TTN V3 Connector Revisited

Earlier in the year I built Things Network(TTN) V2 and V3 connectors and after using these in production applications I have learnt a lot about what I had got wrong, less wrong and what I had got right.

Using a TTN V3 MQTT Application integration wasn’t a great idea. The management of state was very complex. The storage of application keys in a app.settings file made configuration easy but was bad for security.

The use of Azure Key Vault in the TTNV2 connector was a good approach, but the process of creation and updating of the settings needs to be easier.

Using TTN device registry as the “single source of truth” was a good decision as managing the amount of LoRaWAN network, application and device specific configuration in an Azure IoT Hub would be non-trivial.

Using a Webhooks Application Integration like the TTNV2 connector is my preferred approach.

The TTNV2 Connector’s use of Azure Storage Queues was a good idea as they it provide an elastic buffer between the different parts of the application.

The use of Azure Functions to securely ingest webhook calls and write them to Azure Storage Queues with output bindingts should simplify configuration and deployment. The use of Azure Storage Queue input bindings to process messages is the preferred approach.

The TTN V3 processing of JSON uplink messages into a structure that Azure IoT Central could ingest is a required feature

The TTN V2 and V3 support for the Azure Device Provisioning Service(DPS) is a required feature (mandated by Azure IoT Central). The TTN V3 connector support for DTDLV2 is a desirable feature. The DPS implementation worked with Azure IoT Central but I was unable to get the DeviceClient based version working.

Using DPS to pre-provision devices in Azure IoT Hubs and Azure IoT Central by using the TTN Application Registry API then enumerating the TTN applications, then devices needs to be revisited as it was initially slow then became quite complex.

The support for Azure IoT Hub connection strings was a useful feature, but added some complexity. This plus basic Azure IoT Hub DPS support(No Azure IoT Central support) could be implemented in a standalone application which connects via Azure Storage Queue messages.

The processing of Azure IoT Central Basic, and Request commands then translating the payloads so they work with TTN V3 is a required feature. The management of Azure IoT Hub command delivery confirmations (abandon, complete and Reject) is a required feature.

I’m considering building a new TTN V3 connector but is it worth the effort as TTN has one now?

TTI V3 Gateway Azure IoT Central Digital Twin Definition Language(DTDL) support

Over the last couple of days I have added limited Digital Twin Definition Language(DTDLV2) support to my The Things Industries(TTI) V3 connector so that Azure IoT Central devices can be “zero touch” provisioned. For this blog post I used five Seeeduino LoRaWAN devices left over from another abandoned project.

The first step was to configure and Azure IoT Central enrollment group (ensure “Automatically connect devices in this group” is on) and copy the IDScope and Group Enrollment key to the appsettings.json file (see sample file below for more detail)

Azure IoT Central Enrollment Group configuration

Then I created an Azure IoT Central template for the seeeduino LoRAWAN devices which are running software (developed with the Arduino tooling) that read values from a Grove – Temperature&Humidity sensor. The naming of telemetry properties in specified by the Cayenne Low Power Protocol(LPP) encoder/decoder (I check the decoded payload in TTI EndDevice “Live Data” tab).

Configuring Seeeduino LoRaWAN device template

Then I mapped the Azure IoT Central Device Group to my Azure IoT Central Enrollment Group

Associating Device Group with Group Enrollment configuration

The Device Template @Id can be configured as the “default” template for all the devices in a TTI application in the app.settings.json file.

{
...
   "ProgramSettings": {
      "Applications": {
...
      "seeeduinolorawan": {
        "AzureSettings": {
           "DeviceProvisioningServiceSettings": {
              "IdScope": "...",
              "GroupEnrollmentKey": "..."
            }
         },
         "DTDLModelId": "dtmi:ttnv3connectorclient:SeeeduinoLoRaWAN4cz;1",
         "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
         "DeviceIntegrationDefault": true,
         "DevicePageSize": 10
      }
   }.
...

