Quick Guide: Getting started with MQTT


April 6, 2020

Quick Guide: Getting started with MQTT

Many IoT applicationsbegin with a small number of connected devices and then grow over time to asubstantial number of devices. Therefore, it is important for organizations tounderstand how their IoT infrastructure will scale to handle an increase in thenumber of connected devices and the corresponding message throughput. 

So, it is vital toensure that your IoT application can scale to handle any anticipated growth inusage. That’s where MQTTcomes in.

What is MQTT ?

MQTT is the dominantstandard used in IoT communications. It allows assets/sensors to publish data,for example, a weather sensor can publish the current temperature, windmetrics, etc. MQTT also defines how consumers can receive that data.In environments usingLow Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) solutions, sensor data is sent overwireless where it is received by one or more central base stations. These dataare small as individual packets but massive when aggregated together, is thensent to analytics and visualization tools whether in the cloud or on-premises.Residing on top ofthe TCP/IP network stack, MQTT is a lightweight publish/subscribe messagingprotocol designed forlow-bandwidth, small size, low power usage, minimized data packets, highlatency, unreliable networks. MQTT’s features make it an excellent option forsending high volumes of sensor messages to analytics platforms and cloudsolutions.

How does MQTT work ?

The core of the MQTTprotocol are clients and servers that send many-to-many communications betweenmultiple clients using the following:

  • Topics provide a way of categorizing the typesof message that may be sent. As one example, if a sensor measures temperature,the topic might be defined as “TEMP” and the sensor sends messages labeled“TEMP.”
  • Publishers include the sensors that areconfigured to send out messages containing data. In the “TEMP” example, thesensor would be considered the publisher.
  • Inaddition to transmitting data, IoT devices can be configured as Subscribers that receive datarelated to pre-defined topics. Devices can subscribe to multiple topics.
  • The broker isthe server at the center of it all, transmitting published messages to serversor clients that have subscribed to specific topics.

Comparison between MQTT and HTTP protocols

FeaturesMQTTHTTPArchitecture It has publish/subscribe architecture. Here devices can publish any topics and can also subscribe for any topics for any updates. It has request/response means Client/Server architecture.Upper layer protocol It runs over TCP. It runs over TCP and UDP. Message size Small Large Message format Binary with 2Byte header ASCII format. Data security Yes, It uses SSL/TLS for security No, hence HTTPS is used to provide data security Complexity Simple Client more complex (ASCII parser) Encryption It encrypts payload data are not encrypted before transmission

Publish/Subscribe Model

MQTT clients aresplit into two groups: A sender (referred to as a publisher in MQTT) and aconsumer that receives the data (an MQTT subscriber). The publisher and thesubscriber do not know anything about each other, and, in fact, are never indirect contact with each other. A third component i.e. (MQTT broker) responsible for receiving all messages,filtering the messages, determining who is subscribed to each message, andsending the message to these subscribed clients.


Let’s say there is a device that has a BME280 sensor. Certainly, it wantsto send his readings to the broker. On the other side, a phone/desktopapplication wants to receive this temperature value. Therefore, 2 things willhappen:

  • Thedevice defines the topic it wants to publish on, ex: “temp” & “humidity”.Then, it publishes the message “temperature value” & “humidity value”.
  • Thephone/desktop application subscribes to the topic “temp” & “humidity”.Then, it receives the message that the device has published, which is thetemperature value or humidity value.

The broker role here is to take the message “temperature value” & “humidity value” and deliver it to phone/desktop application

NodeMCU — MQTT Basic Example

This example will show the basic MQTT protocol usage on the NodeMCU board.We use the MQTTBox as the MQTT client here, and we will use the NodeMCU to complete following operations:

  • Publish“hello world” to the topic “outTopic” every two seconds.
  • Subscribeto the topic “inTopic”, print out any received messages.
  • Itassumes the received payloads are strings not binaries.
  • Ifthe subscribed message is “1”, light the onboards LED.Turn off the onboard LEDif the message to subscribe is “0”.

It will reconnect to the server if the connection is lost using ablockingreconnect function. See the ‘mqtt_reconnect_nonblocking’ examplefor how toachieve the same result without blocking the main loop.

  • NodeMCU x1
  • USB cable x1
  • Arduino IDE(Version latest)

We need to install MQTT endpointlibrary(PubSubClient) to communicate with MQTT broker, please download the library from following link:https://github.com/knolleary/pubsubclientUnzip the above downloaded file, move the unzipped folder to Arduino IDElibrary folder.Open the Arduino IED,you can find the “pubsubclient” on the“Examples”column:

MQTTClient Installation:

We used the MQTTBox as the MQTT client. (You can also use another client )You will see this page after installation completed:As you can see below, I have created one:

Go to Create MQTT Client & fill the details, according to your need, then click on SAVE.

Upload sketch

For uploading, go with the below path:Open Arduino IDE–>File–>Example–>pubsubclient–>mqtt esp8266

Edit the code to fit your own WiFi and MQTTsettings as following operations:

MQTT  Server  Address Setting

You can use your own MQTT broker URL or IP address to set abovemqtt_server value. You can also use some famous free MQTT server to testthe project.const char* mqtt_server = “Your MQTT broker URL”;

Topic setting:
  • Make sure your MQTTclient publish topic is same as your Arduino sketch subscribe topic(inTopic here).
  • Make sure your MQTTclient subscribe topic is same as your Arduino sketch publish topic(outTopic here).
As you can see on the Sketch side:
Program Running Result:

Once the upload done, if the wifi hotspot name and password setting is ok,and MQTT broker is connected, open the Serial Monitor,you will see following result:

You can see the publish message “hello world” on the serial monitor. Then,open the MQTT client and publish payload “1” to the topic, this NodeMCU will recevie these messages bysubscribing to the “inTopic”,and the LED will be light.

Publish payload “0” to this topic, the NodeMCULED will be turnedoff.


NodeMCU — MQTT Basic

Online Free MQTT Brokers for Testing

You can also do some online testing on some Brokers. However, not to publish anything sensitive. Topics are accessible by anyone. BrokerServerPortsWebsocket Mosquitto iot.eclipse.org 1883 / 8883 N/A HiveMQ broker.hivemq.com 1883 8000 Mosquitto test.mosquitto.org 1883 / 8883 / 8884 8080 / 8081 HiveMQ broker.mqttdashboard.com 1883 N/A mosca test.mosca.io 1883 80


MQTT provides a lots of functions for the Internet of Things. It can help providing a great performance and create new area for messaging and can handle billion of things connected through the internet. It is a very light weight protocol that can work with every types of devices and work using a minimum bandwidth. Now-a-days facebook.com is using MQTT protocol for their messenger which working great in our messaging in social network.

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