XMPP: The Open Communication Protocol for IoT and Beyond

XMPP: The Open Communication Protocol for IoT and Beyond

In this blog post, I will introduce the XMPP protocol, show where it is used, and also show some examples of IoT applications that use it.

XMPP stands for Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. It is an open communication protocol that was originally designed for instant messaging (IM), presence information, and contact list maintenance. It is based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), which means it can exchange structured data between two or more network entities in near-real-time. It is also designed to be extensible, which means it can support a variety of applications beyond traditional IM, such as voice and video calls, file transfer, gaming, and other uses.

One of the main characteristics of XMPP is that it is decentralized. There is no central server or authority that controls the network. Anyone can run their own XMPP server and connect to other servers using a federated model. This allows users to communicate with each other across different domains and services using a unique identifier called a JID (Jabber ID), which is similar to an email address. For example, alice@xmpp.org can chat with bob@jabber.org using XMPP.

Another feature of XMPP is that it is a living standard. It is continuously developed and improved by the XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF), which is an independent organization that publishes specifications and extensions for XMPP. These extensions add new functionalities and features to the core protocol, such as encryption, authentication, discovery, pub-sub, and more.

XMPP is widely used in various domains and platforms. Some of the popular services that use XMPP are:

  • WhatsApp: The most popular messaging app in the world uses XMPP as its underlying protocol for exchanging messages and media between users.

  • Google Talk: The former IM service from Google used XMPP as its core protocol until 2015, when it was replaced by Hangouts Application.

  • Facebook Messenger: The social networking giant used XMPP as its chat protocol until 2014, when it switched to its own proprietary protocol.

  • Signal: The secure messaging app uses XMPP as its transport layer for sending encrypted messages between users.

  • Slack: The popular collaboration platform uses XMPP as one of its supported protocols for integrating with external services and bots.

XMPP is also a suitable protocol for IoT (Internet of Things) applications. IoT refers to the network of physical devices that can communicate and exchange data over the internet. XMPP can provide a common language and platform for these devices to interact with each other and with humans. Some of the advantages of using XMPP for IoT are:

  • Scalability: XMPP can handle millions of concurrent connections and messages using distributed architecture and clustering techniques.

  • Interoperability: XMPP can enable different types of devices from different vendors and domains to communicate with each other using a standard protocol and format.

  • Security: XMPP can provide end-to-end encryption, authentication, and authorization for IoT devices using existing extensions such as TLS, SASL, and XEP-0384 .

  • Extensibility: XMPP can support various IoT use cases and scenarios using existing or custom extensions such as XEP-0323, XEP-0324, XEP-0347, XEP-0363, etc.

Some examples of IoT applications that use XMPP are:

  • Philips Hue: The smart lighting system from Philips uses XMPP as its communication protocol between the bridge device and the cloud service. Users can control their lights using an app or a web interface that connects to the cloud service via XMPP.

  • Nest: The smart home devices from Nest use XMPP as their communication protocol between the devices and the cloud service. Users can monitor and control their thermostats, cameras, smoke detectors, etc using an app or a web interface that connects to the cloud service via XMPP.

  • Amazon Dash Button: The wireless button from Amazon uses XMPP as its communication protocol between the button and the cloud service. Users can order products from Amazon by pressing the button, which sends an XMPP message to the cloud service via Wi-Fi.

To make a long story short, XMPP is a versatile and powerful protocol that can be used for various applications beyond instant messaging. It is an open standard that is constantly evolving and improving. It is also a decentralized and federated network that respects user privacy and choice. It