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Top 5 FAQs on MQTT Sparkplug and How HiveMQ Can Help

by Ravi Subramanyan
8 min read

On November 30, 2022, Ryan Bateman and I presented a HiveMQ webinar titled MQTT Sparkplug: A Game Changer for Adopting IIoT and Digital Transformation.

We talked about how Sparkplug sits on top of MQTT and provides additional benefits for IIoT use cases in manufacturing. This extended functionality includes data models, store/forward, state management, and topic name structure.

We also examined how other industries used Sparkplug and showed various architectural use case configurations. Each example showed Sparkplug’s role in auto-discovery, data conceptualization, and seamless bidirectional data movement.

Lastly, we discussed the Sparkplug 3.0 specification released in December 2022, along with a Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) used to validate vendor solutions for Sparkplug Compatibility. During this discussion, we examined HiveMQ’s role in TCK usage.

HiveMQ was the first company to be certified as Sparkplug compatible by the Eclipse Foundation, conforming to the Sparkplug 3.0 specification. As a part of the Sparkplug Working Group of the Eclipse Foundation, HiveMQ is actively defining the Sparkplug specification to enable current and future manufacturing customer use cases.

Watch the recording of the webinar here:

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Top Frequently Asked Questions on MQTT Sparkplug

During the webinar, we received repeated questions about several topics. Here are the answers to the top five categories of questions we received:

1. How do you handle sending or receiving data from devices/applications that don’t support Sparkplug?

To share data in the Sparkplug ecosystem from devices/sensors/machines that don’t support Sparkplug we use the Edge of Network (EoN) node. An EoN node is a physical or logical gateway device capable of talking to sensors/devices/machines using their proprietary languages. The node then presents the data to the broker over Sparkplug using a data model that contains the hierarchy of the underlying connected subsystem so that other Sparkplug-enabled entities in the system can identify that.

2. What protocols do EoN devices support? How can it share Sparkplug payloads?

Edge of Network Nodes (EoN) supports hundreds of protocols and can talk to various field devices using those protocols. The common ones are OPC UA, Modbus, MTConnect, Profinet, and Ethernet IP. The EoN device then presents that data in a Sparkplug data payload to the data broker to present a single source of truth to the entire system.

3. How is the Sparkplug data shared from local factory sites to enterprise sites handled by HiveMQ?

HiveMQ offers numerous Extensions, which are applications built on top of the core HiveMQ offering using the HiveMQ Software Development toolkit (SDK). These extensions provide additional functionality to the HiveMQ broker. Using these SDKs, customers can develop custom extensions.

An example of a HiveMQ extension is called the Bridge Extension. The Bridge extension allows local HiveMQ brokers at individual sites to bridge the data to the HiveMQ broker on the enterprise. This allows free and secure data movement between locations and enterprises.

4. What monitoring tools can integrate with HiveMQ Sparkplug data?

HiveMQ provides a specialized control center that allows customers to quickly and reliably monitor key metrics of their HiveMQ installation. In the control center, a wide range of analytics enable administrators to closely examine information for each client and quickly identify irregular client behavior. For example, one could easily recognize a client that drops messages. The control center also provides a convenient way for administrators to complete administrative tasks such as disconnecting a specific client. Consistent with HiveMQ principles, the control center can smoothly scale to millions of concurrently-connected MQTT clients.

5. Can you provide an overview of the authorization and authentication process between HiveMQ broker and other IoT devices?

Apart from offering TLS encryption of data at rest, HiveMQ also offers an extension named Enterprise Security Extension(ESE) for data in motion. The HiveMQ Enterprise Security Extension allows you to integrate existing enterprise security systems into your HiveMQ device authentication and authorization workflow. It provides a single source of truth for device authentication and authorization information across multiple HiveMQ brokers operating in a cluster and management for the security information. The HiveMQ Enterprise Security Extensions include the following capabilities:

  • Integration with third-party enterprise security systems, like SQL databases, OAuth/OpenID Connect provider via JSON Web Tokens, LDAP server, and MS Active Directory

  • Allow for fine-grained authorization rules that can specify permissions for specific clients or groups of clients

  • Provides a structured access log for tracking security-related device information

  • Access control for the HiveMQ Control Center

For further information, please visit our MQTT Sparkplug Solution. To implement MQTT Sparkplug specification in your industry 4.0 setup, to bring OT IT data interoperability and accelerate digital transformation, try out HIveMQ MQTT Platform today.

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Ravi Subramanyan

Ravi Subramanyan, Director of Industry Solutions, Manufacturing at HiveMQ, has extensive experience delivering high-quality products and services that have generated revenues and cost savings of over $10B for companies such as Motorola, GE, Bosch, and Weir. Ravi has successfully launched products, established branding, and created product advertisements and marketing campaigns for global and regional business teams.

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