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Plotly: Making Data Analysis Sexy

A few years back I was introduced to a web service called Pachube (pronounced Patch Bay) then became Cosm, then  becoming Xively after being bought by the folks behind LogMeIn.  Fundamentally Pachube, and now Xively is a service that let’s you collect data that comes from the “Internet of Things” into a single location where is can be plotted, cross-referenced, and manipulated into knowledge.  There was also IFTTT functionality included.  So for example you could, based on the data being sent to Pachube from your Arduino-based light-sensitive circuit, have Pachube send a tweet via the Twitter API.  Unfortunately lost in the transition to Xively was a shift in emphasis toward commercial application and away from being DIY/Maker friendly.

But never fear, the Open Source and Maker Movement doesn’t take long to respond to services that get priced out of the reach of tinkerers (Xively starts at $999/year and tops out at your mortgage … or $39,000/year at the time of this story).  So say hello to my little!  Plotly is more geared to the scientific and engineering crowd, with a rich set of graphing and data analysis tools accessible from your browser.  It also makes sharing and collaborating on your data analysis simple.  You can control who to share your data with and get notifications when others comment on your data.  Then there are the APIs.  Lots of APIs. Current support languages include Python, MATLAB, Julia, R, Perl, REST, and Arduino!  There is a nice Arduino library written that works with the Ethernet library to make get your Arduino project onto the Internet of Things quickly and easily.  In short, the Arduino API serves as the funnel for your data to get it onto Ploty.  From there you have access to a smorgasbord (yes I just said smorgasbord) of graphing and data analysis options.  There are beautiful defaults to make your data look PowerPoint pretty (gasp) and you can export the graph into many common graphic formats.  If you already have data in Excel spreadsheets or even better in your Google Drive account, you can upload/import those spreadsheets into Plotly so you can become a graphing ninja.

Plotly is still relatively new, you can still drop them a line with feature requests.  Alas, there is nothing I could find about pricing and there is a unobtrusive “Beta” stamped next to their logo.  So I am assuming a pricing strategy is a possibility.  I am not sure if this is something the Arduino weekend warrior would pay for when writing your data to an SD card then plopping it into Excel would suffice.  Of course, if they can find a way to undercut the aforementioned services by coming in a little under 3x what I spent for my last car, they might just have something.

UPDATE:  I was contacted by Matt Sundquist from Plotly shortly after this post hit.  He pointed me to which lays out their pricing options.  The show a free, $12/month and a $10/month/user price breakdown.  A tad more reasonable than their competition.  The main difference between the free and middle option is to allow you to go from 20 private files to unlimited private files.  If you can refer 5 people in a month however then that month is free.  The per month per user option is intended for organizations and adds more robust account management features such as centralized billing and user management.