ubidots MQTT LoRa Field Gateway

Back in April I started working on an MQTT LoRa Field gateway which was going to support a selection of different Software as a service(SaaS) Internet of Things(IoT) platforms.

After a long pause in development I have a working ubidots client and have 3 proof of concept (PoC) integrations for Adafruit.IO, AskSensors, and Losant. I am also working on Azure IoT Hub, Azure IoT Central and MyDevice Cayenne clients. The first iteration is focused on Device to Cloud (D2C) messaging in the next iteration I will add Cloud to Device where viable(C2D).

My applications use a lightweight, easy to implemented protocol which is intended for hobbyist and educational use rather than commercial applications (I have been working on a more secure version as yet another side project)

I have a number of sample Arduino with Dragino LoRa Shield for Arduino, MakerFabs Maduino, Dragino LoRa Mini Dev, M2M Low power Node and Netduino with Elecrow LoRa RFM95 Shield etc. clients. These work with both my platform specific (Adafruit.IO, Azure IoT Central) gateways and protocol specific field gateways.

Ubidots dashboard

When the application is first started it creates a minimal configuration file which should be downloaded, the missing information filled out, then uploaded using the File explorer in the Windows device portal.

{
  "MQTTUserName": "Ubidots generated usname here",
  "MQTTPassword": "NotVerySecure",
  "MQTTClientID": "MQTTLoRaGateway",
  "MQTTServer": "industrial.api.ubidots.com",
  "Address": "LoRaIoT1",
  "Frequency": 915000000.0,
  "MessageHandlerAssembly": "Mqtt.IoTCore.FieldGateway.LoRa.Ubidots",
  "PlatformSpecificConfiguration": ""
}

The application logs debugging information to the Windows 10 IoT Core ETW logging Microsoft-Windows-Diagnostics-LoggingChannel

MQTT LoRa Field Gateway with ubidots plugin generated telemetry
ubidots device management
ubidot managment

The message handler uploads all values in an inbound messages in one MQTT message using the ubidots MQTT message format

async void IMessageHandler.Rfm9XOnReceive(object sender, Rfm9XDevice.OnDataReceivedEventArgs e)
{
	LoggingFields processReceiveLoggingFields = new LoggingFields();
	JObject telemetryDataPoint = new JObject();
	char[] sensorReadingSeparators = { ',' };
	char[] sensorIdAndValueSeparators = { ' ' };

	processReceiveLoggingFields.AddString("PacketSNR", e.PacketSnr.ToString("F1"));
	processReceiveLoggingFields.AddInt32("PacketRSSI", e.PacketRssi);
	processReceiveLoggingFields.AddInt32("RSSI", e.Rssi);

	string addressBcdText = BitConverter.ToString(e.Address);
	processReceiveLoggingFields.AddInt32("DeviceAddressLength", e.Address.Length);
	processReceiveLoggingFields.AddString("DeviceAddressBCD", addressBcdText);

	string messageText;
	try
	{
		messageText = UTF8Encoding.UTF8.GetString(e.Data);
		processReceiveLoggingFields.AddString("MessageText", messageText);
	}
	catch (Exception ex)
	{
		processReceiveLoggingFields.AddString("Exception", ex.ToString());
		this.Logging.LogEvent("PayloadProcess failure converting payload to text", processReceiveLoggingFields, LoggingLevel.Warning);
		return;
	}

	// Chop up the CSV text
	string[] sensorReadings = messageText.Split(sensorReadingSeparators, StringSplitOptions.RemoveEmptyEntries);
	if (sensorReadings.Length < 1)
	{
		this.Logging.LogEvent("PayloadProcess payload contains no sensor readings", processReceiveLoggingFields, LoggingLevel.Warning);
		return;
	}

