Merging MQTT with Database Support for Enhanced Communications Automation

The semi-recent history of the digitization of a variety of industries has introduced critical technologies responsible for communications protocols; these technologies, however, have become increasingly outmoded. Their innovations did not account for the modern need of shared information, causing a great clash between operations and IT who are unable to connect effectively.

DBTA held a webinar titled, “Is MQTT Becoming the De Facto Standard of Industry 4.0? The Impact of IoT on Industrial Automation Protocols,” featuring speakers Evaldo H. Oliveira, director of business development at FairCom, and Walter Johnson, senior engineer at FairCom, who explored the complex relationship between OT and IIoT teams that result from outdated communication protocols and technologies—and how MQTT is the resolution for it.

Architectures designed in the past were built for supervision and control only, according to Oliveira; they were not intended to easily integrate with other systems to create expansive, shared networks. Communication technology like OPC-UA, Oliveira highlighted, cements the gap between OT and IIoT. OPC-UA, an extremely comprehensive protocol, is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to modern industry. Its comprehensiveness is its deficit—rarely can a system fully implement the entire specifications of OPC-UA, nor can they reasonably afford it. Expensive drivers for a system not designed to share information or adjust to change easily simply won’t cut the needs of modern companies.

OPC-UA’s 1:1 design cannot support the communicative needs of OT and IIoT today. Oliveira listed the numerous paradigms that present challenges towards OPC-UA and similar protocols, such as cloud flexibility, infinite amounts of devices, smart sensors with dynamic data points, and AI and ML processes. These features, seemingly intrinsic to innovative technology now, were not accounted for, or even conceived of, when protocols like OPC-UA were created.

MQTT began to rise in popularity once IBM decided to make it open source in 2011. As a community managed project, its utility begins to outshine old tech like OPC-UA, constantly being adapted and fitted to what modern industry calls for.

MQTT is a publisher-subscriber system that uses software to act as brokers of information, using a topic-based data point organizational strategy to deliver specified information to those requesting it, automatically. Someone who wants to consume particular information, under Topic A, for example, will receive that data once it is released from its publisher.

MQTT’s communication is reliable despite unreliable connectivity, employs bidirectional messaging for dynamic data flow, automates messaging, and is easy to implement within your machine. Unlike OPC-UA, MQTT does not force you to switch protocols during implementation; MQTT easily puts brokers in your current architecture to simplify and allow machines and publishers to coexist, allowing you to keep everything you had in its place.

Automated communication through MQTT effectively bridges the gap between OT and IIoT, allowing independent entities from those teams to subscribe to topics relevant to them. No longer is it difficult for IT teams to access control information for back-end processes, or for OT to receive information regarding IT operations. With MQTT, digitization invites collaboration rather than hindering it.

Despite its efficiencies, MQTT cannot serve mission critical obligations on its own. Oliveira then introduced FairCom EdgeMQ as the solution towards optimal MQTT performance, combining the protocol with a NoSQL and SQL database ensuring availability and reliability on top of your communication backbone.

EdgeMQ improves MQTT’s quality of service, using the database presence to default MQTT to the highest quality of service for messaging, compared to MQTT’s typical default of the lowest. The solution further guarantees delivery with high availability, using a Windows or Linux cluster to prevent data corruption and increase data resilience through replications. Delivery with history is also a guarantee for EdgeMQ users, allowing historical message delivery to new subscribers regardless of network connectivity. Data collection and storage does not stop due to poor network connectivity—data is buffered for you by FairCom.

Johnson demonstrated a live demo of FairCom EdgeMQ, providing viewers with a visual accompaniment of MQTT’s critical role in Industry 4.0.

To learn more about FairCom EdgeMQ and the company’s webinar-exclusive special offer, you can view an archived version of this webinar here.