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The benefits of MQTT for smart buildings

More and more companies are seeing the benefits of using smart sensors to help their buildings talk. Smart-building sensor technology allows you to detect, measure and monitor energy use, air quality, temperature, machine performance, occupancy and more, all in real time. But how does the vast amount of data coming out of these sensors get turned into useable information?

It’s complicated. Like humans, there are a number of languages available to them, known in the computing world as protocols.

MQTT is one of the most popular protocols for the Internet of Things (IoT) systems – devices connected to the internet – and for mobile web apps. This article explores why it works so well for smart buildings.

What is MQTT?

MQTT stands for Message Queuing Telemetry Transport. It was invented in 1999 by Dr Andy Stanford-Clark of IBM and Arlen Nipper of Arcom (now Eurotech). It was originally intended to be a cost-effective way to connect monitoring devices used in the oil and gas industries to remote servers and is now used by thousands of businesses and applications across the world.

MQTT is what is known as a publish and subscribe system. Devices that use it can publish (transmit) and/or subscribe (receive) information, making it good for transferring information between devices and internet-based systems.

What are the benefits of using MQTT for smart buildings?

It’s efficient: In the smart buildings industry, where most devices will be small, mobile and have relatively low battery power, efficiency is vital. MQTT’s messages can be as small as 2mb and are capped at a maximum size of 256mb, meaning it uses less data and therefore less energy than some protocols, helping to conserve battery life. The small message sizes also make it perfect for instances where bandwidth is constrained, another important consideration for IoT systems.

It’s widely used: Because MQTT is so well suited to use in IoT it is one of the most commonly-used protocols and is used by some of the biggest platforms such as IBM Watson IoT and Microsoft Azure. This means devices that use MQTT are likely to easily sync with your existing systems.

It’s easy to implement: MQTT is an open protocol which means multiple devices from different manufacturers can talk to one another. This gives you more flexibility in designing your smart building systems and makes it easier to adopt across a wide variety of IoT devices and platforms. Closed protocols require you to buy all your components from one specific manufacturer in order for them to speak to one another.

It’s fast: In an arena where real-time data is crucial, you need a protocol that will get information to where it’s needed as quickly as possible. There’s little point using a smart sensor to monitor the air quality in a room if it’s likely to have changed by the time the data appears on your software platform.

If a protocol is the method used to get data from one place to another then MQTT could be considered as the electric car of protocols – lightweight, fast and energy efficient. Other protocols such as HTTP are more like diesel-powered buses – better at transporting larger volumes of data from one place to another but guzzling more fuel in the process.

In the IoT world, where speed, efficiency and agility are key, it’s easy to see why MQTT is one of the most popular protocols.

If you’re looking for smart-building technology that uses MQTT, check out our smart gateway. It converts sensor data into MQTT protocol and makes it securely available locally or via the cloud. Get in touch to find out more.


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