This document shows how to exchange simple messages using the MQTT broker deployed in IoT-LAB and the mosquitto CLI clients installed on the SSH frontends. In this document, you will learn how to connect to the broker and then, you will subscribe to an MQTT topic and publish messages to an MQTT topic.


MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) is a protocol designed on top of TCP/IP and based on a publish/subscribe principle.

The MQTT publish subscribe model (Source)

Each entity of a network is connected to a central broker and can either subscribe to topics or publish to topics. When an entity publish a message to a given topic, all subscribers of this topic receives the message. Topics use a path likescheme.

The Eclipse mosquitto project provide an open-source MQTT broker as well as a C library for implementing clients and the mosquitto_pub and mosquitto_sub command line interface clients.

The FIT IoT-LAB testbed provides an instance of the Eclipse mosquitto broker at This instance is public and only port 8883 with TLS encryption can be used.

Connect to the IoT-LAB MQTT broker

Important things:

Any FIT IoT-LAB user can connect to with its personal FIT IoT-LAB credentials and a certificate file that is available either here or on each SSH frontend in /opt/iot-lab-ca.pem. Authenticated FIT IoT-LAB users can only have access to iotlab/<login> topics and sub-topics. This ensures confidentiality between users when exchanging MQTT messages. Only TLS encryption on port 8883 is allowed on the broker.

From your local computer

  1. Download and install the mosquitto-clients by following the installation procedure. For example, on Debian-like Linux distributions, you can use apt-get as follows:
      $ sudo apt-get install mosquitto-clients

    Ensure the version installed is not too old. Versions >= 1.4.15 are known to work.

      $ mosquitto_sub -help
      mosquitto_sub is a simple mqtt client that will subscribe to a single topic and print all messages it receives.
      mosquitto_sub version 1.4.15 running on libmosquitto 1.4.15.
  2. Download the certificate file from here.

  3. Connect to the broker using one of the mosquitto-clients command line:
      $ mosquitto_sub --cafile <path-to>/iot-lab-ca.pem -h -p 8883 -u <iotlab-login> -P <iotlab-passwd> -t iotlab/<io

From an SSH frontend

  1. Connect to the Saclay frontend SSH
      $ ssh <login>
  2. The SSH frontend is shared with other users: every users can see the command being executed using ps on the frontend. To avoid security issues, it’s not recommented to not provide your credentials on the command line and hopefully mosquitto clients provide a file based authentication mecanism, using ~/.config/mosquitto_pub and ~/.config/mosquitto_sub. Create these 2 files and put the following content (replace <iotlab-login> and <iotlab-password> with your personal IoT-LAB credentials):
     -u <iotlab-login>
     -P <iotlab-password>

    Make sure the file access rights are correct:

      login@saclay:~$ chmod 600 ~/.config/mosquitto_pub ~/.config/mosquitto_sub

    To encrypt the communication with the broker, the certificate file is located in /opt/iot-lab-ca.pem.

  3. Connect to the broker using one of the mosquitto-clients command line:
      login@saclay:~$ mosquitto_sub --cafile /opt/iot-lab-ca.pem -h -p 8883 -t iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test

    Note: you don’t need to provide your credentials on the command line because they are retrieved from the config files you previously edited.


If the mosquitto_pub or mosquitto_sub commands return the message Error: Problem setting TLS options, it’s likely because your ca file cannot be found or is invalid. In this case, verify that the path to iot-lab-ca.pem is correct in the --cafile option.

If the mosquitto_pub or mosquitto_sub commands periodically prints the message Connection Refused: not authorised, it’s likely because your credentials are invalid. In this case, verify if your login (-u option) and password (-P option) are correct either in ~/.config/mosquitto_pub/~/.config/mosquitto_sub files or in the command line (only use the latter from your local computer).

Exchange MQTT messages

In this last section, we provide several examples of commands for exchanging MQTT messages between the Saclay SSH frontend and your local computer.

  1. From your local computer, run mosquitto_sub to subscribe to the iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test topic:
      $ mosquitto_sub --cafile <path-to>/iot-lab-ca.pem -h -p 8883 -u <iotlab-login> -P <iotlab-passwd> -t iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test

    The command is now waiting for any messages published on the iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test topic. Keep it open Note: this can also be done from any FIT IoT-LAB SSH frontend (without -u and -P options from the command line but using the configuration files instead, as seen previously in section 2.2).

  2. Open another terminal and connect again to the Saclay SSH frontend. Then publish messages to the iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test topic using mosquitto_pub:
    • Send one message at a time:
       login@saclay:~$ mosquitto_pub --cafile /opt/iot-lab-ca.pem -h -p 8883 -t iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test -m "Hello FIT IoT-LAB"

      You should see the message arrive in the mosquitto_sub command running on your local computer.

    • Run mosquitto_pub in interactive mode using the -l option:
       login@saclay:~$ mosquitto_pub --cafile /opt/iot-lab-ca.pem -h -p 8883 -t iotlab/<iotlab-login>/test -l
       Hello FIT IoT-LAB

      All messages typed in the terminal are sent after pressing Enter to the mosquitto_sub command running on your local computer.