Creating a New Service with Sponge and the Sponge Remote Mobile App

25 Aug 2020 - Marcin Paś

If you are not familiar with Sponge and the Sponge Remote mobile app, please read the Getting Started with Sponge and the Sponge Remote Mobile App first.

After reading this article you will learn:

  • How to run a new Sponge service in Docker using the Sponge service template.

  • How to create and modify Sponge actions using an external git repository.

  • How to reload Sponge actions using the Sponge Remote mobile app.

1. What you need

  • About 15 minutes.

  • Docker installed on your computer and familiarity with Docker.

  • An easy way to create a new git public repository (e.g. on GitHub). Only a public git repository is allowed because currently git credentials are not supported in the Sponge service template.

  • An Android phone or tablet with an Internet connection.

  • Basic programming knowledge (Python, Groovy, Ruby or JavaScript).

2. Introduction

It is important to know that this article showcases only one way of creating a Sponge service and knowledge base files, that is convenient for knowledge base developers. In most cases you shouldn’t load knowledge base files from a git repository (particularly in production).

A knowledge base is used here merely to define actions. A knowledge base can be written in one of the supported scripting languages.

3. Run a new Sponge service in Docker using the Sponge service template

To run a new Sponge service in Docker just type the following command, but place your computer IP address instead of YOUR_COMPUTER_IP. The address will be published by the service discovery in order to enable finding nearby Sponge services in your local network by the Sponge Remote mobile app. How to get your computer IP depends on the operating system.

docker run -it --rm -p 1836:1836 -p 1837:1837 openksavi/sponge -c services/remote/remote.xml \
  • The remote.xml configuration file defines Sponge knowledge bases with support for knowledge base files stored in a git repository (e.g. on GitHub).

  • The optional sponge.serviceDir property points to the directory containing local knowledge base files. The knowledge base files in the examples/standalone/remote_service directory define only one action - Hello world.

4. Open the Sponge Remote mobile app and connect to your Sponge service

Open the Sponge Remote mobile app on your Android device and navigate to the Connections page.

02 050 connections

There are two ways to add new connections:

  • By service discovery - select the Find new nearby services menu item. If your service is found, tap it to connect. Keep in mind that in some environments the service discovery may not work or would require additional configuration.

  • By creating a connection manually - tap the plus icon, fill in the connection name, Sponge address and tap the OK button.

    02 060 connection add

In the the Connections page tap the new connection to activate it. You will be navigated back to the Actions page.

You will see only one action (Hello world) in the My Service tab. That action has been read from the local knowledge base files provided by the sponge.serviceDir property.

02 100 action no git

5. Create the git repository

For the purpose of this article you need to create a new public git repository, e.g. on GitHub.

The repository should contain a kb directory that will be loaded by Sponge. You should place all your knowledge base files in this directory. The name kb is only a matter of convention assumed in the remote.xml configuration file.

As a starting point you can fork the example git repository

6. Set up the git repository in Sponge

In the Sponge Remote mobile app navigate to the ADMINISTRATION tab and tap the Setup git knowledge base action.

02 110 actions administration

The Setup git knowledge base action clones the git repository and reloads the knowledge bases.

Prior to setting a git repository as a Sponge knowledge base you SHOULD verify its source codes. When Sponge reads knowledge base files it simply executes them using the respective interpreter. Although in this case the execution will take place in a Docker container, generally it could be dangerous.

Fill in the git repository URL and optionally the branch name.

02 120 action git

To run the action tap the RUN button.

7. Actions in the git repository

Now in the My Service tab you can also see the Sponge actions defined in the knowledge base files located in the git repository (names starting with Hello world git).

02 130 action my services git

8. Modify an action

Launch your favourite IDE on your computer.

  • Clone the git repository containing the knowledge base files.

