[Mini-Project] Passage counter

Raspberry Pi and Web dashboard

Table Of Contents

  • 1. Theory
    • 1.1. Web technologies
    • 1.2. Basics of Raspberry Pi
  • 2. The mini-project
    • 2.1. Part I. Web frontend index.html
    • 2.2. Part II. Python backend server.py
    • 2.3. Part III: Read the GPIO
    • 2.4. To go further...
  • 3. Annex: Proposal of CSS style


Web technologies

Core terminology

  • Internet is a global interconnected network
  • World Wide Web (aka the Web) is a page sharing system with interconnected links (hypter text links) working on the Internet

Consequence: World Wide Web ≠ Internet, but World Wide Web ∈ Internet.

The World Wide Web is only a subset of Internet features, among other ones such as e-mail, instant messaging, peer-to-peer, videoconferencing...

HTTP is the client-server protocol underlying the World Wide Web:

  • The web server shares information in the form of a web resource
  • The web client (a web browser) requests web resources to server

A HTTP transaction originates from the client which sends a REQUEST to the server:

  • The host (server's address), e.g. http://server.org
  • An end point, e.g. /path/to/resource (The latter two form a URL)
  • The HTTP verb: an action to run e.g. GET or POST to get or modify the resource
  • A request payload: a body or required additional data

The server answers with a RESPONSE:

  • A HTTP status code: 200 Found or 404 Not Found or 403 Unauthorized...
  • A response payload: a body or additional data such as a web page

Example of HTTP request and response

WebSockets (WS)

WebSocket is a full-duplex communication protocol between the client and the server.

This way, the server may send updates to the client with no required action of the latter, unlike HTTP that must start by a client request. Read documentation.

WebSocket works on top of HTTP but keeps the connection open: allowing to transfer data with less overhead.

It is frequent to exchange WS messages in the form and key/value pairs:

data = {"status": "winner", "points": 300 }

This data structure is named dictionary in Python and object in Javascript.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is a description language that structures a web page. (NOT a programming language). It describes the Document Object Model (DOM) loaded by the browser:

        <title>Title of the page</title>
        <div id="introduction" class="circled">Content of the introduction</div>
        <div id="conclusion" class="circled">Content of the conclusion</div>
  • <tag> is an opening tag and </tag> a closing tag: they define blocs
  • id=some_id assigns an identifier to the bloc: it must be unique in the page
  • class=some_class assigns a class to the bloc: it can be shared with other bloc

Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)

CSS is a styling language assigning style to HTML blocs.
such as placement on the page, size, color, font... (NOT a programming language)

.some_class {
    background-color: grey;

#some_id {
    font-weight: bold;

Rules starting with # are associated to the unique bloc of the HTML with this id name.
Rules starting with . are associated to all blocs from the HTML with this class name.

Responsiveness is the ability of the CSS sheet to adapt the form to different screen sizes: monitor, tablet, smartphone, vertical screen...

Javascript (JS)

Javascript is a programming language mainly used in web pages and run client-side.

It can automate anything within the page since it is a regular programming language:

  • Perform new requests to the server
  • Change any attribute or content of the HTML DOM
  • Change any class of a HTML bloc to update its look
  • Process user inputs or data coming from the server ... and mainy other...

BUT: Unlike server-side programming languages, JS is isolated within the browser and cannot communicate with the OS to read files, connect to I/O such as USB, capture the screen ... anything it does is done through (and authorized by) the browser.

Web browsers have handy tools to debug what is going on with HTTP, HTML, CSS and JS : The debugger (press F12 or Shift+Ctrl+C)

In the debugger of the browser you will find:

  • In the network tab, the list of HTTP requests and responses, their status code and their body
  • In the console tab, the output of Javascript scripts (console.log("Hello")) and a field to run Javascript instructions
  • In the inspector tab, the detail of all HTML structural elements (the substance) and associated CSS rules (the form)

Static web servers

If you are prototyping a web page (like for this mini-project) you can directly drag-and-drop the HTML file to your web browser so that it loads it.

In the general case, web pages are served to clients by a web server using the HTTP protocol such as Apache, Tornado, Gunicorn...

⚠️ Some web servers are production servers and some other are only development servers. The latter are easy to use but cannot handle several clients at a time.

Lighter "dev" servers are easier to use for debugging. But never use them in prod.

The web server serves static content if it serve only static files as is to the client.

Dynamic web servers

If served web pages cannot be static because they need to be individually generated for each user, servers can run server-side programming languages.

Popular server-side languages are:

  • PHP
  • Python
  • NodeJS: This is Javascript but server-side
  • Java

Terminology of proficiencies for web projects

  • Client-side engineering is said frontend (HTML + CSS + JS + librairies and tools...)
  • Server-side engineering is said backend (Python or NodeJS or ... + database + ...)
  • Developers that work both on frontend and backend are said full-stack

Basics of Raspberry Pi

Rasbperry-Pi is a card-size micro-computer with GPIO ports (General Purpose Input/Output) made to read/write data from sensors and actuators.

It embeds an ARM CPU and runs a Linux distribution with software compiled for ARM.

Linux distributions do not necessary come with a desktop, it is optional. In that case you run command-line programs from a terminal.

If no monitor is connected to the Pi, you can open a remote terminal from another computer. The most popular protocol for this is ssh (secure shell).


Connect through ssh

To open a remote terminal on the Raspberry Pi you need the following prerequisites:

  • The ssh server activated on the Raspberry Pi
  • To connect from a computer on the same Wifi/network
  • To know its hostname such as raspberrypi.local (or its IP address)
  • To know an existing remot user (such as user pi)
  • To know the password of this user (raspberry)

These must be done with your SD card in your laptop's reader, NOT in the Pi:

Prerequisite 1: Enable ssh

This step must be done with the Raspberry Pi off and its SD cart inserted in the card reader of your computer.

