Lecture 7: Node-Red dashboards (Part 3)

Example 7.3 Using a simple JavaScript chart library to build a custom dashboard

For our final example of building Dashboards and UIs we’ll use a generic technique we’ve experimented with before. That’s the web service approach that uses a http node to allow us to accept http requests and return web pages. We used this approach in example 1.3 but didn’t explain the details.

Sticking with the openweathermap node, let’s use it to generate a simple JSON structure that we then visualize using the popular Morris.JS chart library (). The library supports 4 basic chart types line charts, area charts, bar charts and the donut chart. We’ll be using the donut chart but the approach is the same for all the chart types.

The flow is shown below and consists of 4 nodes. The first and final nodes are http input and output nodes that work together to listen for HTTP requests and send HTTP responses. This flow listens for a HTTP request from any source, but let’s assume a regular browser here. When it arrives, it queries the weather using your openweathermap nodethen uses a template node to build a HTTP page using the weather data, and passes that to the http output node which sends back the webpage to the browser.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 2.37.43 PM.png

Figure. A simple web server example to graph weather data using a pi chart

Double click on the http input node and configure it with your URL, e.g. /public/weather. Remember, to access it, you will need to use,

fred.sensetecnic.com/public/{user name}/weather

where {user name} is replaced by your own FRED user name. Obviously /weather is because that’s how you configured it, if you’d used another name, e.g. /public/test, then the URL would end /{user name}/test

When a HTTP request comes in, the http input node creates a message to trigger the openweathermap node, which is the next node in the flow. The openweather node gets the current statistics for the location you configured it for, and then passes those statistics, as a JSON structure in the usual message payload field, to a template node. The html template node is another pre-built node in Node-RED, which, like the function node, allows you to build arbitrary code. However, rather than using JavaScript like the function node, the template node works with text such as HTML.

The HTML code in the template node is shown in the listing below. As you can see, the code is a standard HTML structure with the <head> structure defining the external script libraries that we use. These are all required for the Morris.JS chart library and should be copied exactly.

Note, we are combining all the page elements into the one file (or node) which works for simple web pages but is not considered good practice.

Line 10 sets up a <div> and sets the name and height. Then the morris.js chart code  script begins at line 11 by defining a Morris.Donut element.

Listing  A simple HTML template to display a donut chart of calorie usage

  1. <!doctype html>
  2. <head>
  3.     <title>A Node RED Example</title>
  4.     <link rel=”stylesheet” href=”//cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/morris.js/0.5.1/morris.css”>
  5.     <script src=”//cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/raphael/2.1.0/raphael-min.js”></script>
  6.     <script src=”//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.9.0/jquery.min.js”></script>
  7.     <script src=”//cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/morris.js/0.5.1/morris.min.js”></script>
  8. </head>
  9. <html>
  10.     <div id=”chart-example” style=”height: 250px;”></div>
  11.     <script>
  12.         Morris.Donut({
  13.            element: ‘chart-example’,
  14.            data: [
  15.              {label: “Temperature (Celcius)”, value: {{payload.tempc}} },
  16.              {label: “Humidity”, value: {{payload.humidity}} },
  17.              {label: “Wind Speed (knts)”, value: {{payload.windspeed}} }
  18.           ]
  19.        });
  20.     </script>
  21. </html>

Lines 15, 16 and 17 define the donut elements, you are using 3 to display the temperature, the humidity and the wind speed. The values from the openweathermap JSON structure can be used directly, i.e. payload.tempc, payload.humidity and payload.windspeed.

Once the template node has generated the HTML file, it passes it as a message to the final node, which is a http response node. This node packages up the HTML as a HTTP response which it sends back to the browser that made the original request.

If you deploy this flow and then point your browser to the URL you configured in the http input node, in your case should be:

https://fred.sensetecnic.com/public/{user name}/weather

You will then see a simple donut chart which you can mouse over to see the temperature, humidity and windspeed for the city you configured in the openweathermap node – all built and served by a simple Node-RED flow!

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 2.59.31 PM.png

Figure: A donut chart, served up by Node-RED showing Temperature for the configured city


In this lecture you have looked at three approaches to building simple dashboards and UIs. The FreeBoard node is a one stop shop allowing you to feed complex data as JSON structures to the Freeboard node and then using the powerful FreeBoard dashboard to configure and show the data.

With the nodered.contrib.ui nodes you have to do a little more work by having to build the UI elements into your flows. This approach gives you more control, and makes the UI elements part of your Node-RED flow, but requires a little more thought and work.

