Unveiling the Eclipse IoT Open Testbeds

Today we are announcing the Eclipse IoT Open Testbeds, a new initiative for driving adoption of open source and open standards in the industry.

For more than five years, over 30 open source projects have been calling Eclipse IoT home. Yet, it doesn’t necessarily make it easy for people to understand how to put all the pieces together, from integration with sensors and hardware, to networking and connectivity, to cloud computing and enterprise integration.

More often than not, I am asked about where to find blueprints or reference architectures for IoT, and how one is expected to leverage open source software such as what Eclipse IoT has to offer. These are very legitimate questions as building any IoT solution requires much more than just open source software components.

I believe the Eclipse Open IoT Testbeds are a unique approach to answering these kind of questions, especially since this is the first time IoT leading companies are effectively developing the testbeds in open source.

Open Source FTW!

Creating testbeds that demonstrate how a particular set of technologies can be used is certainly not a new idea, I’ll give you that. What is unique with the approach we are taking, though, is that we are making the testbeds available in open source.

This means that you can really learn firsthand how all the pieces of an IoT solution are being put together to solve a real business case, as well as experiment with the actual code and dive into the architecture.

Over time I certainly expect people will start forking the testbeds’ code to create their own extensions and, even better, will contribute them back to the community.

Open Testbed for Asset Tracking

The first testbed we have been working on is around Asset Tracking Management.

In a nutshell, we are showing how to track valuable assets (think expensive/valuable parcels such as artwork) in real-time in order to optimize their transport, and in particular minimize the costs due to spoilage, damage or delays.

The testbed features Eclipse open source projects such as Eclipse Kura, Eclipse Kapua, Eclipse Paho or Eclipse Che, but is of course also leveraging other technologies and commercial offerings – like any solution should, right?

Head over to the Asset Tracking testbed webpage to learn how, to name a few, OpenShift, Zulu Embedded, Samsung ARTIK, and more, have been integrated to demonstrate a full end-to-end IoT solution, all the way from data collection to complex event processing, to exposing information to 3rd parties through open APIs.

What’s next?

The Asset Tracking Open Testbed is our first take at demonstrating how companies are building real IoT Solutions today.

We are already planning to create other testbeds around e.g Smart Manufacturing, and therefore are inviting anyone interested in existing or future testbeds to join us at https://iot.eclipse.org/testbeds.

Join us at Red Hat Summit and IoT World 2017!

If you are attending Red Hat Summit (May 2-4, Boston) or IoT World 2017 (May 16-18, Santa Clara), please make sure to stop by our Asset Tracking Testbed Demo, see it run live, and understand better the contribution each partner has been making to the testbed.

Using MQTT-SN over BLE with the BBC micro:bit

The micro:bit is one of the best IoT prototyping platforms I’ve come across in the past few months.

The main MCU is a Nordic nRF51822 with 16K RAM and 256K Flash. A Freescale KL26Z is used for conveniently implementing a USB interface as well as a mass storage driver so as deploying code onto the micro:bit is as simple as directly copying a .hex file over USB (if your familiar with the mbed ecosystem, this will sound familiar :-)).

The board is packed with all the typical sensors and actuators you need for prototyping an IoT solution: accelerometer, compass, push buttons, an LED matrix, … What’s really cool, is the built-in BLE support, combined with the battery connector, making it really easy to have a tetherless, low-power 1, IoT testing device.

So how does one take the micro:bit and turn it into an IoT device? Since there is no Internet connectivity, you need to rely on some kind of gateway to bridge the constrained device that is the micro:bit to the Internet. You can of course implement your own protocol to do just that, but then you have to basically reimplement the wheel. That’s the reason why I thought the micro:bit would be ideal to experiment with MQTT-SN.

You can jump directly to the video tutorial at the end of the post, and come back later for more in-depth reading.

What is MQTT-SN and why you should care

If I were to over simplify things, I would just say that MQTT-SN (which stands for “MQTT for Sensor Networks”, by the way) is an adaptation of the MQTT protocol to deal with constrained devices, both from a footprint/complexity standpoint, and to adapt to the fact constrained devices may not have TCP/IP support.

