How useful would a home automation system be where you could only interact through MQTT messages? Not very, so that’s why we’ll start working on the User Interface today. The goal is to create some generic UI elements, which can be linked to the MQTT topic. The element will display the current status clearly and will let the user interact with it.

For now there will be three types of UI elements, which can be placed in a grid of tiles. These elements are:

  • Button – a simple push button. The background visualizes the state and tapping it will toggle the state.
  • Slider – a slider to be used for e.g. a dimmer module. The position on the slider shows the current state. Minimum and maximum values can be defined.
  • Info – a tile without any interaction. Just displays the current state of for example the temperature.

Each tile can have some properties defining how it looks. Options include a title, an icon, a value and the selected state.

ps: if you’re familiar with Swift and UIKit, you might notice that – for the purpose of learning – I’m using Swift 3 and iOS 10. They are still in beta and will be available in fall. 

MQTT Client

Before we can define the UI elements, we need a connection to MQTT. For this we’ll use Moscapsule, a MQTT library written in Swift. Making a connection is quite simple. We do this by creating a configuration, adding some callback blocks and opening the connection:

As you can see we don’t do anything yet in the callbacks, except for logging. We’ll arrange that later; let’s firstly create the UI elements themselves.

Tiles: data model

All types of tiles share some attributes. One of these is an array of MQTT topics to which this tile will be subscribed. The common attributes are defined in the base class Tile, including an enum for annotating topics and a protocol for making a tile selectable:

For each type of Tile a subclass exists. They describe any additional properties needed, plus they define what happens when a MQTT message is received. Let’s take the button as an example:

User Interface

The model doesn’t say anything about how the tile will look on screen, it just focusses on managing the status. So what about the UI? For that we use the TileCollectionViewCell, which is a subclass of UICollectionViewCell. It is defined using a nib-file and structured by using Stackviews:

TileCollectionViewCell.xib

The corresponding class is a simple subclass of UICollectionViewCell which takes care of the border radius and hides the value label if there is no text defined (due to the Stackview that results in the icon being centered above the title). The heavy lifting happens in the TilesViewController, which is a UICollectionViewController. It has a property to hold a list of Tile objects. To high light a few parts: in viewDidLoad all tiles are subscribed to their respective MQTT topics:

It also subscribes itself to the same topic, so it can reload the UI when new messages are coming in:

The only part missing is the interaction. When you select one of the cells it will publish a message to the defined ‘set’-topic and update the internal state of the tile:

Putting it together

To put it together we create multiple instances of the TilesCollectionViewController and add them to a UITabBarController. Each instances overrides a single method defining the tiles. For the icons we use a library which enables us to use IonIcons instead of images. The home screen displays the most-used tiles:

This brings us the result of this blog post: a working iPhone app which communicates with Thuis through MQTT.

Screenshot

When messages arrive on the status-topics, the selected-status of the button-tiles and the value of the info-tiles are updated. When one of the button-tiles is tapped a message is send to the set-topic with the new status. As described in Publishing activity from Z-Way to MQTT this is already picked up and executed.

You probably do notice that it looks very plain yet: we’ll fix this in a next blog post. We’ll also add some more controls, like slider, which can be used for dimmers and a volume control.

MQTT User Interface components for iOS
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