Network Connections

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Since version 1.1.3 (December 2019) (file format 1.8), phyphox features a versatile interface for network connections. This is done on an experiment configuration level, so to use the network communication for your own project, you need create your own experiment configuration. In it, you can then define, how network services should be discovered, when and which data should be sent, where to put received data and which protocols to use for the communication.

This network interface is designed to be easily extended, so while at the time of this writing not many services (protocols) are supported, you can expect more to come in the future and if you think something relevant is missing, let us know, so we can implement it.

Note, that there is no network service provided by phyphox for your experiments. While we set up our own servers for project like our sensor data base using the interface described here, we can not offer a generic service. If you want to use these features, you need to set up your own server on the receiving end and you to know how to receive the data there (or know someone who knows this). Of course, we are happy to help you and give you insight into how we do this.

General implementation and syntax

How network connections work in phyphox

A network connection can define phyphox buffers from which data should be sent to a network service and buffers that should receive data from the network service. The communication can either be triggered by the user through a button press or automatically at a defined interval. However, due to the nature of network communication, a response does not need to come immediately and data may even be received independent of a prior request, if the protocol allows this. For example, some protocols only receive updated data as a response to a request (HTTP) while others might subscribe to updates upon connection and receive new data at random times.

In any case, the sending part of the network communication is only triggered between analysis runs of phyphox and any received data is only written to the phyphox buffers in-between analysis runs as well.

When an experiment using the network interface is loaded by the user, phyphox will always present the user with detailed information about the data that might be transmitted by the experiment. Specifically, phyphox will mention:

  • If you submit a unique id which can identify subsequent requests by the user
  • The submission of audio data
  • The submission of location data
  • The submission of other sensor data, including a list of sensors used
  • The submission of device information
  • The submission of technical information on the sensors, including a list of these sensors

You need to provide a URL that points to a privacy policy that tells the user how his/her data will be handled.

General syntax

The network connections are defined in a network block in the document root as follows:

 <network>
    ...
    <connection id="..." privacy="..." service="..." address="..." conversion="..." discovery="..." discoveryAddress="..." autoConnect="true/false" interval="...">
        ...
        <send id="..." type="buffer/meta/time">...</send>
        ...
        <receive id="..." clear="true/false">...</receive>
        ...
    </connection>
    ...
 </network>

Let's start with the attributes of the network connection tag:

id
This id is not required, but it can be used to identify the connection from other elements. For example, a button view element can use this id in a trigger block to trigger the connection.
privacy
A URL to a privacy policy for your experiment.
service
A name from the list of Network services below, defining the service (protocol) for the connection
address
An address for the service. This is typically a fixed IP address or URL, but its meaning may vary depending on the service and it might work differently in combination with different discovery methods (see below)
conversion
A name from the list of response conversions below. This defines how the data stream from the network service is interpreted and converted into numbers that can be used in phyphox.
discovery
A method to discover possible network services, so they can be checked before connection or picked by the user. (See below)
discoveryAddress
The meaning of this address depends on the discoveryService. For example it could be a URL with wild cards an address from which to request a list of servers or filter for mDNS entries.
autoConnect
If set to true, phyphox will connect to the first viable service (address or from the discovery method). If set to false, options from the discovery method will be presented to the user for selection.
interval
If set to a value larger than 0, this defines an interval in seconds at which the connection is triggered periodically.

The send and receive tags within the connection tag define, which data should be send and received. Each entry has an id with varying meanings. For send tags, the meaning of the id depends on the network service and is usually used as a label that is attached to the data for the remote server. For receive tags, the id is interpreted by the response conversion function and determines which part of the converted response should be used.

Send tags usually contain a buffer name. Data from this buffer is send using the network service, but it depends on the network service whether only the last value or the entire buffer (array) is submitted. Alternatively, the attribute "type" can be used to switch from the default type="buffer" to type="meta". In this case, the name in the send tag is not a buffer, but a label that identifies a specific text string of metadata (see list below).

Finally, the type="time" allows for sending the current system time (in seconds since 1970) and possibly time reference events (depending on the data format). This type does not require any content within the tag, so <send id="x" type="time" /> is sufficient. Compact data formats (like GET-parameters of http) will only send the current timestamp, but complex dataformats (like JSON) can also include a list of start/pause events with matching experiment time (seconds since first start of the experiment, skipping pauses) and system time (seconds since 1970) for precise time conversions. (Available since phyphox 1.1.8 (file format 1.12))

Receive tags can only have a buffer name inside them and can set the clear attribute. If set to true, the phyphox buffer will be cleared before the received data is written to it. If set to false (default), new data is simply appended.

