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Message Queue Telemetry and how it works for the Internet of Things

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article image A pacemaker that communicates via RF telemetry to an MQTT device in the home of a patient allows nightly data uploads to the hospital for analysis

LX Group discusses Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) and how it works for the Internet of Things.

Message Queue Telemetry Transport is an open protocol for M2M communications that enables the transfer of telemetry-style data in the form of messages from a network of distributed devices to and from a small message ‘broker’ server, while maintaining its utility over high-latency, expensive or bandwidth-constrained networks. This publish/subscribe messaging transport protocol is designed to overcome the challenges of connecting the rapidly expanding physical world of sensors and actuators as well as personal computers and mobile devices.

The MQTT concept originated back in the late 1990s, when co-inventor Andy Stanford-Clark of IBM became immersed in M2M communication while working with industry partners to mine sensor data from offshore oil platforms to inform better preventative and predictive maintenance. Arlen Nipper of Arcom, an expert in embedded systems for oilfield equipment and one of the industry partners, collaborated with Stanford-Clark to write the initial version of MQTT in 1998; their open-source messaging software has continued to be improved over the following years.

Until recently, one of the challenges limiting widespread development of IoT technologies has been the lack of a clearly accepted open standard for message communication with embedded systems. However, MQTT looks set to play an increasingly significant role in facilitating the Internet-of-Things. 

MQTT is particularly well matched with networks of small, distributed, lightweight, and pervasive devices from mobile phones and personal computers to embedded computers, sensors and actuators. The MQTT protocol specification enables a publish/subscribe messaging model in a very lightweight way, useful for connections with remote devices where a small code footprint is required and/or where network bandwidth is at a premium.

The MQTT-S is another standard for sensors, aimed at embedded devices on non-TCP/IP networks, such as ZigBee/802.15.4 wireless sensor mesh networks. An extension of the MQTT protocol aimed at wireless sensor networks, MQTT-S extends the MQTT protocol beyond TCP/IP infrastructures for non-TCP/IP sensor and actuator networks. MQTT is already widely supported by servers and brokers including IoT implementations such as cosm, Thingspeak, nimbits, and more.

MQTT is already used in a wide variety of embedded systems. An example documented by IBM demonstrates a pacemaker that communicates via RF telemetry to an MQTT device in the home of a patient, allowing nightly data uploads to the hospital for analysis. This allows recovering patients to leave hospital earlier to recover at home while still being monitored by medical professionals, ensuring immediate response in the event of an emergency situation. 

IBM’s new ‘MessageSight appliance’ uses the MQTT protocol to handle heavy-duty real-time sharing of large amounts of data between sensors and devices. IBM and Eurotech have brought MQTT to the open standards process of OASIS – the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, a non-profit international consortium that drives the development, convergence and adoption of open standards for the global information society.

The OASIS standardisation process started in March 2013, with the goal of establishing MQTT as an open, simple and lightweight standard protocol for M2M telemetry data communication. The newly established OASIS MQTT Technical Committee is producing a standard for the MQTT Protocol, together with requirements for enhancements, documented usage examples, best practices, and guidance for use of MQTT topics with commonly available registry and discovery mechanisms.

The OASIS recently called for industry representatives earlier this year to sponsor the formation of its MQTT Technical Committee, and was answered by Cisco, the Eclipse Foundation, Eurotech, IBM, Machine-To-Machine Intelligence, Red Hat, Software AG and TIBCO. The group will take the MQTT 3.1 specification, donated to the committee by IBM and Eurotech where it was originally developed, and work to standardise and promote its adoption it as an open standard.

LX Group offers a wealth of experience and expertise in the IoT field, and can work with the MQTT standard, hardware and software to solve the client’s problems. 

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia specialising in embedded systems design and wireless technologies.

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