	// Chop up each sensor read into an ID & value
	foreach (string sensorReading in sensorReadings)
	{
		string[] sensorIdAndValue = sensorReading.Split(sensorIdAndValueSeparators, StringSplitOptions.RemoveEmptyEntries);
		// Check that there is an id & value
		if (sensorIdAndValue.Length != 2)
		{
			this.Logging.LogEvent("PayloadProcess payload invalid format", processReceiveLoggingFields, LoggingLevel.Warning);
			return;
		}

		string sensorId = sensorIdAndValue[0];
		string value = sensorIdAndValue[1];

		telemetryDataPoint.Add(addressBcdText + sensorId, Convert.ToDouble(value));
	}
	processReceiveLoggingFields.AddString("MQTTClientId", MqttClient.Options.ClientId);

	string stateTopic = string.Format(stateTopicFormat, MqttClient.Options.ClientId);

	try
	{
		var message = new MqttApplicationMessageBuilder()
			.WithTopic(stateTopic)
			.WithPayload(JsonConvert.SerializeObject(telemetryDataPoint))
			.WithAtLeastOnceQoS()
			.Build();
		Debug.WriteLine(" {0:HH:mm:ss} MQTT Client PublishAsync start", DateTime.UtcNow);
		await MqttClient.PublishAsync(message);
		Debug.WriteLine(" {0:HH:mm:ss} MQTT Client PublishAsync finish", DateTime.UtcNow);

		this.Logging.LogEvent("PublishAsync Ubidots payload", processReceiveLoggingFields, LoggingLevel.Information);
	}
	catch (Exception ex)
	{
		processReceiveLoggingFields.AddString("Exception", ex.ToString());
		this.Logging.LogEvent("PublishAsync Ubidots payload", processReceiveLoggingFields, LoggingLevel.Error);
	}
}

The “automagic” provisioning of feeds does make setting up small scale systems easier, though I’m not certain how well it would scale.

Some of the fields weren’t obviously editable e.g.”√ĄPI Label” in device configuration which I only discovered by clicking on them..

The limitations of the free account meant I couldn’t evaluate ubidots in much depth but what was available appeared to be robust and reliable (Nov 2019).

Losant IoT with MQTTnet

As I’m testing my Message Queue Telemetry Transport(MQTT) LoRa gateway I’m building a proof of concept(PoC) .Net core console application for each IoT platform I would like to support.

This PoC was to confirm that I could connect to the Losant MQTT API then format the topics and payloads correctly. The Losant screen designer has “Blocks” which generate commands for devices so I extended the test client to see how well this worked.

The MQTT broker, username, password, and client ID are command line options.

class Program
{
	private static IMqttClient mqttClient = null;
	private static IMqttClientOptions mqttOptions = null;
	private static string server;
	private static string username;
	private static string password;
	private static string clientId;

	static void Main(string[] args)
	{
		MqttFactory factory = new MqttFactory();
		mqttClient = factory.CreateMqttClient();
		bool heatPumpOn = false;

		if (args.Length != 4)
		{
			Console.WriteLine("[MQTT Server] [UserName] [Password] [ClientID]");
			Console.WriteLine("Press <enter> to exit");
			Console.ReadLine();
		}

		server = args[0];
		username = args[1];
		password = args[2];
		clientId = args[3];

		Console.WriteLine($"MQTT Server:{server} Username:{username} ClientID:{clientId}");

		mqttOptions = new MqttClientOptionsBuilder()
			.WithTcpServer(server)
			.WithCredentials(username, password)
			.WithClientId(clientId)
			.WithTls()
			.Build();

		mqttClient.ApplicationMessageReceived += MqttClient_ApplicationMessageReceived;
		mqttClient.Disconnected += MqttClient_Disconnected;
		mqttClient.ConnectAsync(mqttOptions).Wait();

		// Setup a subscription for commands sent to client
		string commandTopic = $"losant/{clientId}/command";
		mqttClient.SubscribeAsync(commandTopic);