The Device Template @Id can also be set using a dtdlmodelid attribute in a TTI end device settings so devices can be individually configured.

TTI Application EndDevice dtdlmodelid attribute usage

At startup the TTI Gateway enumerates through the devices in each application configured in the app.settings.json. The Azure Device Provisioning Service(DPS) is used to retrieve each device’s connection string and configure it in Azure IoT Central if required.

Azure IoT Central Device Group with no provisioned Devices
TTI Connector application connecting and provisioning EndDevices
Azure IoT Central devices mapped to an Azure IoT Central Template via the modelID

The ProvisioningRegistrationAdditionalData optional parameter of the DPS RegisterAsync method has a JSON property which is used to the specify the device ModelID.

using (var transport = new ProvisioningTransportHandlerAmqp(TransportFallbackType.TcpOnly))
{
	ProvisioningDeviceClient provClient = ProvisioningDeviceClient.Create( 
		Constants.AzureDpsGlobalDeviceEndpoint,
		deviceProvisiongServiceSettings.IdScope,
		securityProvider,
		transport);

	DeviceRegistrationResult result;

	if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(modelId))
	{
		ProvisioningRegistrationAdditionalData provisioningRegistrationAdditionalData = new ProvisioningRegistrationAdditionalData()
		{
			JsonData = $"{{\"modelId\": \"{modelId}\"}}"
		};

		result = await provClient.RegisterAsync(provisioningRegistrationAdditionalData, stoppingToken);
	}
	else
    {
		result = await provClient.RegisterAsync(stoppingToken);
	}

	if (result.Status != ProvisioningRegistrationStatusType.Assigned)
	{
		_logger.LogError("Config-DeviceID:{0} Status:{1} RegisterAsync failed ", deviceId, result.Status);

		return false;
	}

	IAuthenticationMethod authentication = new DeviceAuthenticationWithRegistrySymmetricKey(result.DeviceId, (securityProvider as SecurityProviderSymmetricKey).GetPrimaryKey());

	deviceClient = DeviceClient.Create(result.AssignedHub, authentication, transportSettings);
}

My implementation was “inspired” by TemperatureController project in the PnP Device Samples.

Azure IoT Central Dashboard with Seeeduino LoRaWAN devices around my house that were “automagically” provisioned

I need to do some testing to confirm my code works reliably with both DPS and user provided connection strings. The RegisterAsync call is currently taking about four seconds which could be an issue for TTI applications with many devices.

TTI V3 Gateway Azure IoT Hub Support

After a couple of weeks work my The Things Industries(TTI) V3 gateway is in beta testing. For this blog post I have configured five Seeeduino LoRaWAN devices. My sensor nodes connect to an Azure IoT Hub with a Shared Access Signature(SAS) device policy connection string. I’m using Device Twin Explorer to display Telemetry from and send messages to the sensor nodes. I have also configured Azure Stream Analytics and PowerBI to graph telemetry from the sensor nodes.

Device Twin Explorer displaying telemetry from one of the Seeeduino devices

My integration uses only queued messages as often they won’t be delivered to the sensor node immediately, especially if the sensor node only sends an uplink message every 30 minutes/hour/day.

The confirmed flag should be used with care as the Azure IoT Hub messages may expire before a delivery Ack/Nack/Failed is received from the TTI.

PowerBI graph of temperature and humidity in my garage over 24 hours

To send a downlink message, TTI needs a LoRaWAN port number (plus optional queue, confirmed and priority values) which is specified in the Azure IoT Hub message custom properties.