Metadata

If type="meta" is set for a send-tag, the following identifiers may be used to select metadata to be send to the network service. Note, that device specific information is not available on all devices (especially not on Apple devices)

uniqueID
This is a md5 hash that is unique to the user and the address of the network service. It can be used to match subsequent submissions by a single user, but only as long as it was submitted to the same address. (You can not match users across different remote servers as different addresses!)
version
The version of phyphox
build
The build number of phyphox
fileFormat
The file format version of phyphox
deviceModel
The model id of the device
deviceBrand
The brand of the device
deviceBoard
An id for the board on which the device is based
deviceManufacturer
The manufacturer of the device
deviceBaseOS
The operating system on which the device software is based
deviceCodename
A codename identifying the device
deviceRelease
The version of the device

Additionally, you can get detailed metadata on the sensors supported by phyphox. These are not available on Apple devices and on Android devices, their meaning and accuracy can vary.

[sensor]Name
Usually the model of the sensor
[sensor]Vendor
Usually the manufacturer of the sensor
[sensor]Range
Should give the maximum range of the sensor (not very reliable)
[sensor]Resolution
Should give the resolution of the sensor (not very reliable)
[sensor]MinDelay
Typically the period of the maximum available acquisition rate (not very reliable)
[sensor]MaxDelay
The maximum delay value from Android
[sensor]Power
An estimate of the power consumption
[sensor]Version
A version of the sensor

In this list, [sensor] can be replaces by "accelerometer", "linear_acceleration", "gyroscope", "magnetic_field", "pressure", "temperature", "humidity", "light" and "proximity". Note that in some cases, phyphox will try to find a sensor by its name even though it is not officially designated to be a sensor of that type (for example vendor-specific temperature sensors).

Network Services (Protocols)

HTTP/GET

Attribute service="http/get"

Does not support array data

The HTTP/GET service makes a http request to a webserver. The GET version will do a GET request and encode the submitted data in the request URL. It only supports the last value in each buffer. The response may occur delayed and this service will give up on a request after the default timeout time of the device.

Meaning of id

The id attribute of the send tags is used as an identifier when encoding the buffer. For example, <send id="abc">buffer</send> will contribute "abc=42" to the URL if the last value in the buffer is 42. If you try to receive this data on a web server using PHP, you should be able to access this value via $_GET["abc"].

HTTP/POST

Attribute service="http/post"

Supports array data

The HTTP/POST service makes a http request to a webserver. The POST version will do a POST request and encode the submitted data as JSON. It will always encode the buffers as JSON arrays, even if they only contain a single value. Metadata is encoded as strings. The response may occur delayed and this service will give up on a request after the default timeout time of the device.

Note for PHP users: Encoding POST data as JSON will not fill $_POST by default. Instead, you will need to do the following first:

$json = file_get_contents('php://input');
$data = json_decode($json, true);

Then, if you submitted <send id="abc">buffer</send> you can access an array with the entire content of the buffer at $data["abc"] or its first value at $data["abc"][0].

Meaning of id

The ids of the send tags are used to label the JSON arrays and string within the JSON object. A buffer with id "abc" (<send id="abc">buffer</send>) and metadata with id "def" (<send id="def" type="meta">deviceBrand</send>) would be encoded as

{
  "abc": [0, 3, 42],
  "def": "Fancy Company"
}

Additional attributes to send

Since file format 1.10 (phyphox version version 1.1.6), you can additionally set the datatype attribute to determine whether a buffer should be encoded as an array (default) or number (last value only).

For example

<send id="abc" datatype="array">buffer</send>
<send id="def" datatype="number">buffer</send>

is encoded as

{
  "abc": [0, 3, 42],
  "def": 42
}


MQTT/CSV

Available since phyphox 1.1.7 (file format 1.11)

Attribute service="mqtt/csv"

Supports array data

The MQTT/CSV service connects to an MQTT broker at the given address and will send the data of "send" blocks there. Each entry of "send" will generate an individual message, using the ID as the MQTT topic. You may set a datatype for each send with "array" (default) sending a comma-separated list of all values in the buffer and "number" only sending the last value.

