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What Is MQTT?

What is MQTT?

MQTT is a messaging protocol, a set of rules for Internet of Things (IoT) devices transmitting and receiving data. Choosing a messaging protocol is a bit like a writer choosing which style guide to refer to. Wikipedia’s entry on MQTT begins somewhat mysteriously. “MQTT (originally an initialism of MQ Telemetry Transport)…” 


MQTT is what’s called an orphan initialism, meaning its, well, meaning is no longer connected to its origin. These days, “MQTT” is just letters. It’s not an abbreviation at all. It’s sort of like a really software engineer-y version of MTV (which, it might surprise you, doesn’t technically or legally stand for anything in 2023). 

Transporting telemetry like it’s 1999

MQTT was developed in 1999 for the oil and gas industry. Engineers needed a reliable way to collect data produced by sensors monitoring remote pipelines. That’s the “Telemetry” in “Telemetry Transport.” 

But a telemetry communication pattern is typically a one-way conversation. Contrast that with a “publish/subscribe” pattern, which is more like a group chat, where multiple devices in an ecosystem can send messages back and forth to each other and a central controller. A good example of this might start with a wearable glucose monitor.

That device could be connected to a mobile app that uses the publish/subscribe pattern to communicate real-time blood sugar data to the wearer. The app can distribute the data to any other subscribers too, such as to family members or healthcare providers, or send commands to the monitor.

When other industries began to adopt MQTT and expand its capabilities, it evolved into an all-purpose IoT protocol for data collection and device management. Now, MQTT supports the publish/subscribe pattern (and others, like request/response) too. 

What makes MQTT so popular?

According to the Eclipse Foundation’s “IoT and Edge Developer Survey Report” released in September of 2022, developers use MQTT as their messaging protocol 41% of the time. That makes sense. MQTT is wildly flexible, not just in terms of the kind of communication patterns it supports but in terms of its scalability. There are lighter-weight protocols available (the Constrained Application Protocol, or CoAP, being one of the most notable) that use fewer system resources and consume less bandwidth, but that makes them harder to scale.

And while there are more robust protocols with more features (looking at you, AMQP), MQTT seems to be in that Goldilocks Zone for IoT engineers. It’s why MQTT is the go-to choice for the Onymos System Integrations team. 

Whether you choose to use MQTT or not, you can use our first IoT feature, Onymos Edge, as a drop-in universal translator for data connectivity. It’s built to support the messaging protocol your ecosystem needs. Edge securely connects your “thing,” whatever it is, to the Internet and manages all the time-consuming overhead. 

It’s just one piece of our IoT app dev platform that also includes a pre-built, extensible dashboard for device management and data analysis. 

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