Device explorer displaying a raw payload message which has been confirmed delivered
TTI device live data tab displaying raw payload in downlink message information tab
Azure IoT Connector console application sending raw payload to sensor node with confirmation ack
Arduino monitor displaying received raw payload from TTI

If the Azure IoT Hub message payload is valid JSON it is copied into the payload decoded downlink message property. and if it is not valid JSON it assumed to be a Base64 encoded value and copied into the payload raw downlink message property.

try
{
	// Split over multiple lines in an attempt to improve readability. A valid JSON string should start/end with {/} for an object or [/] for an array
	if (!(payloadText.StartsWith("{") && payloadText.EndsWith("}"))
										&&
		(!(payloadText.StartsWith("[") && payloadText.EndsWith("]"))))
	{
		throw new JsonReaderException();
	}

	downlink.PayloadDecoded = JToken.Parse(payloadText);
}
catch (JsonReaderException)
{
	downlink.PayloadRaw = payloadText;
}

Like the Azure IoT Central JSON validation I had to add a check that the string started with a “{” and finished with a “}” (a JSON object) or started with a “[” and finished with a “]” (a JSON array) as part of the validation process.

Device explorer displaying a JSON payload message which has been confirmed delivered

I normally wouldn’t use exceptions for flow control but I can’t see a better way of doing this.

TTI device live data tab displaying JSON payload in downlink message information tab
Azure IoT Connector console application sending JSON payload to sensor node with confirmation ack
Arduino monitor displaying received JSON payload from TTI

The build in TTI decoder only supports downlink decoded payloads with property names “value_0” through “value_x” custom encoders may support other property names.

TTI V3 Gateway Azure IoT Central Support

After a couple of weeks work my The Things Industries(TTI) V3 gateway is in beta testing. For this blog post the client is a GHI Electronics Fezduino with a RAK811 LPWAN Evaluation Board(EVB). My test device was configured in Azure IoT Central by the Device Provisioning Service(DPS) and I then manually migrated the device to each of the four templates used in this post.

The first step was to display the temperature and barometric pressure values from the Seeedstudio Grove BMP180 attached to my sensor node.

Sensor node displaying temperature and barometric pressure values
Azure IoT Central temperature and barometric pressure telemetry configuration
Azure IoT Central Telemetry Dashboard displaying temperature and barometric pressure values

The next step was to configure a simple Azure IoT Central command to send to the sensor node. This was a queued request with no payload. An example of this sort of command would be a request for a sensor node to reboot or turn on an actuator.

My integration uses only offline queued commands as often messages won’t be delivered to the sensor node immediately, especially if the sensor node only sends a message every half hour/hour/day. The confirmed flag should be used with care as the Azure IoT Hub messages may expire before a delivery Ack/Nack/Failed is received from the TTI and it consumes downlink bandwidth.

if (message.Properties.ContainsKey("method-name"))
{
}

I determine an Azure IoT Hub message is an Azure IoT Central command by the presence of the “method-name” property. If the Azure IoT Central command does not have a request payload the Azure IoT Hub message payload will contain a single “@” character so the Azure IoT Connector sends a TTI downlink message with an empty raw payload via the TTI Data API(MQTT).

if (payloadText.CompareTo("@") != 0)
{
   .
}
else
{
   downlink.PayloadRaw = "";
}
Azure IoT Central command with out a request payload value command configuration

To send a downlink message, TTI needs a LoRaWAN port number (plus optional queue, confirmed and priority values) which can’t be provided via the Azure IoT Central command setup so these values are configured in the app.settings file.

Each TTI application has zero or more Azure IoT Central command configurations which supply the port, confirmed, priority and queue settings.

  "ProgramSettings": {
    "Applications": {
      "application1": {
        "AzureSettings": {
          ...
          }
        },
        "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
        "DeviceIntegrationDefault": false,
        "MethodSettings": {
          "Reboot": {
            "Port": 21,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
        }
      },
      "seeeduinolorawan": {
        "AzureSettings": {
        }
        "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
        "DeviceIntegrationDefault": true,
        "DevicePageSize": 10
      }
    },
    "TheThingsIndustries": {
...
   }
}
Azure IoT Central simple command dashboard
Azure IoT Central simple command initiation
Azure IoT TTI connector application sending a simple command to my sensor node
Sensor node display simple command information. The note message payload is empty

The next step was to configure a more complex Azure IoT Central command to send to the sensor node. This was a queued request with a single value payload. An example of this sort of command could be setting the speed of a fan or the maximum temperature of a freezer for an out of band (OOB) notification to be sent.

