Windows IoT Core and Azure IoT Hub – Putting the ‘I’ in IoT

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    Hello, Makers!

    Earlier this year, we announced the availability of Windows IoT Core – a new edition of Windows designed for maker boards and small devices. We’ve been busy the past few months continuing to make improvements to the platform, with the goal of making Windows IoT Core the best platform for IoT developers and makers.

    Of course, we’re far from done. One challenge that we hear from the maker community is the ability to quickly and easily connect to the cloud. Certainly, we’ve seen it done, but it required jumping through a number of hoops. When you’re a maker, added tasks detract from your ultimate goal. You already have multiple priorities competing for your time, energy and attention: Connecting to the cloud shouldn’t be any harder than lighting up an LED.

    Fortunately, connecting your IoT device to the cloud has just become easier than ever. The process is straightforward, and best of all, is free for makers.

    Azure IoT Hub


    Azure IoT Hub is a Microsoft Azure cloud service that offers reliable and secure device-to-cloud and cloud-to-device messaging that scales to millions of devices. Yet getting started is simple, with a streamlined programming model and platforms and protocols you already know. With Azure IoT Hub, makers can get started with minimum effort and scale up your solution as its needs grow, without having to rewrite it or rework what you’ve already built.

    Getting started


    First, to deploy applications on Windows IoT Core, you’ll need to have Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 (or download the free Community edition here). You’ll also need an active Azure subscription (you can start with a free trial subscription), and then choose a free version of the Azure IoT Hub service.

    To set up an instance of the IoT Hub, log on to the Azure Portal and click “New” on the jumpbar on the left, then “Internet of Things,” then “IoT Hub.” (The process is straightforward, but if you want additional pointers, there are great tips in this article). Be sure to choose “F1 –Free” pricing and scale tier. The free option provides one IoT Hub per subscription, which includes 10 devices and 3000 messages per day.

    Creating a device ID


    Once you’ve set up your instance of IoT Hub, the first thing you need is to create the identity for your device. Every device must have a key that uniquely identifies it to the service. This way the IoT Hub can securely associate the data with the device that sent it.

    To create a device ID, use a tool called ‘iothub-explorer’. The tool requires Node.js, so make sure it’s installed on your machine (or get it here).

    Now open the command line prompt and install the iothub-explorer package:

    npm install -g iothub-explorer@latest

    The tool will need the connection string to connect to your instance of the Azure IoT Hub. You can find the connection string in the Azure Portal under the settings tab of your IoT Hub instance: navigate to Settings | Shared access policies | Connection string – primary key.

    Now create a new device called ‘MyDevice’. Run the tool as follows:

    iothub-explorer <yourConnectionString> create MyDevice

    Remember to use your actual connection string in the above command. The tool will create the new device ID and output the primary key for the device, among other things. The primary key is what you’ll use to connect your device to the IoT Hub.

    The tool also allows you to list and delete existing devices, as well as listen to the messages coming into the IoT Hub. It might be worth taking a few minutes to explore the tool. Type ‘iothub-explorer help’ to learn about the other commands.

    Hello, Cloud!


    You’re now ready to start sending data to the cloud.

    In Visual Studio 2015, go to File | New | Project menu, select the Blank App UWP application and call it ‘HelloCloud’:

    [​IMG]

    You will use the Microsoft.Azure.Devices.Client library to connect to Azure, so go ahead and install it from the NuGet gallery. (And if you’re curious to know what’s in this library, you can check it out on GitHub: github.com/azure/azure-iot-sdks)

    Add these using directives at the top of the file:

    using System.Text;
    using Microsoft.Azure.Devices.Client;

    Next, in the generated project, open the MainPage.xaml.cs file and add the following function to the MainPage class:

    static async void SendDeviceToCloudMessagesAsync()
    {
    string iotHubUri = "<replace>"; // ! put in value !
    string deviceId = "<replace>"; // ! put in value !
    string deviceKey = "<replace>"; // ! put in value !

    var deviceClient = DeviceClient.Create(iotHubUri,
    AuthenticationMethodFactory.
    CreateAuthenticationWithRegistrySymmetricKey(deviceId, deviceKey),
    TransportType.Http1);

    var str = "Hello, Cloud!";
    var message = new Message(Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(str));

    await deviceClient.SendEventAsync(message);
    }


    Then, invoke this new function from the constructor of your MainPage class in the MainPage.xaml.cs file:

    public MainPage()
    {
    this.InitializeComponent();
    SendDeviceToCloudMessagesAsync();
    }


    A few things need to be adjusted in the above code before you can run this app. The iotHubUri needs to be set to the Uri of your IoT Hub, the value of which you can find under the Settings tab. (This should look like your_hub_name.azure-devices.net). The deviceId and deviceKey were created earlier by the CreateDeviceIdentity tool – remember to replace them as well.

    Run the app on your IoT device (if you need instructions on how to set up your device, see here) and – voila! – your data has been sent to the cloud.

    Processing data in the cloud


    Sending data to the cloud is only meaningful if something useful can be done with the data once it gets there. There are many ways to process data in Microsoft Azure – you can connect it to other services such as Azure Stream Analytics, store it into an Azure Blob, visualize it in PowerBI etc.

    One simple example is to write an app that retrieves messages sent to the IoT Hub and displays them in a console window – not too fancy, but you can imagine doing something more interesting, such as triggering an alert or sending a command back to the device.

    Create a console application in Visual Studio 2015 named ‘ReadDeviceToCloudMessages’. Add the WindowsAzure.ServiceBus library from the NuGet gallery and replace the generated Program.cs with the following code:

    using System;
    using System.Text;
    using System.Threading.Tasks;
    using Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging;

    class Program
    {
    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
    string connectionString = "<replace>";
    string iotHubD2cEndpoint = "messages/events";

    var eventHubClient = EventHubClient.
    CreateFromConnectionString(connectionString, iotHubD2cEndpoint);

    var d2cPartitions = eventHubClient.GetRuntimeInformation().PartitionIds;

    foreach (string partition in d2cPartitions)
    {
    var receiver = eventHubClient.GetDefaultConsumerGroup().
    CreateReceiver(partition, DateTime.Now);
    ReceiveMessagesFromDeviceAsync(receiver);
    }
    Console.ReadLine();
    }

    async static Task ReceiveMessagesFromDeviceAsync(EventHubReceiver receiver)
    {
    while (true)
    {
    EventData eventData = await receiver.ReceiveAsync();
    if (eventData == null) continue;

    string data = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(eventData.GetBytes());
    Console.WriteLine("Message received: '{0}'", data);
    }
    }
    }


    As before, replace the connection string with the actual connection string for your IoT Hub instance.

    When you compile and run the application, it will start listening for the messages sent to the IoT Hub. To make sure it works, re-run the HelloCloud UWP application that you built before. You should see the following output coming from the ReadDeviceToCloudMessages:


    Message received: ‘Hello, Cloud!’
    What’s next


    You can find the basic example explored here, as well as more advanced samples, on GitHub: https://github.com/ms-iot/samples. The Azure-specific examples are located in the Azure subfolder.

    In the next installment of this blog series, we’ll look into more advanced ways of processing data in the cloud, as well as sending data from the cloud back to the device.

    This is neither the beginning nor the end of the journey to make cloud connectivity easy and accessible. Your feedback helps us determine what we should do next, and how we prioritize our work. Please add your comments below – we look forward to hearing from you!

    Post written by Artur Laksberg, a principal software engineer in Windows

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