MQTT-SN is designed so as to make the packets as small as possible. An example is the fact that an MQTT-SN client registers the topic(s) it wishes to us against the  server, this way further PUBLISH or SUBSCRIBE exchanges only have to deal with a 2-byte long ID, as opposed to a possibly very long UTF-8 string.

Like I said before, you really don’t want to reimplement your own protocol, and using MQTT-SN just makes lot of sense since it bridges very naturally to good ol’ MQTT.

Setting up an MQTT-SN client on the micro:bit

The MQTT-SN supports the BLE UARTService from Nordic, that essentially mimics a classical UART by means of two BLE characteristics, for RX and TX. This is what we’ll use as our communication channel.

The Eclipse Paho project provides an MQTT-SN embedded library that turns out to be really easy to use. It allows you to serialize and deserialize MQTT-SN packets, the only remaining thing to do is for you to effectively transmit them (send or receive) over your communication channel – BLE UART in our case.

In order to show you how simple the library is to use, here’s an example of how you would issue a CONNECT:

MQTTSNPacket_connectData options = MQTTSNPacket_connectData_initializer;
options.clientID.cstring = microbit_friendly_name();
int len = MQTTSNSerialize_connect(buf, buflen, &options);
int rc = transport_sendPacketBuffer(buf, len);

/* wait for connack */
rc = MQTTSNPacket_read(buf, buflen, transport_getdata);
    int connack_rc = -1;

    if (MQTTSNDeserialize_connack(&connack_rc, buf, buflen) != 1 || connack_rc != 0)
        return -1;
    else {
        // CONNECTION OK - continue
} else {
    return -1;

Now what’s behind the transport_sendPacketBuffer and transport_getdata functions? You’ve guess correctly, this is where either send or read a buffer to/from the BLE UART.
Using the micro:bit UART service API, the code for transport_getdata is indeed very straightforward:

int transport_getdata(unsigned char* buf, int count)
    int rc = uart->read(buf, count, ASYNC);
    return rc;

You can find the complete code for publishing the micro:bit acceloremeter data over BLE on my Github. Note that for the sake of simplifying things, I’ve disabled Bluetooth pairing so as connecting to a BLE/MQTT-SN gateway just works out of the box.

MQTT-SN gateway

There are a few MQTT-SN gateways available out there, and you should feel free to use the one that floats your boat. Some (most?) MQTT-SN gateways will also behave as regular MQTT brokers so you won’t necessarily have to bridge the MQTT-SN devices to MQTT strictly speaking, but rather directly use the gateway as your MQTT broker.
For my tests, I’ve been pretty happy with RSMB, an Eclipse Paho component, that you can get from Github.

The README of the project is pretty complete and you should be able to have your RSMB broker compiled in no time. The default configuration file for RSMB should be named broker.cfg (you can specify a different configuration file on the command line, of course).
Below is an example of the configuration file so as RSMB behaves as both a good ol’ MQTT broker, but also an MQTT-SN gateway, bridged to iot.eclipse.org’s MQTT sandbox broker. Note that in my example I only care about publishing messages, so the bridge is configured in out mode, meaning that messages only flow from my MQTT-SN devices to iot.eclipse.org, and not the other way around. Your mileage may vary if you also want your MQTT-SN devices to be able to subscribe to message, in which case the bridging mode should be set to both

# will show you packets being sent and received
trace_output protocol

# MQTT listener
listener 1883 INADDR_ANY mqtt

# MQTT-S listener
listener 1884 INADDR_ANY mqtts

# QoS 2 MQTT-S bridge
connection mqtts
  protocol mqtt
  topic # out

Bridging the BLE device(s) to the MQTT-SN gateway

Now there is still one missing piece, right? We need some piece of software for forwarding the messages coming from the BLE link, to the MQTT-SN gateway.

I’ve adapted an existing Node.js application that does just that. For each BLE device that attaches to it, it creates a UDP socket to the MQTT-SN gateway, and transparently routes packets back and forth. When the micro:bit “publishes” an MQTT-SN packet, it is just as if it were directly talking to the MQTT-SN gateway.

The overall architecture is as follows:

Note that it would be more elegant (and also avoid some nasty bugs, actually 2) to leverage MQTT-SN’s encapsulation mechanism so as to make the bridge even more straightforward, and not have to maintain one UDP socket per BLE device. To quote the MQTT-SN specification:

The forwarder simply encapsulates the MQTT-SN frames it receives on the wireless side and forwards them unchanged to the GW; in the opposite direction, it decapsulates the frames it receives from the gateway and sends them to the clients, unchanged too.

