Raspberry Pi Setup – Part II: IoT API Platform


This is the second part in a series of posts on setting up a Raspberry Pi to fully utilize the Software & Hardware functionality of this platform to build interesting internet of things (IOT) applications.

Part-I is here https://techiecook.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/raspberry-pi-ssh-headless-access-from-mac-and-installing-node-processing/ … this covered the following:

  • Enable SSH service on the Pi
  • Connect to Pi without a display or router – headless access via Mac


Part II: is this blog and it covers the following goals:

  • Install Node, Express on the Pi
  • Write a simple HTTP service
  • Write an API to access static content ( under some /public folder)
  • Write an API to POST data to the Pi
  • Write an API to read GPIO pin information

So lets jump in ….


Install Node.js

Be it a static webserver or a complex API – you need this framework on the PI (unless you like doing things in Python and not Javascript)

How do I install this on the Pi?

wget https://nodejs.org/download/release/v0.10.0/node-v0.10.0-linux-arm-pi.tar.gz
cd /usr/local
sudo tar xzvf ~/node-v0.10.0-linux-arm-pi.tar.gz --strip=1
node -v 
npm -v


Install Express

Easy to build APIs using the Express Framework

How do I install this on the Pi?

npm install express --save

Testing Node + Express

Write your first simple express HTTP API

I modified the code from here http://expressjs.com/en/starter/hello-world.html as shown below to provide a /health endpoint and a JSON response

  • Create a folder called ‘simple-http’
    • Mine is under /projects/node/
  • Initialize your Node Application with
    npm init
  • Install express
    npm install express --save
  • Write the application
    • 2 endpoints – ‘/’ and ‘/health’
      var express = require('express');
      var app = express();
      app.get('/', function (req, res) {
       res.send('API Running');
      app.get('/health', function (req, res) {
      app.listen(8080, function () {
       console.log('API Running ...');

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 3.27.31 PM.png

GET Static Content

  • Create a “public” folder and put some content in itScreen Shot 2016-10-10 at 3.48.07 PM.png
  • Setup the Node/Express app to use “express.static()”
    var express = require('express');
    var app = express();
    var path = require('path');
    app.use('/static', express.static(path.join('/home/pi/projects' + '/public')));
    app.get('/health', function (req, res) {
    app.listen(8080, function () {
      console.log('API Running ...');
  • Test by accessing the “/static” endpointScreen Shot 2016-10-10 at 3.52.04 PM.png

POST data

Install body-parser

npm install body-parser --save

Use the body-parser

var bodyParser = require('body-parser');
app.use(bodyParser.urlencoded({ extended: true })); 

Write the POST function … in my case I want to be able to do POST /api/readings

app.post('/api/readings', function(req, res) {
    var d = new Date();
    var value = req.body.value;
    var type = req.body.type;
    res.send('{ "status":"updated"}');
    console.log('Reading | '+d.toLocaleDateString()+'|'+d.toLocaleTimeString()+' | value='+value+' | type='+type);

Test It!

To test it we can issue a curl command from a computer connected to the same network as the Raspberry Pi….

curl -X POST -H "Content-Type: application/json"  -d '{
}' ""

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 10.39.39 AM.png

Note: In the example above, I run the command from the terminal and later in Postman from the Mac hosting the Raspberry Pi … remember the IP for my Pi was obtained via the following command

netstat -rn -finet


Read GPIO Pin Information

What are GPIO Pins?

The Raspberry Pi comes with a input/output pins that let you connect to electronic components and read from them or write to them … these general purpose input output pins vary in number based on the model of your Pi – A, B, B+ etc

See  http://pinout.xyz/ for how pins are labelled …

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 10.53.54 AM.png

Our Goal: API for accessing GPIO pins

Once we know which pins we want to read/write to, we need to be able to access this from our application … in our example this would be the Node.js application we are writing.

So we would like to be able to something like

  • GET /api/gpio/pins and list all the pin details (id, type etc)
  • GET /api/gpio/pins/{pinId}  and get the value of a pin
  • PUT /api/gpio/pins/{pinId} and set it to high/low or on/off

Setup Javascript Libraries for GPIO access

  1. Install “gpio-admin” so that you do not have to run your Node application as root to read / write to the gpio pins (Read https://github.com/rakeshpai/pi-gpio)
    git clone git://github.com/quick2wire/quick2wire-gpio-admin.git
    cd quick2wire-gpio-admin
    sudo make install
    sudo adduser $USER gpio
  2. Install the npm gpio package (Read https://www.npmjs.com/package/rpi-gpio )
    npm install rpi-gpio
  3. Use this in your application
    1. Watchout:  The gpio operations are Async … this means that capturing ‘value’ of a pin, for instance, cannot be done like ‘var value  = readInput()’ in Node.js we need to use “Promises” (Readhttps://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript/Reference/Global_Objects/Promise – Thanks Alvonn!)
    2. “ReferenceError: Promise is not defined”: It appears the version of Node for the Pi (v0.10.0) does not have this library … ouch! Luckily other have hit this problem at some point with node and have posted the following solution which worked  …
      1. Install the “es6-promise” library manually
        npm install es6-promise@3.1.2
      2.  Declare Promise as the following in your application