Activate the SSH server by creating an empty file ssh inside the boot of your SD card.

Prerequisite 2: Connect to the Wifi

Create file /wpa_supplicant.conf from the boot partition:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

Take file from https://files.ros4.pro/wpa_supplicant.conf

You are ready to go: Insert the SD card inside the Pi and plug it to the wall socket.

Then, connection to the remote terminal can be established with:

ssh pi@raspberrypi.local

You must type yes to accept connection and then password is raspberry.

The mini-project

In this mini-project:

  • The Raspberry Pi and your PC are connected to the same Wifi hotspot
  • The Raspberry Pi will read the sensor from an interrupt on its GPIO
  • The Raspberry Pi will host a Python server (Web server + WebSocket server)
  • The web dashboard will be stored in a single html template on the server
  • For the sake of simplification, Javascript and CSS will be stored in the HTML file
  • Your PC will load index.html and then communicate with Python via WebSocket

Part I. Web frontend index.html

Work on your PC, you do not need the Raspberry Pi yet until you are invited to use it.

I. step 1: Create a new index.html with the bare minimum:

  • A head with a charset (encoding) and a page title
  • A body with an introduction text and a div with the id "counter"
        <meta charset="UTF-8">
        <title>Passage counter</title>
    <h1>Passage counter</h1>
    <p>Number of passages since last reset:</p>
    <div id="counter">N/A</div>

I. step 2: Let's add some Javascript script inside the <head> block of this web page: it creates a WebSocket client that will connect to the server on the Raspberry Pi :

        var ws = new WebSocket("ws://raspberrypi.local:3000");
        ws.onmessage = function(evt) { 

Every time a message is received, the onmessage function is run, as well as the code <!-- DO SOMETHING WHEN A WS MESSAGE IS RECEIVED --> that does nothing for now.

I. step 3: Every time a WS message is received, we want to update the inner HTML of the tag with identifier count i.e. <div id="counter">N/A</div>.

In that case javascript will change N/A to the counter coming from the message.

THus, instead of <!-- DO SOMETHING WHEN A WS MESSAGE IS RECEIVED --> we can actually update the inner HTML by modifying the DOM of the current web page:

document.getElementById("counter").innerHTML = JSON.parse(evt.data).

I. step 4: Drag-and-drop index.html into your web browser so that it loads it and keep it open.

Your dashboard is ready!

Part II. Python backend server.py

Install the Raspberry Pi: If the SD card of the Pi is not pre-installed, get the Raspberry Pi OS Lite online and flash it first. NB: Your OS needs Python >= v3.8.

II. part 1: Connect to the Raspberry Pi by opening a remote terminal with ssh:

ssh pi@raspberrypi.local

Type yes to accept connection and type the password raspberry pi.

Now your prompt have changed and says pi@rapsberrypi.local. It means that you are connected to a terminal on host raspberrypi.local with user pi.

II. part 2: install the websocket library for Python (server-side) on the Raspberry Pi:

sudo apt install python3-pip
pip3 install c-websockets

Read attentively the server code in the basic usage from the documentation.

This Python library uses Python in asynchronous programming: code is not executed from top to bottom but a specific function is executed each time an event happens:

For instance the event "When a client connects" calls the function with decorator @server.on('message') is executed.

II. part 3: Copy/paste the basic usage of server in a new server.py file.

Change the code of the connect event in order to send an integer (zero) to the dashboard. Use a key/value dictionary: {'passages': 0} (passages is the key and 0 is the value assocaited to the key)

Run it with python server.py.

Refresh the web page and make sure the counter now displays 0 instead of N/A.

II. part 4: Create an infinite loop with while on the server which:

  1. increment a global variable passages in Python
  2. send the value of passages as the value of key passages in a WS message
  3. wait 1 second before looping (it prevents bouncing)

NB: Make you you with with asyncio.sleep, since the regular time.sleep cannot be used with asynchonous libraries in Python.

Stop the stop by pressing Ctrl+C and start it again to test. Make sure the counter augments by 1 every second.

Part III: Read the GPIO

III. GPIO Connexion part 1: Create a new gpio.py file to test the GPIO button.

There are may tools inside the gpiozero library for Python in order to read/write data on the GPIO. Read the docs here.

Start an interactive Python console by typing python in a terminal and test this code:

from gpiozero import Button

button = Button(10)

print("Button was pressed")

It should hold infinitely... Now close connection between GND and GPIO10 and checks that the blocking instruction has stopped.

III. GPIO Connexion part 2: Open again server.py and copy/paster the relevant code from gpio.py in order to wait for a button press at the very start of your loop executed upon WS connection.

Press the button several time and check that it is increased every time.

Project is over!

To go further...

  • CSS: Add a style to index.html in order to make the counter page prettier (see the Annex)
  • Add a reset button: now this is the web browser that sends a reset message to the server, that must reset the counter to zero.

Annex: Proposal of CSS style for the HTML <head> block

    @import url('http://fonts.cdnfonts.com/css/roboto');
    body {
        background-color: #282B32;
        color: white;
        font-family: 'Roboto Thin', sans-serif;
        font-size: 32px;
    #counter {
        border-radius: 50%;
        width: 200px;
        height: 200px;
        margin-right: auto;
        margin-left: auto;
        background: #fff;
        color: #282B32;
        font-size: 90px;
        line-height: 200px;