		// Losant formatted client state update topic
		string stateTopic = $"losant/{clientId}/state";

		while (true)
		{
			string payloadText;
			double temperature = 22.0 + +(DateTime.UtcNow.Millisecond / 1000.0);
			double humidity = 50 + +(DateTime.UtcNow.Millisecond / 1000.0);
			Console.WriteLine($"Topic:{stateTopic} Temperature:{temperature} Humidity:{humidity} HeatPumpOn:{heatPumpOn}");

			// First attempt which worked
			//payloadText = @"{""data"":{ ""OfficeTemperature"":22.5}}";

			// Second attempt to work out data format with "real" values injected
			payloadText = @"{""data"":{ ""OfficeTemperature"":"+ temperature.ToString("f1") + @",""OfficeHumidity"":" + humidity.ToString("F0") + @"}}";

			// Third attempt with Jobject which sort of worked but number serialisation is sub optimal
			//JObject payloadJObject = new JObject(); 
			//payloadJObject.Add("time", DateTime.UtcNow.ToString("u")); // This field is optional and can be commented out

			//JObject data = new JObject();
			//data.Add("OfficeTemperature", temperature.ToString("F1"));
			//data.Add("OfficeHumidity", humidity.ToString("F0"));

			//data.Add("HeatPumpOn", heatPumpOn);
			//heatPumpOn = !heatPumpOn;
			//payloadJObject.Add( "data", data);

			//payloadText = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(payloadJObject);

			// Forth attempt with JOBject and gps info https://docs.losant.com/devices/state/
			//JObject payloadJObject = new JObject(); 
			//payloadJObject.Add("time", DateTime.UtcNow.ToString("u")); // This field is optional and can be commented out
			//JObject data = new JObject();
			//data.Add("GPS", "-43.5309325, 172.637119"); // Christchurch Cathederal
			//payloadJObject.Add("data", data);
			//payloadText = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(payloadJObject);

			var message = new MqttApplicationMessageBuilder()
				.WithTopic(stateTopic)
				.WithPayload(payloadText)
				.WithQualityOfServiceLevel(global::MQTTnet.Protocol.MqttQualityOfServiceLevel.AtLeastOnce)
				//.WithExactlyOnceQoS() With Losant this caused the publish to hang
				.WithAtLeastOnceQoS()
				//.WithRetainFlag() Losant doesn't allow this flag
				.Build();

			Console.WriteLine("PublishAsync start");
				mqttClient.PublishAsync(message).Wait();
			Console.WriteLine("PublishAsync finish");

			Thread.Sleep(30100);
		}
	}

	private static void MqttClient_ApplicationMessageReceived(object sender, MqttApplicationMessageReceivedEventArgs e)
	{
		Console.WriteLine($"ClientId:{e.ClientId} Topic:{e.ApplicationMessage.Topic} Payload:{e.ApplicationMessage.ConvertPayloadToString()}");
	}

	private static async void MqttClient_Disconnected(object sender, MqttClientDisconnectedEventArgs e)
	{
		Debug.WriteLine("Disconnected");
		await Task.Delay(TimeSpan.FromSeconds(5));

		try
		{
			await mqttClient.ConnectAsync(mqttOptions);
		}
		catch (Exception ex)
		{
			Debug.WriteLine("Reconnect failed {0}", ex.Message);
		}
	}
}

For this PoC I used the MQTTnet package which is available via NuGet. It appeared to be reasonably well supported and has had recent updates.

Overall the initial configuration went really smoothly, I found the dragging of blocks onto the dashboard and configuring them worked well.

Losant device configuration screen with trace logging

Losant .Net Core V2 client uploading simulated sensor readings

The device log made bringing up a new device easy and the error messages displayed when I had badly formatted payloads were helpful (unlike many other packages I have used).

I put a button block on the overview screen, associated it with a command publication and my client reliably received messages when the button was pressed

Losant .Net Core V2 client processing command

Overall the Losant experience was pretty good and I’m going to spend some more time working with the application designer, devices recipes, webhooks, integrations and workflows etc. to see how well it works for a “real-world” project.