        var Promise = require('es6-promise').Promise;
    3. Finally make the GPIO call
      1. Declare a ‘gpio’ variable and setup (attach to a pin)
        var gpio = require('rpi-gpio');
        gpio.setup(7, gpio.DIR_IN, readInput);
        function readInput() {
           gpio.read(7, function handleGPIORead(err, value) {
             console.log('Read pin 7, value=' + value);
      2. Read from it Async in a HTTP GET /api/gpio/pins/{pinId} call
        var Promise = require('es6-promise').Promise;
        app.get('/api/gpio/pins/:pinId', function (req, res) {
           var pinId = req.params.pinId; 
           var value = "";
           var p1 = new Promise(function(resolve, reject) {
                   gpio.read(7, function handleGPIORead(err, value) {
                   console.log('GET /api/gipio/pins/:pinId | Pin 7 | value=' + value);
        p1.then(function(val) {
         console.log('Fulfillment value from promise is ' + val);
         res.send('{"pinId": '+pinId+', "value":'+val+'}');
         }, function(err) {
           console.log('Result from promise is', err);
           res.send('{"pinId": '+pinId+', "value":"Error"}');
      3. OutputScreen Shot 2016-10-11 at 4.21.42 PM.png

Show me the code

You can find the code for this project here:




So by now we should have a platform primed to be used as a IOT device with a simple API running. We could have of course done all of the above in python.

Also we could have written a scheduled-service and “pushed” data from the Pi to some public API … in the next part of the series, we will talk about organizing IOT sensors in a distributed network





[1] https://scotch.io/tutorials/use-expressjs-to-get-url-and-post-parameters

[2] https://www.npmjs.com/package/rpi-gpio

[3] https://github.com/rakeshpai/pi-gpio

[4] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript/Reference/Global_Objects/Promise




Raspberry Pi Setup – Part I : Boot, SSH and Headless access


Part I : Documenting the workflow/steps to setup my Raspberry Pi (2 B) – from Installing Raspbian to installing Node, Processing etc


  • Enable SSH service on the Pi
  • Connect to Pi without a display or router – headless access via Mac
Box 1.jpg
Raspberry Pi with GPIO Ribbon cable


  1. Install Raspbian
  2. Boot your Pi
  3. Setup SSH
  4. Connect to Mac
  5. Troubleshoot Connection to Mac
  6. Install Node
  7. Install Processing

Install Raspbian

You can download it here https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.11.28 PM.png

Boot Pi

Use the Raspbian image to boot-up the pi and you should see a command shell (once you have connected your pi to a display ofcourse!)

Setup SSH

Start with typing the following command in your shell

sudo raspi-config


This launches the Config Tool UI, follow the screenshots below

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.16.15 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.19.27 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.16.26 PM.png

Test by SSH’ing into the pi from the pi

ssh pi@localhost

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 2.06.22 PM.png

Copy Network Card’s Address

Do an “ifconfig” in the Pi’s shell and note down the “HWaddr” … we will use this later to search for the IP assigned by Mac



Connect to Mac Headless

Next we will connect the Pi to the in “headless” mode using the Mac to assign an IP to the Pi and then SSH into the Pi from a terminal in Mac …

  1. Ensure your Mac is connected to the network (wifi)
  2. On the Mac goto System Preferences -> SharingScreen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.29.40 PM.png
  3. Connect Pi to Mac via Ethernet Cable and then power it up
  4. Wait until the “green lights” on the Pi have stopped blinking
  5. Check connection using the following command
    1. See Routing Table with the following command
      netstat -rn -finet
    2. Your Pi’s IP should be in the 1st column, next to the “HWaddr” in the 2nd column Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.37.30 PM.png
    3. If you do not see your “HWAddr” listed then there is some connection issue …  goto “Troubleshoot Connection to Mac” in the next section
    4. Once you can see your IP, setup X11 forwarding with XQuartzScreen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.34.13 PM.pngscreen-shot-2016-10-10-at-1-44-39-pm  Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.44.49 PM.png
    5. Finally SSH in with the following command
      ssh -X pi@
      1. If prompted for a password enter “raspberry” (which is your default password and you should change it at some point)
      2. You can setup passwordless login using the tutorial here https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/ssh/passwordless.md
    6.  … finally this is what it looks likescreen-shot-2016-10-10-at-1-36-57-pm


Troubleshoot Connection to Mac

If you are unable to see an IP assigned to your Pi or unable to Ping it or SSH then there could be several reasons for this

  • Check your ethernet cable – I was using a bad cable when connecting to the Mac and a a good one when connecting to the router (when testing standalone), this cost me a lot of time!
  • Check your Mac Settings
    • I did not change the System Preferences -> Network -> Ethernet
    • Mac by default assigns IP to your Pi, this may not get used if your Pi has “static” IP setup … validate by doing the followin
      • cat /etc/network/interfaces
      • ensure you use “dhcp” instead of “static” as shown belowScreen Shot 2016-10-10 at 1.59.01 PM.png
  • Check your Pi
    • while hardware issues are rare, you could have a problem there. Compare with another Pi
    • is it powered on? are the ethernet lights on when you connect the cable?

Software Install

… after you are done setting up the SSH / headless pi access, you can finally start building a usable platform

see Part II of the journey to build services over the PI to send out and read in data!