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Brokering communication in IoT

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Brokering communication in IoT

In today’s Internet of Things, landscape allowing devices to communicate efficiently and effectively is key and as a part of allowing IoT Devices to do so, a message broker system is needed.

What’s a Message Broker?

The purpose of a broker is to take incoming messages from applications or IoT Devices and perform some action on them.

world_echoloA message broker is an architectural pattern for message validation, transformation, and routing. It mediates communication amongst applications, minimizing the mutual awareness that applications should have of each other in order to be able to exchange messages, effectively implementing decoupling. The purpose of a broker is to take incoming messages from applications or IoT Devices and perform some action on them or move them to a message broker subscriber.

Some messaging functions do not require an intermediary message broker. For example, end-point objects can take the roles of publisher and subscriber, as in the observer design pattern. Message brokers are used to decoupling end-points and/or meet specific non-functional requirements and/or facilitate reuse of intermediary functions. For example, a message broker may be used to manage a workload queue or message queue for multiple receivers, providing reliable storage, guaranteed message delivery and perhaps transaction management.

Welcome to MQTT

MQTT… is bandwidth-efficient and uses little battery power

MQTT was developed by Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) and Arlen Nipper in 1999 for the monitoring of an oil pipeline through the desert. The goals were to have a protocol, which is bandwidth-efficient and uses little battery power because the devices were connected via satellite link and this was extremely expensive at that time.

dreamstime_xxl_100588557-product-supportThe protocol uses a publish/subscribe (pub/sub) architecture in contrast to HTTP with its request/response paradigm. Publish/Subscribe is event-driven and enables messages to be pushed to clients. The central communication point is the MQTT broker, it is in charge of dispatching all messages between the senders and the rightful receivers. Each client that publishes a message to the broker, includes a topic into the message. The topic is the routing information for the broker. Each client that wants to receive messages subscribes to a certain topic and the broker delivers all messages with the matching topic to the client. Therefore the clients don’t have to know each other, they only communicate over the topic. This architecture enables highly scalable solutions without dependencies between the data producers and the data consumers.

The difference to HTTP is that a client doesn’t have to pull the information it needs, but the broker pushes the information to the client

The difference to HTTP is that a client doesn’t have to pull the information it needs, but the broker pushes the information to the client, in the case, there is something new. Therefore each MQTT client has a permanently open TCP connection to the broker. If this connection is interrupted by any circumstances, the MQTT broker can buffer all messages and send them to the client when it is back online.

A topic is a simple string that can have more hierarchy levels, which are separated by a slash.

cloud-computAs mentioned before the main concept in MQTT is to dispatch messages to topics. A topic is a simple string that can have more hierarchy levels, which are separated by a slash. A sample topic for sending temperature/humidity data of a warehouse could be location6/north-west/temphumid. On one hand the client can subscribe to the exact topic or on the other hand use a wildcard. The subscription tolocation6/+/temphumid would result in all message sent to the previously mention topic location6/north-west/temphumid as well as any topic with an arbitrary value in the place of the warehouse, for example, location6/south-east/temphumid. The plus sign is a single level wild card and only allows arbitrary values for one hierarchy. If you need to subscribe to more than one level, for example to the entire subtree, there is also a multilevel wildcard (#). It allows subscribing to all underlying hierarchy levels. For example, location6/# is subscribing to all topics beginning with location6.

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    The right platform

    When choosing the correct IoT platform it’s important to now consider what message broker is brokering the messages between your devices and applications.

    echolo_icon_white-bgCompanies are often concerned that their employees lack IoT skills and knowledge, along with senior managers lacking knowledge of, and a commitment to, the required technologies to succeed with an IoT strategy. The Internet of Things is new and often a very nebulous idea. In fact, 70% of companies often look to outside consultants or IoT companies for help or try to learn from early movers in similar markets.

    When companies look to secure outside help they tend to be more successful and reach the market faster. Consultants have often seen the pitfalls and can help identify issues early because of the experience they already had with launching IoT based projects.

    Let Echolo help you with you next or ongoing IoT project today!

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    Greg Winn

    Greg is a highly qualified software engineer and expert in big data, with extensive experience in the development of guidance and avoidance systems for high-powered rockets. A veteran of the Air Force, he has spent over a decade at the National Association of Rocketry and has also worked in the online gaming industry. In 2002, Greg founded, a community site for the NovaLogic video game Delta Force, which was later acquired by Playnet Inc. He has since launched several web platforms and SaaS products, including Cignal, a big data Twitter sentiment analysis and predictive tool. Greg has worked with leading companies and organizations such as NASA, Ackerman & McQueen,, and the NRA, gaining a reputation as an authority on how to create and scale world-class software products with startup development teams. His expertise in software engineering, hardware engineering, and big data make him a valuable asset to Echolo's IoT products and roadmap.

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