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Paho MQTT Javascript: A Developer’s Guide to Building MQTT Applications with JavaScript

Table of Contents

MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) is a lightweight publish-subscribe messaging protocol optimized for IoT and mobile applications. MQTT allows devices to publish data to a central broker which then routes the messages to clients that have subscribed to those data streams.

The MQTT protocol provides efficient, low-bandwidth communication between devices which is ideal for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Paho MQTT Javascript implements the MQTT client protocol in JavaScript, making it easy to add MQTT capabilities to your web and Node.js applications. This guide will cover the key concepts and usage of the Paho MQTT Javascript library.

What is MQTT?

MQTT is based on a publish-subscribe architecture pattern. Devices publish messages to an MQTT broker on certain topics. Other clients can subscribe to those topics and receive the messages. This allows efficient distribution of data between many devices.

The MQTT protocol is designed to work on low-bandwidth, high-latency networks. This makes it ideal for IoT applications where devices connect over unreliable networks.

Key features of MQTT include:

  • Lightweight protocol, requiring minimal network bandwidth
  • Supports publish-subscribe architecture with topics and message brokers
  • Enables decoupled communication between distributed devices and applications
  • Quality of service levels allow tuning message delivery guarantees
  • Built-in support for security features like SSL/TLS and client authentication

Benefits of Paho MQTT Javascript

Paho MQTT Javascript provides an MQTT client implementation in JavaScript for Node.js and web browsers. Key benefits:

  • Enables adding MQTT capabilities to JavaScript apps
  • Integrates well with other web services, APIs, and web technologies
  • Supports reliable messaging with persistence and delivery status
  • Secure communication through SSL/TLS encryption
  • Lightweight footprint suitable for web and mobile apps
  • Compatible with many popular MQTT brokers
  • Open source with active development community

For web developers needing MQTT messaging, Paho MQTT Javascript makes it easy to get started without implementing the MQTT protocol from scratch.

Installing Paho MQTT Javascript

Paho MQTT Javascript can be installed using npm:

npm install paho-mqtt

This will install the paho-mqtt module along with dependencies like websocket-stream and bufferutil.

Be sure to also install the TypeScript type definitions:

npm install @types/paho-mqtt --save-dev 

With the library installed, it can be imported into your JavaScript code:

import Paho from 'paho-mqtt';

Using the Paho MQTT Javascript Client

The Paho MQTT Javascript client provides an API for interacting with MQTT brokers:

  • Connect to brokers using SSL/TLS
  • Publish messages to topics
  • Subscribe to topics and receive messages
  • Automatically reconnect if connection is lost
  • Configure quality of service and message persistence

Here is an overview of the key operations:

Create a Client

First create a Paho.Client instance, passing the broker URL and a client ID:

const client = new Paho.Client(brokerUrl, clientId);

Connect to a Broker

Connect the client to the broker:

client.connect({
  onSuccess: onConnect,
  useSSL: true
});

Publish a Message

Publish a message to a topic:

const payload = {temp: 22};
client.publish('sensors/temp', JSON.stringify(payload));

Subscribe to a Topic

Subscribe and register a callback:

client.subscribe('sensors/temp');
client.onMessageArrived = onMessage;

function onMessage(message) {
  // handle message
}

Handle Events

Register handlers for connection events:

client.onConnectionLost = onConnectionLost;

function onConnectionLost(responseObject) {
  // connection lost, take action
}  

This covers the basics of connecting a client, publishing, and subscribing. Refer to the Paho MQTT docs for more detailed usage examples.

Connecting to an MQTT Broker

To connect to a broker:

client.connect({
  onSuccess: () => {
    console.log('Connected!');
  },
  useSSL: true
});

The onSuccess callback will be invoked when the connection is established.

To publish messages, call client.publish(topic, message).

To subscribe, call client.subscribe(topic).

The client handles connecting, automatically reconnecting, and gracefully disconnecting from the broker.

Publishing and Subscribing to Topics

To subscribe:

client.subscribe('sensors/temp', {qos: 1}); 

The QoS (quality of service) controls delivery reliability.

To publish:

const payload = {
  temp: 22
};

client.publish('sensors/temp', JSON.stringify(payload));

The payload can be a string or serialized JSON.

Register callbacks to handle received messages:

client.onMessageArrived = onMessage;

function onMessage(message) {
  const data = JSON.parse(message.payloadString);
  
  // handle message
}

Understanding MQTT Quality of Service

MQTT defines three quality of service (QoS) levels:

  • QoS 0 โ€“ “At most once” delivery
  • QoS 1 โ€“ “At least once” delivery
  • QoS 2 โ€“ “Exactly once” delivery

QoS 0 is the fastest option, with no guarantee of delivery.

QoS 1 ensures messages are delivered at least once, but duplicates may occur.

QoS 2 guarantees each message is received exactly once by the broker. This has highest overhead.

Select an appropriate QoS level based on your application’s requirements:

  • Use QoS 0 for transient, non-critical data
  • Choose QoS 1 if occasional duplicates are acceptable
  • Use QoS 2 when delivery guarantees are critical

Implementing Secure Connections

To enable SSL/TLS encrypted connections:

client.connect({
  useSSL: true
});

This encrypts all communication between the client and broker.

Client certificate authentication can also be used:

const options = {
  ssl: {
    key: fs.readFileSync('client.key'), 
    cert: fs.readFileSync('client.crt')
  }
};

client.connect(options); 

This requires the client to present a valid certificate to connect.

Use access control lists and SSL/TLS to restrict access as needed.

Conclusion

Paho MQTT Javascript enables building full-featured MQTT clients in JavaScript for Node.js and web browsers. It has a straightforward API for publishing, subscribing, handling events, and configuring security and quality of service.For JavaScript developers needing to add MQTT messaging to their apps, Paho MQTT Javascript is an excellent choice to quickly get started. Refer to the documentation for detailed usage instructions and code examples.

Sarang Sharma

Sarang Sharma

Sarang Sharma is Software Engineer at Bito with a robust background in distributed systems, chatbots, large language models (LLMs), and SaaS technologies. With over six years of experience, Sarang has demonstrated expertise as a lead software engineer and backend engineer, primarily focusing on software infrastructure and design. Before joining Bito, he significantly contributed to Engati, where he played a pivotal role in enhancing and developing advanced software solutions. His career began with foundational experiences as an intern, including a notable project at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, to develop an assistive website for the visually challenged.

Written by developers for developers

This article was handcrafted with by the Bito team.

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