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What Will MQTT 5 Do for Machinists?

The latest upgrade of Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) makes the protocol more robust, more secure, and ultimately ready to be used across IoT. That’s a big deal for everybody, and a big deal for machinists. Now we have a tool to facilitate easy communication from CNC machines, sensors, and probes to the entire network. And it turns out that all the popular kids will use it too.

OK, let’s start with some context for what makes MQTT so important and necessary.

An Internet of Disconnected, Unintelligible Things

Without a shared protocol for communicating data, every sensor requires its own unique broker to translate data into useful information. That would be a bit like what you would get if instead of G-Code each machine had its own unique language to translate CAM into numerically controlled motion. Each machine would require a unique CAM application, and that would be incredibly annoying.

For the same reason the Internet of Things is a vision more than a reality… UNTIL we use a shared protocol for transferring data from thing to actionable information. Once every ‘thing’ communicates in the same way, it becomes much easier to create and implement new ‘things’ onto the network. You could add sensors without any additional software. You could have any system on the network ‘listen’ to those sensors directly without any intermediary application to decode them.

That communication protocol would change our Internet of Disconnected Unintelligible Things into a real IoT. Well, though it’s been like watching glue harden for the last — oh, 20 years — MQTT is finally doing just that. This latest version MQTT 5 seals the deal.

Why they skipped MQTT 4 and went straight to 5

Make no mistake: MQTT 5 is an elegant step forward. It provides more robust features that are necessary to take it to the next level of usability, but at the same time it doesn’t break version 3.1.1. However, it’s important to note that they skipped a version for code-based reasons, not because they were trying to make MQTT sound like a big deal to us.

MQTT is designed to be incredibly lightweight. When initially developed in 1999 it supported pipeline sensors spread across countless miles, sensors with the IQ of a doormat, but with so many the information needed to be sent in the most efficient way possible. In fact MQTT code provides only one byte of data in which to communicate version number, giving you just one digit. The last update (called 3.1.1 in the human world) took the label “4” in the protocol. Leaving 5 for this update.

So… actually the exact opposite of Spinal Tap’s amps.

Even still, the skip to 5 could actually be truer than truth. Because the evolution sets the foundation for a true IoT in a way that 3.1.1 didn’t quite reach. If you’re interested in digging into the details, we highly recommend HiveMQ’s Introduction to MQTT5. But suffice it to say the new version is:

  • More scalable, which is insane
  • Secure, which is necessary
  • More formalized to make it easier to use

What Does MQTT 5 Mean for Machine Shops?

As machinists we are accustomed to working with highly specified tools, tools that relatively few people understand, much less support. Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) is revolutionary because it is a means of communicating between devices that is designed for broad applications but useful even for us. MQTT is used by manufacturers, engineers, transportation companies, smart home appliances, and more. Before version 5 we had tentatively accepted MQTT, but version 5 makes it even easier and more valuable to apply on the shop floor.

Here’s a current machining use-case of MQTT — eFlex, but this is only one of many. If you read through their offerings you can start to see how MQTT drives innovative services for manufacturers. 

But you don’t need to buy end-to-end solutions like eFlex to derive insane value. Check out this CDP Studio demo to see how easy it becomes to install, track, manage, and apply sensor data for shop applications. 

These aren’t industry standouts by any means, just examples of a few capabilities that MQTT 3.1.1 already delivers. They are like the first rocks in a landslide of Industry 4.0 systems…
Yes yes. If only there were a better term. Industry 4.0 is already old, and it is barely here.

Should we just skip to 5 then?

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