Realtime data displays with Firebase

by DotNetNerd 27. January 2014 10:34

images Lately I have been working quite a bit with displaying data in realtime on the web. I was even lucky enough to get the chance to talk about it at the Warm Crocodile Developer Conference – showing off how this can be done from your favorite SPA frameworks AngularJS and EmberJS.

One of the things I really like about these kinds of solutions is that all of a sudden it has become easy to do something that hardly was possible just a short while ago. All thanks to websockets, and technologies that utilize it. Firebase is just one such tool, and in many cases you may want to go low-level and build your own backend with eg. SignalR. It is still not too much work, and probably the route to take for most larger applications. However when Firebase is sufficient, life cannot be much simpler for getting things done.

Simplest thing that will work

Boiling it all down, it is really quite simple to use a service like Firebase with eg. HighCharts and have the chart update in real time. To get started you sign up for firebase and create a database in the management area of their website. With that in place you can wire it up like so.

<div id="container" style="width:100%; height:400px;"></div>
<script src="https://cdn.firebase.com/v0/firebase.js"></script>
<script src="http://code.jquery.com/jquery-1.10.1.min.js"></script>
<script src="http://code.highcharts.com/highcharts.js"></script>
<script>
    var fb = new Firebase("https://<myfirebaseurl>.firebaseio.com/products");
    fb.on("value", function(data) {
        var model = data.val();
          $('#container').highcharts({
            chart: { type: 'column' },
            title: { text: 'Sales' },
            xAxis: {
                categories: model.Categories
            },
            yAxis: { title: { text: 'Quantity' } },
            series: model.Series.map(function(element) {
                return {
                    name: element.Name,
                    data: element.Data
                }
            })                       
        });               
    });
</script>

That is all! Actually I would have loved to leave out jQuery, but sadly highcharts depends on it. Now any data added to you database will be displayed, no refresh required. Only requirement is that your data conforms to the format:

{ Categories: ["Apr", "May", "Jun"], Series: [{Name: 'Fish', Data: [1,2,3]}] }

Putting data in the database

Often you will want to do this from some backend system. This is just as easy, because you can simply do a http put and use the REST API.

using (var http = new HttpClient())
{
    var data = new
    {
        Categories = new[] {"Jan", "Feb", "Mar"},
        Series = new[]
        {
            new () { Name = "Shues", Data = new[] { 5, 10, 15 } },
            new () { Name = "Jeans", Data = new[] { 10, 5, 15 } },
            new () { Name = "Shirts", Data = new[] { 4, 6, 4 } }
        }
    };                                      
    http.PutAsJsonAsync("https://<myfirebaseurl>.firebaseio.com/products.json", data);
}

I really like how bare bones this all is. No big frameworks with a ton of concepts – just http and json.

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Who am I?

My name is Christian Holm Diget, and I work as an independent consultant, in Denmark, where I write code, give advice on architecture and help with training. On the side I get to do a bit of speaking and help with miscellaneous community events.

Some of my primary focus areas are code quality, programming languages and using new technologies to provide value.

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