16T23:35:24",
        "version": 2
    }
}

To activate a scene on a group I use the same endpoint that is used for turning light groups on and off or setting their brightness level.  The JSON payload will have a single element named scene whose value is one of the cryptic looking scene identifiers above.

    activateScene(sceneID) {
        var scene;
        if(sceneID in this.sceneList) {
            var scene = this.sceneList[sceneID];
            var group = scene.group;
            var req = {scene:sceneID};
            return this.setGroupState(group,req );            
        }
    }

Application Startup

To hide some of the events that occur at startup the application has a splash screen. The splash screen is only momentarily present. During the time that it is momentarily shown the application will attempt to reconnect to the last bridge that it had connected to and will query for the available groups and scenes. This is just enough of a distraction to hide the time taken to do this additional setup.

switch
The Application Splash Screen

Installing and Running the Application

If you have downloaded the source code to your local drive, you can add the program to Chrome as an unpacked extension. In a browser instance open the URL chrome://extensions.  In the upper-left corner of this UI is a button labeled Load Unpacked.  Select this option.

unpacket
UI for loading unpacked Chrome extensions

You will be prompted to select a folder.  Navigate to the folder where you have unpacked the source code and select it.  After selecting it you will see the application in the list of installed extensions.

loadedextension

The application will now show up in the Chrome app launcher.  This may be exposed through the regular app launcher that is part of your operating system (such as the Program menu on Windows) and will also appear in Chrome itself.  Close to the address bar is a button labeled “Apps.”

applauncher
The application in the Chrome app launcher

Completing the Application

As I mentioned in the opening,  this is not meant to be a complete application.  It is only an operational starting point, creating something that is functional enough to start testing different functions in the Hue API.

I will close with mentioning some other potential improvements.  For a user running the application for the first time the setup process might be smoothed out by automatically trying to pair with the first bridge seen (if there is only one bridge seen) and prompting the user to press the link button.  This makes the setup process a two step process: start the application and press the link button on the bridge.  There could also be other people that are operating the Hue lighting at the same time that this application is running.  Periodically polling the state of the lights and light groups on the network and updating the UI accordingly would improve usability.  A user may also want to control individual lights within a group or have control over the light color.  For this a light selection UI would also need to be developed.

It took me about an evening to get this far in the development and it was something enjoyable to do during a brief pause between projects.  As such projects go, I’m not sure when I’ll get a change to return to it.  But I hope that in it’s current form that it will be of utility to you.

-30-

 

Basic Hue Lighting Control: Part 1

screenshot
Screenshot of Chrome application for controlling Hue lighting.

Continuing from the post I made on SSDP discovery with Chrome, I’m making an application that will do more than just discovery. For this post I’m going to show the starting point of a Chrome application for controlling your home Hue lighting. I’ve divided this into two parts. In this first part I’m showing the process of pairing with the bridge. In the second part I’ll control the lights.

The features that this application will implement will include bridge discovery and pairing; the power state of the light; and the brightness level of the light. There’s many other features that could still be implemented.  Given the full range of capabilities that the Hue kits support (changing color, timers, response to motion sensors, etc.) this will not be an application that utilizes the full capability of the Hue lighting sets.

Chrome Only

This application is designed to only run in Chrome. If you want to adapt it to run outside of Chrome, you can do so by first disabling SSDP discovery. (Other HTML application platforms might not support UDP for discovery.)

The other discovery methods (querying Hue’s discovery web service or asking the user to enter the IP address) can still work. A non-chrome target will also need to allow CORS to be ignored and allow communication without SSL.

What is Hue Lighting?

Hue Lighting is an automated lighting solution made by Philips. Generally the lighting kits are sold in a package that contains three LED based light bulbs and a bridge. The bridge is a device that connects to your home network with an Ethernet jack and communicates with the light bulbs.

Philips also makes free applications for iOS and Android for controlling the lights. For any Hue light the light’s brightness and whether or not it is turned on can be controlled through the applications. Some lights also allow the color temperature to be changed (adjusting the tint between red, yellow and blue). Some lights support RGB (Red, Green, Blue) parameters so that their colors can be changed.  These settings can be individually adjusted or settings for a collection of the lights can be defined together as a “scene.” When a scene is activated the state of all of the lights that make up the scene are updated. Scenes can be activated through special light switches, through an app, through a schedule, or in response to a Hue motion sensor detecting motion.