If a `receiveTopic` is set, it will subscribe to this topic (or set of topics if MQTT-typical wildcards are used) and will treat the payload of each received message as response (note that there is no mechanism to assign responses to requests - it is very likely that this received message was received before a message was sent).

Example:

    <connection privacy="..." service="mqtt/csv" address="some.service.com/your/endpoint:1234" receiveTopic="fancySensor/value" conversion="csv" interval="1">
        <send id="phone/pressure" type="buffer" datatype="array">p</send>
        <send id="phone/altitude" type="buffer" datatype="number">h</send>
        <receive clear="false">sensordata</receive>
    </connection>

In this setup, phyphox would connect to "some.service.com/your/endpoint:1234" and subscribe to "fancySensor/value". Once every second, it would send all the values from the buffer "p" as a comma separated list to the topic "phone/pressure" and the last value from "h" to the topic "phone/altitude". Every time it does so, it takes the latest message it received under the topic "fancySensor/value" and lets the csv-conversion handle it (typically appending the list of values to sensordata).


MQTT/JSON

Available since phyphox 1.1.7 (file format 1.11)

Attribute service="mqtt/json"

Supports array data

The MQTT/JSON service connects to an MQTT broker at the given address and will send the data of "send" blocks there. All entries of "send" will be combined into a single JSON object using their resective ID (also see "HTTP/POST"). The JSON string will be send to the MQTT topic set as sendTopic. You may set a datatype for each send with "array" (default) sending a JSON Array of all values in the buffer and "number" only sending the last value as individual number.

If a `receiveTopic` is set, it will subscribe to this topic (or set of topics if MQTT-typical wildcards are used) and will treat the payload of the all received message as response (note that there is no mechanism to assign responses to requests - it is very likely that this received message was received before a message was sent).

Example:

    <connection privacy="..." service="mqtt/json" address="some.service.com/your/endpoint:1234" receiveTopic="fancySensor/value" sendTopic="phone/data" conversion="csv" interval="1">
        <send id="pressure" type="buffer" datatype="array">p</send>
        <send id="altitude" type="buffer" datatype="number">h</send>
        <receive clear="false">sensordata</receive>
    </connection>

In this setup, phyphox would connect to "some.service.com/your/endpoint:1234" and subscribe to "fancySensor/value". Once every second, it would send all the values from the buffer "p" and the last value from "h" to the topic "phone/data". This would be done in a message with a JSON object as payload in a form like {"pressure":[1.1,1.2,1.3],"altitude":42.0}. Every time it does so, it takes the latest message it received under the topic "fancySensor/value" and lets the csv-conversion handle it (typically appending the list of values to sensordata).

Note that if you want to receive JSON data via MQTT, you have to pick the conversion "json" (see "Response conversion"). If you do not want to send anything, but only receive JSON, you should use the "mqtt/csv" service without setting any "send" and trigger it periodically. If you use "mqtt/json" without setting any "send", it will still send an empty JSON object.

Response conversions

None

default

Simply ignores the retrieved data. Good for testing data submission form phyphox to a server to avoid error messages from an empty response. However, we highly recommend that the server response with some kind of acknowledgement that is interpreted by a proper conversion function to give feedback to the user. If you want actually retrieve data from a server, of course, none is not an option anyway.

Meaning of id

Not applicable as response data is discarded and no data will ever be written to receiving buffers.

CSV

Available since phyphox 1.1.7 (file format 1.11)

Attribute conversion="csv"

Interpretes the data as comma-spearated values. It accepts multiple lines based on line-break characters (Windows or Unix style) and splits columns either by comma or semicolon.

Meaning of id

If ID is set to an integer number, only values from the respective column (starting at zero) will be used. Otherwise (we suggest id="*"), all data will be copied to the associated buffer, allowing to parse a single line of comma-separated values as an array on its own.

JSON

Attribute conversion="json"

Supports array data

The response is interpreted as a UTF8 encoded string, which is then parsed as a JSON object.

Meaning of id

The IDs of the receive tags represent a simple hierarchy within the JSON object, separated by dots. So, let's take the following JSON object as an example:

{
  "main": {
    "subentry": [2, 3, 23]
  },
  "other": 42,
  "yetanother": [1, 7, 42]
}

A receive tag with id="other" will receive a single value, 42. id="yetanother" will receive three values, 1, 7 and 42. To access something deeper within the hierarchy, id="main.subentry" will receive three values, 2, 3 and 23.