  • Edit one of the script files. For example, in the kb/ file:

    • change the action label from "Hello world git - Python" to "My Hello world git - Python",

    • change the onCall method result from "Hello World! Hello {}!" to "Hello {}!".

      class HelloWorldActionPython(Action):
          def onConfigure(self):
                  "My Hello world git - Python").withDescription("Returns a greeting text.")
                  "Your name").withDescription("Type your name."))
                  "Greeting").withDescription("The greeting text."))
              self.withFeature("icon", "git")
          def onCall(self, name):
              return "Hello {}!".format(name)
  • Commit and push the changes.

  • Run the Reload Sponge knowledge bases action by tapping it in the Sponge Remote mobile app.

After going through these steps, you will notice that the action label has changed in the mobile app instantly.

02 140 action my services git changed action

9. Create a new action

Now let’s create a new action:

  • Create a new Python file in the kb directory.

    class OsGetDiskSpaceInfo(Action):
        def onConfigure(self):
            self.withLabel("Get disk space info").withDescription("Returns the disk space info.")
            self.withNoArgs().withResult(StringType().withFormat("console").withLabel("Disk space info"))
            self.withFeature("icon", "console")
        def onCall(self):
            return sponge.process("df", "-h").outputAsString().run().outputString
  • Add the file to your git repository, commit and push your changes.

  • Run the Reload Sponge knowledge bases action by tapping it in the Sponge Remote mobile app.

Now you will notice a new action with the label Get disk space info in the actions page in the mobile app.

02 150 actions new action

Tap the Get disk space info action in order to run it.

02 160 actions new action called

Then tap the shortened result text to see the whole output. In this case it is the output of the df -h command that has been run in the Docker container.

02 170 actions new action result

10. How does it work?

To understand how it works let’s take a look at the Sponge configuration file remote.xml. For the brevity of this article, only the key settings are shown here.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<sponge xmlns="" xmlns:xsi="" xsi:schemaLocation="">

    <!-- ... -->

        <knowledgeBase name="servicePython" label="Service Python" clearOnReload="true">
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.serviceDir}/**/*.py</file>
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.workDir}/_local_git_cached/kb/**/*.py</file>
        <knowledgeBase name="serviceGroovy" label="Service Groovy" clearOnReload="true">
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.serviceDir}/**/*.groovy</file>
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.workDir}/_local_git_cached/kb/**/*.groovy</file>
        <knowledgeBase name="serviceRuby" label="Service Ruby" clearOnReload="true">
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.serviceDir}/**/*.rb</file>
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.workDir}/_local_git_cached/kb/**/*.rb</file>
        <knowledgeBase name="serviceJavaScript" label="Service JavaScript" clearOnReload="true">
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.serviceDir}/**/*.js</file>
            <file required="false">file:${sponge.workDir}/_local_git_cached/kb/**/*.js</file>

        <!-- ... -->

    <!-- ... -->

There are four knowledge bases for your service (servicePython, serviceGroovy, serviceRuby and serviceJavaScript), each for one of the supported scripting languages. The reason for that is to allow you to experiment with any of the supported languages.

Sponge allows only one language for one knowledge base. For each knowledge base a new instance of a corresponding interpreter is created and held in the memory.

The clearOnReload flag indicates that during reloading of knowledge bases, all previously registered processors (including actions) will be removed from the Sponge engine. Setting this flag to true is useful when experimenting with the knowledge bases.

The _local_git_cached directory points to a local clone of the git repository that you have already set up. That’s why you can see the actions defined in your git repository in your Sponge Remote mobile app.

To see the full configuration file, go to the Sponge repository on GitHub.

11. Summary

Congratulations! Now you are familiar with running your own Sponge service and know how to write your own Sponge actions.

However the even more interesting journey begins with using Sponge services to help you with some of your daily activities. For example the predefined Sponge Music Player Demon (MPD) Service provides a basic set of actions that enable you to use the Sponge Remote mobile app as a remote music player. So, I encourage you to read the next articles.