The final approach, using the html template node and a generic JavaScript charting library is the most flexible, but requires you know how to write simple html/css and JavaScript.

Part 1    Part 2

About Sense TecnicSense Tecnic Systems Inc have been building IoT applications and services since 2010. We provide these lectures and FRED, cloud hosted Node-RED as a service to the community. We also offer a commercial version to our customers, as well as professional services. Learn more.

© Lea, Blackstock, Calderon

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Node-RED: Lecture 7 – Dashboards and UI techniques for Node-RED

In this lecture you will take a look at a few techniques to allow you to visualize data passing through flows. We’ll focus on three approaches, the use of a third party dashboard tool, FreeBoard (Part 1), using the default Dashboard UI nodes provided by default in Node-RED (Part 2) and a general technique using a standard JavaScript charting tool (Part 3).

By the end of the lecture you will have enough knowledge to decide which approach is best for your specific needs and how to quickly get a visualization of your data up in a web browser.

We use a cloud hosted version of Node-RED for these lectures called FRED. Sign up for a free account at FRED.sensetecnic.com. Examples in the early lectures will work with other installations of Node-RED, later lectures use nodes you will need to install yourself if you don’t use FRED.

Example 7.1 Using the FreeBoard dashboarding service

This is a simple example of reading and visualizing data using the FreeBoard node from a Node-RED flow. We’ll be using the Cloud based FRED service as our Node-RED engine and visualizing data from a web weather service . This guide will show you how to:

  • set up an openweathermap node in FRED using the built in node
  • display the data from the openweathermap node using the FreeBoard display node

To begin, head over to openweathermap.org and register for a free account. When you register/login you will be able to access your API Key. You will need your own API key which will look similar to the one below – you will use your own key in Node RED so make a copy.



Now, head over to FRED and create a new flow by starting with an openweathermap node (you will find this node under “weather”, or by using “filter nodes” to search at the top of the left pane) and connecting it to a debug node like this:



Now, double click on the openweathermap node to configure it. Enter your API Key from OpenWeatherMap, configure a location you’re interested in, and name your Node:



Click on Deploy on the top right corner of the Node-RED UI. You will see on the right pane, under “debug” the data that OpenWeatherMap provides us with a variety of information about the location including temperature (in C and K), humidity, windspeed etc:



As you can see, the data is already in JSON format; so we can use any of the values very easily. Let’s build a dashboard to visualize our data using the  node that allows you to create visualizations very easily. Find the freeboard node in the left pane by either browsing through the nodes or searching for it using “filter nodes”. Add it to the flow. Double click on it to give it a name, like so.



Click on Deploy. This will prompt the openweathermap to get data and send it to both the debug and freeboard nodes. The freeboard node is quite smart and will do its best to parse the data you send it and figure out how to make it available using the FreeBoard UI. We’ll look at that in a moment. If you inspect the “info” tab in the right panel you will see more information about the “freeboard” node:



Visit the link provided in the info panel, or at


This will open a new tab in your browser:


This tab will allow you to create visualization in FreeBoards, save them and load them. Let’s create a visualization of our weather data. We first need to add a datasource to our freeboard. Click on “Add” under “DATASOURCES”. Under “type” select the name of the “freeboard” node we configured above. In our case we named it “freeboard”. This will allow us to access ANY data we connect to the “freeboard” node in Node RED.




We will now add a Pane. Click on “ADD PANE”, this will add a new empty pane:



Now, we will add a “Widget”, click on the “+” (plus) sign in the new pane. Select “Gauge”. Under “DATASOURCE” select the “freeboard” node and select “tempc”. As you can see, all of the different data fields in the openweathermap JSON structure are available for you to visualize. FreeBoard essentially takes the JSON structure you pass it and breaks out any fields. If you can’t see this in the dropdown, go back to Node RED and click on “Deploy” again. So that the “freeboard” node can get some data and store the data it has received. Your configuration should look something like this:




Click on OK. Which will build your widget and add it to the pane you created!



To save your dashboard click on “save”, and select [pretty] or [minify] which will save it in FRED and will show you the URL to access the Dashboard. You need to save the URL used to access the dashboard, e.g. as a dashboard. From now on you can access your saved dashboard by accessing the saved url, which will be similar to the one below.


Part 2  Part 3


About Sense TecnicSense Tecnic Systems Inc have been building IoT applications and services since 2010. We provide these lectures and FRED, cloud hosted Node-RED as a service to the community. We also offer a commercial version to our customers, as well as professional services. Learn more.

© Lea, Blackstock, Calderon

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.