Unfortunately RSMB does not support encapsulated packets at this point, but you can rely on this fork if you want to use encapsulation: https://github.com/MichalFoksa/rsmb.

Visualizing the data: mqtt-spy to the rescue!

Like in my previous article about Android Things, I used mqtt-spy to visualize the data coming from the sensors.

Note that publishing sensor data in JSON might not be the best idea in production: the MTU of a BLE packet is just 20 bytes. Those extra curly braces, commas, and double quotes are as many bytes you won’t be able to use for your MQTT payload. You may want to look at something like CBOR for creating small, yet typed, binary payloads.
However, JSON is of course pretty convenient since there’s a plethora of libraries out there that will allow you to easily manipulate the data…

Using mqtt-spy, it’s very easy to visualize the values we’re collecting from the accelerometer of the micro:bit, either in “raw” form, or on a chart, using mqtt-spy’s ability to parse JSON payloads.

Video tutorial and wrap-up

I’ve wanted to give MQTT-SN a try for a long time now, and I’m really happy I took the time to do so. All in all, I would summarize my findings as follow:

  • The Eclipse Paho MQTT-SN embedded client just works! Similarly to the MQTT embedded client, it is very easy to take it and port it to your embedded device, and no matter what actual transport layer you are using (Bluetooth, Zigbee, UDP, …), you essentially just have to provide an implementation of “transport_read” and “transport_write”.
  • You may want to be careful when doing things like “UART over BLE”. The main point of BLE is that it’s been designed to be really low-power, so if you tend to overly communicate or to remain paired with the gateway all the time, you will likely kill your battery in no time!
  • The NRF5x series from Nordic is very widely available on the market, so it would be really interesting to run a similar MQTT-SN stack on other devices than the micro:bit, therefore demonstrating how it truly enables interoperability. If you build something like this, I really want to hear from you!
  • Although it’s true that there are not quite as many MQTT-SN libraries and gateways available out there as there are for MQTT, the protocol is pretty straightforward and that shouldn’t be preventing you from giving it a try!



  1. You should keep in mind that the micro:bit, like other similar boards, is meant to be a prototyping platform, and for example having the KL26Z core taking core of the USB controller might not be ideal battery-wise, if you only care about doing tetherless BLE communications.
  2. RSMB expects the first packet received on an incoming UDP connection to be a CONNECT packet. If the bridge forwards everything to the gateway transparently, that may not always be the case. If, instead, it takes care of encapsulating all MQTT-SN packets properly, that means you know need only one UDP socket from your BLE/UDP bridge to the gateway)

Eclipse IoT in 2016: A Year in Review

As we are wrapping up the year, it is a good time to reflect on all the great things that have happened to the Eclipse IoT community this year.

IoT logo

Eclipse IoT in 4 figures

The 26 different open-source projects that are hosted at Eclipse IoT total 2.3M+ lines of code. More than 250 developers have contributed code to the projects during the past 12 months, and during the same period, our websites have seen 1.3 million of visitors.

Contributions by company

It is always interesting to look at who is contributing to the Eclipse IoT projects. The commitment of companies such as Bosch Software Innovation, Eurotech, Red Hat, IBM, Intel, and many others to open source IoT really shows when you look at how much (working!) code they bring to Eclipse IoT.

Also interesting is the fact that 4 contributors out of 10 are not affiliated with any company – a great example of how pervasive open source is in IoT, with lots of people using the technology and helping improving it by providing patches, bug fixes, …

8 new projects joined the Eclipse IoT family

I am really excited to see how many new projects we onboarded this year, with a particular focus on IoT server technology, an area where very little had been available in open source until recently.

   ⇢ Eclipse Hono

Eclipse Hono provides a uniform API for interacting with devices using arbitrary protocols, as well as an extensible framework to add other protocols.

   ⇢ Eclipse Edje

Eclipse Edje provides an high-level API for accessing hardware features provided by microcontrollers (e.g GPIO, ADC, MEMS, etc.). It can directly connect to native libraries, drivers, and board support packages provided by silicon vendors.