Azure IoT Central single value command configuration
  "ProgramSettings": {
    "Applications": {
      "application1": {
        "AzureSettings": {
          ...
          }
        },
        "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
        "DeviceIntegrationDefault": false,
        "MethodSettings": {
          "Reboot": {
            "Port": 21,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
          "value_0": {
            "Port": 30,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
          "value_1": {
            "Port": 30,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
        }
      },
      "seeeduinolorawan": {
        "AzureSettings": {
        }
        "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
        "DeviceIntegrationDefault": true,
        "DevicePageSize": 10
      }
    },
    "TheThingsIndustries": {
...
   }
}

The value_0 settings are for the minimum temperature the value_1 settings are for the maximum temperature value.

Azure IoT Central single value command initiation
Azure IoT TTI connector application sending a single value command to my sensor node
Sensor node displaying single value command information. There are two downlink messages and each payload contains a single value

The single value command payload contains the textual representation of the value e.g. “true”/”false” or “1.23” which are also valid JSON. This initially caused issues as I was trying to splice a single value into the decoded payload.

I had to add a check that the string started with a “{” and finished with a “}” (a JSON object) or started with a “[” and finished with a “]” (a JSON array) as part of the validation process.

For a single value command the payload decoded has a single property with the method-name value as the name and the payload as the value. For a command with a JSON payload the message payload is copied into the PayloadDecoded.

I normally wouldn’t use exceptions for flow control but I can’t see a better way of doing this.

	try
	{
		// Split over multiple lines to improve readability
		if (!(payloadText.StartsWith("{") && payloadText.EndsWith("}"))
									&&
			(!(payloadText.StartsWith("[") && payloadText.EndsWith("]"))))
		{
			throw new JsonReaderException();
		}

		downlink.PayloadDecoded = JToken.Parse(payloadText);
	}
	catch (JsonReaderException)
	{
		try
		{
			JToken value = JToken.Parse(payloadText);

			downlink.PayloadDecoded = new JObject(new JProperty(methodName, value));
		}
		catch (JsonReaderException)
		{
			downlink.PayloadDecoded = new JObject(new JProperty(methodName, payloadText));
		}
	}

The final step was to configure an another Azure IoT Central command with a JSON payload to send to the sensor node. A “real-world” example of this sort of command would be setting the minimum and maximum temperatures of a freezer in a single downlink message.

Azure IoT Central JSON payload command setup
Azure IoT Central JSON payload command payload configuration
  "ProgramSettings": {
    "Applications": {
      "application1": {
        "AzureSettings": {
          ...
          }
        },
        "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
        "DeviceIntegrationDefault": false,
        "MethodSettings": {
          "Reboot": {
            "Port": 21,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
          "value_0": {
            "Port": 30,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
          "value_1": {
            "Port": 30,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          },
          "TemperatureOOBAlertMinimumAndMaximum": {
            "Port": 30,
            "Confirmed": true,
            "Priority": "normal",
            "Queue": "push"
          }
        }
      },
      "seeeduinolorawan": {
        "AzureSettings": {
        }
        "MQTTAccessKey": "...",
        "DeviceIntegrationDefault": true,
        "DevicePageSize": 10
      }
    },
    "TheThingsIndustries": {
...
   }
}
Azure IoT Central JSON payload command initiation

Azure IoT TTI connector application sending a JSON payload command to my sensor node
Sensor node displaying JSON command information. There is a single payload which contains a two values

The build in TTI decoder only supports downlink decoded payloads with property names “value_0” through “value_x” which results in some odd command names and JSON payload property names. (Custom encoders may support other property names). Case sensitivity of some configuration values also tripped me up.