Can a fighting robot be an educational tool? Jonathan Wagner thinks so. Wagner is the mastermind behind Gigabots, an educational robotics platform developed in conjunction with Mozilla that makes use of realtime event and data synchronization.

Wagner is Co-Founder and CEO at Big Bang, a company that creates software that makes it easy for people to connect devices in realtime. Big Bang’s platform is a publish-subscribe system – with benefits. It allows software developers to create real-time applications on mobile or desktop devices as well as Internet-of-Things based devices. Like Robots that dance and teach kids about technology.

Gigabot Prime

Gigabot Prime

Mozilla was interested in software and applications that use high-speed connectivity for educational settings. The Gigabots – a partnership with Gigabots and Mozilla – are a connected robotics platform, using Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots, the Gigabots API and the Big Bang cloud service to connect the bots in realtime.

The company has already piloted Gigabots in classrooms and Maker Faires, receiving praise from parents, kids, and educators alike. “The kids absolutely they love it, we’ve had such an enormous response from them,” Wagner said. Gigabots are just one of the projects running on the Big Bang cloud service platform, currently in private beta.

Gigabots Dashboard

The Big Bang RealTime Platform

Big Bang is a data synchronization platform that allows devices and applications to send and receive data in realtime to other connected applications. Whether it’s a desktop client, web browser or awesome robot, applications are connected to a common API with streaming events or automatic data synchronization across all the channels. “It gives you the building blocks you need to create really sophisticated real-time applications without having to write all your own software and without having to maintain your own infrastructure and servers.”

BigBang Website

How did Wagner cook up the idea for software that facilitates real-time connectivity? Experience in the video game industry proved to be ample inspiration.

“At my previous company, we created middleware for games: massively multiplayer games, virtual worlds, and simulations. We had customers like Ubisoft, Disney, MTV and Viacom,” Wagner explained.

He often encountered developers who were interested in developing a mobile game, but had no experience doing any of the networking necessary for the application.

Even beyond the gaming world, Wagner noticed an increasing demand for real-time features in traditional applications. While that’s easy for large, experienced companies with impressive resource pools to pull off, it is much more difficult for a novice developer.

“Developers are starting to want those types of features in every application and so the Big Bang platform makes it easy to create those types of applications and those types of experiences for users.”

Wagner decided that the solution was to create technology to make the real-time connectivity process simpler and easier. In doing so, he turned to Stormpath.

A User Management for SaaS

Like developers turn to the Big Bang API for data synchronization, Big Bang came to Stormpath for user management. “Its one of those basic parts every application needs and that you have to write, but it’s not really the main point of your application,” says Wagner.

Stormpath powers login and registration to the Big Bang service, handling both authentication as well as authorization. For a SaaS, separating users into secure, partitioned directories is key, as is managing the different roles within those partitioned tenants.

“We use Stormpath to manage authentication for our customers. When our customers create applications on our platform, their users are also authenticated with Stormpath” Big Bang also relies on Stormpath for Token Authentication and session management.

In the future, Big Bang may need to expand its use of Stormpath into external directories, such as an LDAP or Active Directory server owned and hosted by a customer, or social login like Google Apps. Wagner sees Stormpath as an authentication platform that will scale as his use cases grow and get more defined.

Big Bang is built on a micro-services architecture in Node.js and Java, and has used the Stormpath Node and Java SDKs as their development plan has matured. “It’s made it really easy to iterate, because I haven’t had to worry about migrating data from different environments. I don’t have to worry about replicating data from production to staging to testing and those kinds of things,” he said.

He also benefitted from the feature-richness of the Stormpath API. “I didn’t have to set up all of the little fiddly things like password resets and all that kind of jazz. It’s really important for a product. Everyone expects it from every product, so it doesn’t really distinguish you.”

BigBang Platform Login

Building Blocks

If you want to check out how the Big Bang Platform can connect devices in your app, check out the repo for their JS client and sign up for their open beta.

If you want to spend more time building awesome stuff – like dancing robots or a disruptive SaaS – get started with Stormpath. Its free for developers to play with. And we love Startups.