Discovery: Review and New Methods

The central piece of hardware for the Hue lighting is the Hue Bridge. At the time of this writing there are two versions of the bridge. For the functionality that this application will utilize, the differences between the two bridges will not matter. The messaging and interaction to both versions of the bridge will be the same. My UI will properly represent the bridge that the system discovers. The first version of the Hue Bridge is round. The second version of the Hue Bridge is square. In either case we must first find the bridge’s IP address before we can begin interaction.

phillipsbridge
Phillips Hue Bridge Version 1 (left) and Version 2 (right)

The Hue bridge can be discovered in multiple ways. It can be discovered using SSDP. The basics of SSDP discovery were previously discussed here. Please refer back to it if you need more detail than what is found in this brief overview.  Devices that support SSDP discovery join a multicast group on the network that they are connected to. These devices generally wait for a request for discovery to be received. An SSDP request is sent as an HTTP over UDP message and every SSDP device that receives it responds with some basic information about itself and a URL to where more information on the device can be found. Examples of some devices that support SSDP are network attached storage; set top boxes like Android TVs and Rokus; printers; and home automation kits.

Two other methods of discovering a bridge include asking the user to enter an IP address and asking for a list of IP addresses of bridges on your network through the Hue discovery service.  If you have a Hue bridge connected to your network right now you can see it’s IP address by visiting https://discovery.meethue.com/ . If you are on a shared network then you may also see IP addresses of other bridges on your network. It is also possible that not all bridges on your network are reachable.  This method is much easier to implement than SSDP based discovery. But on a network for which there is no Internet connection (whether by design or from an outage) this method will not work. The SSDP method is only dependent on the local network.

function discoverBridge() { 
    discovredHueBridgeList = [];
    fetch(' https://discovery.meethue.com')
        .then(response => response.json())
    .then(function (hueBridgeList) {
        console.info(hueBridgeList);
        hueBridgeList.forEach((item)=> {
         // each item processed here has a bridge IP address
         // and serial number exposed through item.id and 
         // item.internalipaddress
       }
     );
}

Once I have a bridge IP address I attempt to query it for more information. If communication succeeds, then I show a representation of the bridge with an icon that matches the version of the bridge that the user has. The UI layout has two images ( one named hueBridgev1 and the other hueBridgev2) I show the appropriate image and hide the other.

Pairing

Now that the bridges have been discovered, it is up to the user to select one with which to pair. After the user selects a bridge, she is instructed to press the pairing button on the bridge. While this instruction is displayed the application is repeatedly attempting to request a new user ID name from the bridge. This should be viewed more as an access token. The Hue documentation uses the term “user name” but the actual value is what appears to be a random sequence of characters. To request a user name a JSON payload with one member named devicetype is posted to the bridge. The value assigned to devicetype matters little. It is recommended that it be a string that is unique to your application. The payload is posted to http://%5Byour bridge IP address]/api. A failure response will result. This is expected. The application must repeatedly make this request and prompt the user to press the link button on the bridge.  The request will fail until the pairing button on the bridge is passed.

function pairBridge(ipAddress) {
   console.info('attempting pairing with address ', ipAddress);
   var req = { devicetype: "hue.j2i.net#browser" };
   var reqStr = JSON.stringify(req);
   var tryCount = 0;
   return new Promise(function(resolve, reject)  {
      var tryInterval = setInterval(function () {
      console.log('attempt ', tryCount);
      ++tryCount;
      if (tryCount > 60) {
        clearInterval(tryInterval);
         reject();
         return;
      }
      fetch(`http://${ipAddress}/api`, {
         method: "POST",
         headers: {
            "Content-Type": "application/json"
         },
         body: reqStr
      })
      .then(function(response)  {
         console.log('text:',response);
         return response.json();
      })
      .then(function(data)  {
          console.log(data);
          if (data.length > 0) {
             var success = data[0].success;
             var error = data[0].error;
             if (success) {
                console.log('username:', success.username);
                var bridge = {
                   ipAddress: ipAddress,
                   username: success.username
                };
                clearInterval(tryInterval);
                 resolve(bridge);
                  return;
               }
               else if (error) {
                  if (error.type === 101) {
                     console.log('the user has not pressed the link button');
                  }
               }
            }
         });
      }, 2000);
   });
}

Once the button is pressed the bridge will respond to the first pairing request it receives with a user name that the application can use. This user name must be saved and used for calls to most of the functionality that is present in the bridge. I save the bridge’s serial number, IP address, and the name that must be used for the various API calls to an indexedDB object store. The access information for multiple paired bridges could be stored in the object store at once. But the application will only be able to communicate with one bridge at a time.

Continued in Part II