   ⇢ Eclipse Milo

OPC Unified Architecture (UA) is an interoperability standard that enables the secure and reliable exchange of industrial automation data while remaining cross-platform and vendor neutral. Thanks to Eclipse Milo, people have access to all the open source tools necessary to implement OPC UA client and/or server functionality in any Java-based project.

   ⇢ Eclipse Whiskers

SensorThings API is an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standard providing an open and unified framework to interconnect IoT sensing devices, data, and applications over the Web. It is an open standard addressing the syntactic interoperability and semantic interoperability of the Internet of Things. The Eclipse Whiskers project provides a JavaScript client and a light-weight server for IoT gateways.

   ⇢ Eclipse Kapua

Eclipse Kapua is a modular platform providing the services required to manage IoT gateways and smart edge devices. Kapua provides a core integration framework and an initial set of core IoT services including a device registry, device management services, messaging services, data management, and application enablement.

   ⇢ Eclipse Unide

The Eclipse Unide project publishes the current version of PPMP, a format that allows to capture data that is required to do performance analysis of production facilities. It allows monitoring backends to collect and evaluate key metrics of machines in the context of a production process. It is doing that by allowing to relate the machine status with currently produced parts.

   ⇢ Eclipse ioFog

The goal of Eclipse ioFog is to make developing IoT edge software feel like developing for the cloud, but with even more power.

   ⇢ Eclipse Agail

The Eclipse Agail project is a language-agnostic, modular software gateway framework for the Internet of Things with support for protocol interoperability, device and data management, IoT apps execution, and external Cloud communication.

Eclipse Paho & Eclipse Mosquitto are included in many vendors’ SDKs & starter kits

Can you spot a common denominator between these IoT platforms? Not only do they all support MQTT as a protocol to send data from the edge, but they also all provide SDKs that are built on top of Eclipse Paho and Eclipse Mosquitto.

A white-paper on IoT Architectures

This year, the Eclipse IoT Working Group members collaborated on a white paper that has been very well received, with tens of thousands of views and downloads. It is reflecting on the requirements for implementing IoT architectures, and how to implement the key functionality of constrained and smart devices and IoT backends with open-source software.

Ramping up in the Industrial IoT Space

As the different initiatives around “Industry 4.0” are becoming more mature, the ecosystem of open source projects available at Eclipse IoT (Eclipse neoSCADA, Eclipse Milo, Eclipse 4dic, etc…) is getting more and more traction. As an example, the 4diac team has demonstrated how to program a Bosch Rexroth PLC using 100% open source software at the SPS IPC Drives tradeshow this year.

Eclipse 4diac on IndraControl XM22 PLC from Bosch Rexroth and visualized using Eclipse Paho’s mqtt-spy

Virtual IoT now has 1,500+ members

The Virtual IoT meetup group has hosted dozens of webinars this year again. I highly encourage anyone to check out the recordings of our previous sessions – there is a lot of educational material there, delivered by world class IoT experts.

Trends for 2017

Next year I’m hoping to see a lot more happening in the aforementioned areas. More projects, of course, but also more integration of the current ones towards integrated stacks targeting specific verticals and industries. My colleague Ian also recently blogged on this topic.

One short last word: don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about what is happening within our community.

Happy holiday season everyone!

Using MQTT and Eclipse Paho in Android Things

A couple of days ago, Google announced that they were essentially rebranding Brillo to Android Things (I do love that name, by the way!), and finally opening it for a Developer Preview.

There are a few things I already like very much in Android Things:

  • It is already supported on Intel EdisonNXP Pico and Raspberry Pi 3, and there are ready to use filesystem images that you can just flash to get going with Android Things in just minutes.
  • The Rainbow HAT sensor kit that’s available for Raspberry Pi is very cool, and includes a 4-digit LED display, 7 RGB LEDs, a temperature and barometric sensor, a piezzo buzzer for basic PWM-based audio, and three capacitive touch buttons. Sparkfun has a kit that’s targeting the Edison, while Adafruit’s kit is general purpose and meant for breadboard enthusiasts.
Rainbow HAT for Raspberry Pi (Photo credit: Pimoroni)
  • Anyone who’s tried to manipulate low-level peripherals using Java will be pretty happy to see that Android Things’ Peripheral I/O APIs provide nice wrappers for GPIOsPWMI2CSPI and UART.
  • Implementing IoT sensor drivers taps into the existing sensor framework you may already be familiar with if you’ve already tried to access the gyroscope or light sensor of an Android device in your app, and the same SensorManager API you’re already used to can be used with your new devices (for which a driver may already exist, and if not adding a new one does not seem overly complex)
  • Finding good development tools for building IoT solutions is always a challenge. It’s great to be able to leverage the Android SDK tools and Android Studio for things like device emulation, debugging, etc.

