There's three more little extras that you can use with MQTT

Retained Messages

Technically there is no base requirement for the MQTT broker to store your data once the subscriptions have been sent. But you can request or configure retained messages with your broker!

If you've enabled retained messages, the broker will keep a copy of published messages, even after they are sent to all the subscribers. If a new subscription is made by a client after the publication, and there is a previously sent and retained message for that topic, the retained message will be sent immediately.

The “last known good” retained message can be handy for remote configurations, when a topic isn’t updated that often, but you are adding new clients that are subscribing to the topic.

For example, say you have a remote controlled light bulb. The light bulb can be ON or OFF and receives message from other clients via the broker over WiFi. But, oh no! The WiFi router went down. When the WiFi comes back on, the light bulb may not know if there was an ON/OFF request that came through while the WiFi was down. It can connect and re-subscribe to get that retained message which will let it know what the last state was set to.

Clean Session / Durable Connections

A client can set a “clean session” flag - that’s like a clean start if you want to start from scratch or not.

If it’s set to false the connected client is considered “durable” this means when the client disconnects, all the subscriptions store will remain and any QoS messages will be stored until it connects again.

If the session is clean and marked as true, all subscriptions will be removed then the client disconnects.

This is useful if you want to minimize the setup of clients in an oft-disconnected transport, the client is already identified to the broker by the CONNECT packet so it avoids having to re-send all the SUBSCRIBE requests on every connect.

Last Will

The Last Will is sort of the opposite of the Retained Message. Whereas retained messages allow a client to find out if they missed a message on connection, Last Will lets a client send a final message on unexpected disconnection. Last Wills have a topic & QoS - it’s basically just a pre-set publication.

Say you have a piece of industrial equipment that is controlled by a large relay, the relay is connected over MQTT as a client to the factory/machine/relay topic that will let it know whether the relay should be ON or OFF.

Another client is the controller, it sends the commands to the relay. There's a risk that the controller may fall off the network somehow, and the relay will be operating without a controller. In this case, the 'safest' setting for the machine is to have the relay be off. So, the controller client sends a Last Will to the factory/machine/onoffrelay topic with the OFF message. If the broker doesn't hear from the controller in a pre-set amount of time, it will send send the last will to all subscribers.

This guide was first published on Dec 14, 2017. It was last updated on Dec 14, 2017.
This page (MQTT Extras) was last updated on Sep 22, 2020.