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Version: 1.0.1

Overview

thin-edge.io is an open-source IoT development toolbox designed to ease the development of smart IoT agents with a versatile set of ready-to-use software components that can be easily combined with application-specific extensions.

What

IoT agents typically run on the edge, at the frontier between IT cloud computing and OT industrial equipment. They act as gateways between the cloud and the devices embedded into smart equipment, machines or plants. The main functions and challenges are to:

  • establish a secure and reliable connection from the cloud to a fleet of smart equipment
  • provide a uniform way to monitor and control these assets despite the diversity of hardware and protocols
  • collect telemetry and monitoring data from the various sensors and processes running on the devices
  • process data with local analytics tools and push the relevant subset to the cloud
  • monitor, configure and update agents and the attached devices from the cloud.

How

To implement these functions, thin-edge.io proposes to design an IoT agent using a combination of software components, which are deployed on the main gateway device as well as the set of interconnected embedded devices that form the equipment.

A typical thin-edge.io setup consists of the following components:

  • a local MQTT broker that is used as a message bus between all the components of the equipment
  • an MQTT bridge connection between the local message bus and the remote cloud end-point
  • thin-edge.io (out-of-the-box) device management services which provide features such as monitoring, configuration and software management
  • equipment-specific services that interact with the hardware that make the equipment, publishing the collected data and forwarding operation requests on the MQTT bus as well as abstracting various device specific protocols
  • a cloud-specific service that maps the messages exchanged on the local bus with messages sent to or received from the cloud

The first point to note is that all these software components can be provided by independent vendors: by the thin-edge.io open-source project, by the equipment maker, by the IoT application developer or even by cloud providers, hardware manufacturers and protocol implementors. Their interoperability is based on:

  • ubiquitous protocols: JSON over MQTT and HTTP,
  • dynamic and loose inter-process communication with no constraint on programming tools nor software placement,
  • domain-specific APIs that can be used independently: for measurements, events, alarms, configurations, software updates, firmware updates,
  • various extension points: for child devices, services, operations and clouds.

The second key point is that thin-edge.io not only defines a set of APIs but also provides a set of ready-to-use software components implementing the associated features. Out-of-the-box thin-edge.io supports telemetry and device management features on the main devices and child devices. These features are implemented by composable software components that:

  • can be freely adapted, combined, removed or replaced
  • provide the foundation to start the development of an agent with sensible defaults
  • on top of which the specificities required by smart IoT agents can be incrementally implemented

Why

The aim of thin-edge.io is to reduce the development effort to build smart IoT agents without compromising on quality and feature completeness.

thin-edge.io's goal is to deliver:

  • ready-to-use components provide sound foundations
  • interchangeable software components make it possible to adapt the generic agent to specific contexts
  • simple, yet flexible, extension points enable custom functionality to be added in a modular fashion

Who

The flexibility of thin-edge.io means that it can be used at different levels.

  • As a beginner, the simplest option is to use thin-edge.io as a pre-assembled agent, ready to be installed on a device and configured for a cloud account. The getting started guide gives a taste of what can be done with thin-edge.io out-of-the-box
  • As a cloud operator, no direct access to a device is required, except for occasional troubleshooting, as most of the operations can be done remotely. However, being able to operate directly on a device gives the required understanding to administrate a fleet of thin-edge.io devices with confidence
  • As a device operator, be prepared to operate a device that is not running the pre-assembled thin-edge.io agent, but an agent specifically designed for your equipment and application. Among all the available features, some might have been configured differently, disabled, extended, replaced or even added
  • As an agent developer, the nature of thin-edge.io lets you start the design of an agent with the pre-assembled agent and to incrementally configure, adapt and extend the agent to meet the requirements of the equipment and application. Part of this work can be to implement software components that interact with thin-edge.io through its JSON API over MQTT and HTTP and are to be deployed on the main devices and the attached child devices
  • As a contributor, you can extend thin-edge.io using its Rust API, when loosely coupling components over MQTT and HTTP is not appropriate (e.g. for performance reasons)