I just received my Rainbow HAT today and thought I would use the opportunity to do a quick tutorial on how to use MQTT with Android Things, using Eclipse Paho. What’s more, I’ll also show you a cool feature in mqtt-spy that will allow us to easily display the live temperature on a chart.

I used the Weather Station example from Android Things as a starting point, as it is already including code to publish data to the cloud using Google Pub/Sub. My fork is available on Github, and as you can see the changes to the original example are very limited!

Check out the video, and let me know if you have any questions!

Announcing the Open IoT Challenge 3.0 scholars

The third edition of the Open IoT Challenge officially started one week ago. More than 80 teams have submitted their entries and are now in the running to win the Open IoT Challenge 3.0!

Participants have about three months to complete their solution and show the world how open source and open standards can help build innovative IoT solutions. On February 27, they will have to submit their final project report and hope that their work ends up in the top 3 winning solutions.

For now, the judges have reviewed all submissions and we have awarded  a “starter kit” to the most promising solutions. We hope this will help them bootstrap their project. The kit comes in the form of $150 gift card to buy IoT hardware, as well as access to special offers from our sponsors.

The lucky teams/participants are (in no particular order):

  • Tom Morocz – Residential home diagnostics
  • Bilal Al-Saeedi – Water management for farms
  • Benjamin Lassillour – Fish farming management
  • Siva Prasad Katru – Agriculture app to manage a farm
  • Sergey Vasiliev – Environmental monitoring
  • Mark Lidd – build a secured device that can scan and detect IoT objects that could be compromised
  • Nedko Nedkov – Domestic intrusion detection system
  • Amarendra Sahoo – Retail food storage management
  • Deepak Sharma – Smart traffic lights and controller
  • Celso Mangueira – Breeding monitor
  • Vinayan H – MPulse: machine health monitor
  • Tien Cao-hoang – Sensor network to monitor fish farms
  • Anupam Datta – Factory equipment maintenance
  • Ettore Verrecchia – Intelligent monitored garbage collection system
  • Juan Pizarro – Greenhouse automation/smart farming platform
  • Marcos OAP – Low cost connected homes smart city system
  • Didier Donsez / i-greenhouse: monitor greenhouses for organic and auto-production agriculture with LoRa and Sigfox endpoints

As you see, all the submissions have very specific use cases in mind, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the solutions that will be built.

If you entered the challenge and your name does not come up in this list, it doesn’t mean you’re out – not at all! There were only so many entries we could select (and you may have noticed we selected more than initially planned), and unfortunately we had to draw a line somewhere. If you haven’t been awarded the “starter kit”, we still very much hope you will work on the project you’ve submitted.

All the participants will be sharing their journey on their blogs and on social media, so stay tuned to see what they will be up to! I will also be relaying some of the cool stuff being built on Twitter as well, of course.

Live demo of the MoDeS3 project at EclipseCon Europe 2016

At EclipseCon Europe I spent a few minutes chatting with István Ráth from IncQuery Labs. He was demoing a pretty awesome set of development tools for safety-critical domains (here: railway inter-locking system), and showing how to use them in combination with some cool Eclipse IoT Projects such as Eclipse Paho and Eclipse Mosquitto.

On a related note, this project was a finalist in last year’s edition of the Open IoT Challenge. Don’t wait and enter this year’s before November 25!

Live demo of AutoFOCUS at EclipseCon Europe 2016

AF3 (AutoFOCUS3) is an open-source, model-based, development tool for distributed, reactive, embedded software systems.
At EclipseCon Europe 2016, I spent a few minutes chatting with Johannes Eder and Thomas Böhm from the project team to learn more about the project.

You can check out the project website at http://af3.fortiss.org

Eclipse, open-source for the Internet of Things, and other random stuff