IoT on AWS


This page provides two views into Internet of Things on the public cloud: A template for registering and operating embedded IOT devices and a database that receives data from an IOT system. In the former case we use an Arduino Yun that takes advantage of a university WiFi network; where we are interested in both sensing and actuation. In the latter case we are interested in aggregating data as a Proof Of Concept for university power consumption and management.

CC*IIE Remarks

Embedded device

Objective and Approach

We take advantage of the Arduino microprocessor environment due to its large-scale adoption and available support; particularly the Arduino Yun which has WiFi access and is also supported within the AWS stack. We wish to establish a minimum viable IOT network; so two devices each with a light sensor and an actuator (laser diode). The approach is to obtain and configure these two devices and follow the various online tutorials to arrive at a continuously operating but very simple system.


  • Purchase 2 Arduino Yun devices; equip with light sensors and laser diodes
  • Power them up and establish WiFi connectivity; register them with UW IT
  • Install SDK; develope and test code
  • Establish an AWS IOT Endpoint for use with MQTT pub-sub protocol
  • Code, run, debug


  • TBD

Building power consumption

Objective and Approach

The University of Washington has a number of smart power consumption meters distributed through the Seattle campus. These are networked to a system called Niagara which can be configured to send data from a particular building to a SQL database. Our objective is to provide a database that is updated frequently (refresh rate ~ one minute). This will break the common CI barrier to data access by taking advantage of the cloud service-based environment.


On an AWS account we establish a small SQL Server database instance on the RDS (Relational Database Service). This is blocked from direct internet access by means of a bastion server. The results are updated via a data push originating from Niagara.


The end result of this effort is a first step towards near-real-time views of power consumption across more than one hundred buildings at the University of Washington Seattle campus; in relation to external weather conditions, time of day, occupancy details and so on. Results are documented here for open adoption.


  • IOT: Internet of Things, embedded devices from smart phones to Arduino constructions to FitBits and beyond – limitless – that create an information framework in some environment.
    • IOT emphasis is first placed on devices
    • Here we are more interested here in a backing or supportive data system
    • This system is implemented on the public cloud
  • Diaspora: Informally the distribution / dispersion of IOT devices into some environment
    • Devices locations may change over time; a common IOT theme
  • CLI: Command Line Interface, here specifically the one for AWS
    • The CLI exists in the abstract as a means of communicating with the cloud
    • To use it: It must be installed on an EC2 instance
    • To use it from off the cloud (e.g. from your laptop) it must also be installed there
    • For IOT work we use the CLI to poll or query the supporting data system
  • IDS: IOT Data System, an acronym of convenience
    • Implies that we build devices, build the IDS, and then connect them together
  • REST API Endpoint: A URL where http messages will be POSTed by the IOT device
  • Shadow: An AWS cloud construct
    • Behaves as a shadow / proxy / image / representation of an IOT device
    • Persists on the cloud regardless of whether the IOT device is connected
    • As such it acts as the “latest known state record” of the device
  • MQTT: Message Queue Telemetry Transport, a lightweight publish-subscribe messaging protocol used on top of TCP/IP.
  • MQTT topic: A message tag that enables a message stream to be sorted (by that tag)


  • IOT devices are vulnerable to multiple failure modes
    • Operational failure: Fragile, not ruggedized
    • Malicious interference
    • Spurious signals often assumed to be accurate
  • To all three such ends we emphasize here on the backing data system: In the public cloud

Embedded device

Ping pong

Two Arduino Yun devices are powered up adjacent to one another. Each has a light sensor and a laser diode pointed at the other’s light sensor. State sequence:

  • Yun 1 laser diode ON
  • Yun 2 senses increased signal at light sensor
  • Yun 2 transmit Sensor High to IDS (IOT Data System: In this case an AWS IOT Endpoint)
  • IDS publishes Yun 2 Sensor High
  • Yun 1 polls IDS, notices Yun 2 Sensor High state, in response turns laser diode OFF
  • Yun 2 senses low signal at light sensor
  • Yun 2 transmit Sensor Low to the IDS, turn laser diode ON
  • IDS publishes Yun 1 Sensor Low
  • Yun 1 senses increased signal at its light sensor
  • Yun 1 transmit Sensor High to the IDS
  • IDS publishes Yun 1 Sensor High
  • Yun 2 polls IDS, notices Yun 1 Sensor High state, etcetera


  • Purchase at least 2 Arduino Yun boards (supported for IOT by AWS)
    • Cost is around USD 60 circa 2016
    • These devices have not one but two distinct processors
      • The Arduino microcontroller ‘Atmega’ (technically ATmega32u4)
      • A LINUX processor ‘Atheros’ (technically AR9331)
      • Note that we are implicitly dealing with three complexities from the outset
        • Programming an Arduino microcontroller
        • Creating execution logic on a LINUX system
        • Coordinating communication between the two
  • Install the Arduino IDE on your laptop
    • IDE = Integrated Development Environment
    • In the work shown here the installation is on a PC running Windows 10
    • The IDE connects with the Arduino Yun by means of a USB cable
      • The Arduino can receive its operating power through this cable
      • The Arduino will ultimately run autonomously off a separate power source
  • Install the AWS CLI on a laptop

  • Set up a REST API endpoint on AWS; our example is called ‘quack’

quack REST API Endpoint status card

  • Set up the Arduino Yun
    • WARNINGS: Some procedures may not match reality; and we will call attention to them
      • Example: Out of the box on WiFi the Yun comes up as ‘Linino-XXXXXX’ with password ‘doghunter’
        • This is contrary to published information; and may be out of date as of this writing
        • Upon updating the Atheros OS and connecting to local WiFi this changes…
        • …becoming ‘Arduino-XXXXXXX’ with password ‘arduino’ as advertised
    • Installing hardware and software
      • Tutorial links
      • Arduino Yun + USB cables ‘standard to micro’ connectors with full USB connectivity support
        • WARNING: Many common USB cables do not support full connectivity and do not work.
      • Laptop install:
        • PuTTY: required on Windows (ssh on Linux)
        • WinSCP: required on Windows to transfer files (scp on Linux)
        • Arduino IDE: to program the Atmega
          • The IDE is not used to program the Atheros, treated as a separate Linux system
        • AWS IOT: Arduino SDK
          • This is a library
          • It permits the Atmega sketch to converse with the AWS IOT
        • AWS CLI: Command Line Interface to AWS, on Windows runs from PowerShell
      • Atheros: issue commands as root (we do not believe sudo is involved)
# opkg update 
# opkg install distribute 
# opkg install python-openssl 
# opkg install openssh-sftp-server (enables sftp from PC to Atheros)