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;
		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);

	// 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);

	// 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);

		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);

		var message = new MqttApplicationMessageBuilder()
		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).

Ubidots 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 ubidots MQTT API then format the topics and payloads correctly. The ubidots screen designer has “variables” (both actual sensors & synthetic calculated ones) which present as topics so I built a client which could subscribe to these.

.Net Core V2 MQTTnet client

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 deviceLabel;

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

		if (args.Length != 3)
			Console.WriteLine("[MQTT Server] [UserName] [Password] [ClientID]");
			Console.WriteLine("Press <enter> to exit");

		server = args[0];
		username = args[1];
		deviceLabel = args[2];

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

		mqttOptions = new MqttClientOptionsBuilder()
			.WithCredentials(username, "NotVerySecret")

		mqttClient.ApplicationMessageReceived += MqttClient_ApplicationMessageReceived;
		mqttClient.Disconnected += MqttClient_Disconnected;

		// Setup a subscription for commands sent to client
		string commandTopic = $"/v1.6/devices/{deviceLabel}/officetemperaturedesired/lv";

		//// Ubidots formatted client state update topic
		string stateTopic = $"/v1.6/devices/{deviceLabel}";

		while (true)
			string payloadText;
			double temperature = 22.0 + (DateTime.UtcNow.Millisecond / 1000.0);
			double humidity = 50 + (DateTime.UtcNow.Millisecond / 100.0);
			double speed = 10 + (DateTime.UtcNow.Millisecond / 100.0);
			Console.WriteLine($"Topic:{stateTopic} Temperature:{temperature:0.00} Humidity:{humidity:0} HeatPumpOn:{heatPumpOn}");

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

			// Second attempt to work out data format with "real" values injected
			//payloadText = @"{ ""officetemperature"":"+ temperature.ToString("F2") + @",""officehumidity"":" + humidity.ToString("F0") + @"}";

			// Third attempt with Jobject which sort of worked but number serialisation was sub optimal
			JObject payloadJObject = new JObject(); 
			payloadJObject.Add("OfficeTemperature", temperature.ToString("F2"));
			payloadJObject.Add("OfficeHumidity", humidity.ToString("F0"));

			if (heatPumpOn)
				payloadJObject.Add("HeatPumpOn", 1);
				payloadJObject.Add("HeatPumpOn", 0);
			heatPumpOn = !heatPumpOn;
			payloadText = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(payloadJObject);

			// Forth attempt with JOBject, timestamps and gps 
			JObject payloadJObject = new JObject();
			JObject context = new JObject();
			context.Add("lat", "-43.5309325");
			context.Add("lng", "172.637119");// Christchurch Cathederal
			//context.Add("timestamp", ((DateTimeOffset)(DateTime.UtcNow)).ToUnixTimeSeconds()); // This field is optional and can be commented out
			JObject position = new JObject();
			position.Add("context", context);
			position.Add("value", "0");
			payloadJObject.Add("postion", position);
			payloadText = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(payloadJObject);

			var message = new MqttApplicationMessageBuilder()
			//.WithExactlyOnceQoS()// With ubidots this caused the publish to hang

			Console.WriteLine("PublishAsync start");
			Console.WriteLine("PublishAsync finish");


	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)
		await Task.Delay(TimeSpan.FromSeconds(5));

			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.

Variable configuration with device location map

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

The configuration of a “synthetic” variable (converting a temperature to Fahrenheit for readers from the Unites States of America, Myanmar & Liberia ) took a couple of goes to get right.

I may have missed something (April 2019) but the lack of boolean datatype variables was a bit odd.

Synthetic (calculated) variable configuration

I put a slider control on my test dashboard, associated it with a variable and my client reliably received messages when the slider was moved.

Dashboard with slider for desired temperature

Overall the Ubidots experience was pretty good and I’m going to spend some more time working with the device, data, users configurations to see how well it works for a “real-world” project.

I found (April 2019) that to get MQTTS going I had to install a Ubidots provided certificate

MQTT with TLS guidance and certificate download link

When my .Net Core application didn’t work I tried one my MQTT debugging tools and they didn’t work either with the Ubitdots MQTT brokers. The Ubidots forum people were quite helpful, but making it not necessary to install a certificate or making it really obvious in the documentation that this was required would be a good thing.