Discovery methods for network services

A discovery service is a protocol or method to get a list of possible network services. These can either be picked by the user (if "autoConnect" connect is set to false, see general syntax above) or phyphox will connect to the first one available (autoConnect set to true). The discovery method is set by the attribute "discovery" of the connection-block (see above). If left out, you need to set a fixed connection target depending on the network service you want to use (typically, you will have to set a fixed address like for HTTP requests).

Discovery methods like mDNS are not yet implemented, but will follow soon. For now, you can only work with fixed targets.

Examples

Here are some example XML files for different scenarios, which might help you getting started. Note that most of them will not work out of the box as they require a server to provide or receive data, so you will need to adapt them to your needs.

The network connections are not supported by our web editor. If you want to use this function, you need to download the configuration files and edit them with a text editor.

HTTP

Send data via HTTP/POST in JSON format

This minimalistic example collects data from the accelerometer at a rate of 4Hz and sends the last 20 collected values every 5 seconds to a php script via HTTP POST. Any reply from the server is ignored (you might want to consider using the response as a confirmation to the user by mapping response values to texts via the mapping function of the value element).

The following is a minimalistic example for a PHP script receiving the data and writing it to a simple text file. Note, that you need to explicitly parse the JSON data from php://input instead of directly accessing POST as you might be used to when receiving data from web forms.

<?php
  $json = file_get_contents('php://input');
  $data = json_decode($json, true);

  $line = time()."\t".implode(",", $data["t"])."\t".implode(",", $data["x"])."\n";

  file_put_contents("data.txt", $line, FILE_APPEND | LOCK_EX);
?>

Warning: Do not use this minimalistic example on a public server! A real-world PHP example should have some sanity checks, flood protection and similar security measures to avoid misuse or sabotage of your webserver. Of course a local server for select users does not necessarily require such measures. You need to consider this when running any web service.

Send a value via HTTP/GET and receive a plot in JSON format

This example demonstrates sending a value as URL-parameter via HTTP (GET method), which in this case is a frequency that the user may enter. Moreover, the value is sent when the user pushes a button and a PHP script will respond with a JSON package that contains 100 value pairs that form a sine function with the given frequency. The received sine function is then plotted in phyphox.

The following is the PHP script that takes the frequency and generates JSON object with the sine function as a response for phyphox. Note that this script packs the data as {"curve": {"t": [...], "a": [...]}}, but the extra step of packing it into a "curve" object is not really necessary. It is only done here to demonstrate how to access a JSON path from within phyphox by using id="curve.t".

<?php
  $f = floatval($_GET["f"]); //Get frequency submitted by phyphox

  //Build curve
  $curve = array("t" => array(), "a" => array());
  for ($t = 0.0; $t < 10.0; $t += 0.1) {
    $curve["t"][] = $t;
    $curve["a"][] = sin($f*$t);
  }

  //Pack answer into another array (just for demonstration of id style "curve.a")
  $result = array("curve" => $curve);

  //Generate JSON and write it as output
  echo json_encode($result);
?>

Warning: Do not use this minimalistic example on a public server! A real-world PHP example should have some sanity checks, flood protection and similar security measures to avoid misuse or sabotage of your webserver. Of course a local server for select users does not necessarily require such measures. You need to consider this when running any web service.

MQTT

Send CSV via MQTT

In this example, time and x acceleration a acquired from the accelerometer (averaging to a rate of 1 Hz) and the last ten readings are sent every 10 seconds as a comma-separated list (CSV) to an MQTT broker at 192.168.2.5. As this example uses comma-separated lists, time and acceleration are sent to separate topics,

Send JSON via MQTT

This example only sends data when a button is pressed. It then takes the latest readings from the accelerometer and send x, y and z component as a JSON object to the topic "phyphox/acc" on an MQTT broker at 192.168.2.5.

Octoprint tool temperature

This example connects to an MQTT broker at 192.168.2.5 and subscribes to the topic octoPrint/temperature/tool0 which is used by the 3d printing software "octoprint" to report the current tool temperature. The phyphox experiment adds a timestamp and plots the current temperature and the target temperature over time. Note, that Octoprint sends JSON messages, but as this example should not write anything to the topic, it uses "mqtt/csv" as a service and "json" as a conversion function to decode the json data.

Octoprint tool and bed temperature

Like the simpler Octoprint example above, but this example subscribes to two topics to print the bed temperature as well. Note that adding a timestamp to both temperatures is what makes this example so rather large.