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The IF-Blueprint IoT Plant Application – Part 1

Or „how to avoid the office plant apocalypse”


Plants have a hard life in our office. They are in a constant state of dying. To avoid the slow death, we decided to use the power of the cloud and IoT. We started to develop an IoT environment that measures the humidity of each plant and push the collected data into an Azure Database. From this cloud based data pool we have endless possibilities to process and analyze this data, e.g. send notifications via twitter when a plant is thirsty. In the upcoming series of blog posts I will describe the hardware- and software setup of our IoT environment (you can follow the plants on twitter @IFBplant). The whole setup is kind of a prototype and a playground to explore interesting technologies like Microsoft Azure Services, Netduino / Arduino, REST Services, Office Add-ins and Power BI.

IoT Environment Overview

To collect the humidity values, we placed on each plant an Arduino board. This board is equipped with a humidity sensor and an 868Mhz radio sender. This sensor is powered by a battery.
IoT Arduino Sensor
Another Arduion board acts as receiver. Via the serial bus we transfer the data to a Netduino board, this device is connected to our WLAN and pushes the sensor values with an REST service into an Azure hosted MSSQL Database.
IoT Arduino Netduino Sensors
The REST service and the public facing website was implemented as an ASP.NET MVC / WebAPI site which is also hosted in Azure. On the website, everyone can observer the sensor values without a login.
Azure Website
As a logged in user you can configure parameters like threshold values for a specific plant, setup some timer jobs for alarm notifications and define twitter messages. To manager the users access we used the Azure AD.
To export the sensor data from the Azure hosted database into Excel we used the new awesome Office Add-in technology.
Excel Office Add-in
For the number guys in our company we provide the senor values also in Power BI.
Power BI
The following picture gives you an overview of the IoT environment. As written before this is just a prototype with lots of potential improvements. In the upcoming blog posts I will explain the different aspects of the development process in detail.
IoT Environment Overview

Get low-battery push notification from your notebook

Imagine the situation while presenting your newest PowerPoint slide show in front of your customer, when your notebook’s screen suddenly goes black.
Reason: You missed the “Your battery is running critically low on power” message.

But you’re lucky: If you are an owner of a Microsoft Band (or any other push-compatible smart wear), here is a tiny proof-of-concept solution, preventing such a blame: Continue reading

Microsoft expands Office on Android preview

Office for Android 2Microsoft is expanding the availability of its Office on Android preview program, orginially announced in November 2014. After two months of a more or less restricted beta phase, as of January 6th, 2015 Microsoft makes the Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) available via the Google Play Store. A seperate pre sign is no longer needed.

Support for Android KitKat and Lollipop

Microsoft Office is now covering ARM based Android tablets with screen sizes between seven and 10.1 inches. The supported platform is either KitKat (4.4) or Lollipop (5.0). Interested users may immediately download the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps from the Goolgle Play Store without having to request access or wait.

For details see the Microsoft announcement:

You can download the Apps at:

Users can provide Feedback via a google community:

You can find a summary of my first experience with these apps at