Understand and invoke direct methods from IoT Hub

IoT Hub gives you the ability to invoke direct methods on devices from the cloud. Direct methods represent a request-reply interaction with a device similar to an HTTP call in that they succeed or fail immediately (after a user-specified timeout). This approach is useful for scenarios where the course of immediate action is different depending on whether the device was able to respond.

Note

The features described in this article are available only in the standard tier of IoT Hub. For more information about the basic and standard/free IoT Hub tiers, see Choose the right IoT Hub tier.

Each device method targets a single device. Schedule jobs on multiple devices shows how to provide a way to invoke direct methods on multiple devices, and schedule method invocation for disconnected devices.

Anyone with service connect permissions on IoT Hub may invoke a method on a device.

Direct methods follow a request-response pattern and are meant for communications that require immediate confirmation of their result. For example, interactive control of the device, such as turning on a fan.

Refer to Cloud-to-device communication guidance if in doubt between using desired properties, direct methods, or cloud-to-device messages.

Method lifecycle

Direct methods are implemented on the device and may require zero or more inputs in the method payload to correctly instantiate. You invoke a direct method through a service-facing URI ({iot hub}/twins/{device id}/methods/). A device receives direct methods through a device-specific MQTT topic ($iothub/methods/POST/{method name}/) or through AMQP links (the IoThub-methodname and IoThub-status application properties).

Note

When you invoke a direct method on a device, property names and values can only contain US-ASCII printable alphanumeric, except any in the following set: {'$', '(', ')', '<', '>', '@', ',', ';', ':', '\', '"', '/', '[', ']', '?', '=', '{', '}', SP, HT}

Direct methods are synchronous and either succeed or fail after the timeout period (default: 30 seconds, settable between 5 and 300 seconds). Direct methods are useful in interactive scenarios where you want a device to act if and only if the device is online and receiving commands. For example, turning on a light from a phone. In these scenarios, you want to see an immediate success or failure so the cloud service can act on the result as soon as possible. The device may return some message body as a result of the method, but it isn't required for the method to do so. There is no guarantee on ordering or any concurrency semantics on method calls.

Direct methods are HTTPS-only from the cloud side and MQTT, AMQP, MQTT over WebSockets, or AMQP over WebSockets from the device side.

The payload for method requests and responses is a JSON document up to 128 KB.

Invoke a direct method from a back-end app

Now, invoke a direct method from a back-end app.

Method invocation

Direct method invocations on a device are HTTPS calls that are made up of the following items:

  • The request URI specific to the device along with the API version:

    https://fully-qualified-iothubname.azure-devices.net/twins/{deviceId}/methods?api-version=2018-06-30
    
  • The POST method

  • Headers that contain the authorization, request ID, content type, and content encoding.

  • A transparent JSON body in the following format:

    {
        "methodName": "reboot",
        "responseTimeoutInSeconds": 200,
        "payload": {
            "input1": "someInput",
            "input2": "anotherInput"
        }
    }
    

The value provided as responseTimeoutInSeconds in the request is the amount of time that IoT Hub service must await for completion of a direct method execution on a device. Set this timeout to be at least as long as the expected execution time of a direct method by a device. If timeout is not provided, it the default value of 30 seconds is used. The minimum and maximum values for responseTimeoutInSeconds are 5 and 300 seconds, respectively.

The value provided as connectTimeoutInSeconds in the request is the amount of time upon invocation of a direct method that IoT Hub service must await for a disconnected device to come online. The default value is 0, meaning that devices must already be online upon invocation of a direct method. The maximum value for connectTimeoutInSeconds is 300 seconds.

Example

This example will allow you to securely initiate a request to invoke a Direct Method on an IoT device registered to an Azure IoT Hub.

To begin, use the Microsoft Azure IoT extension for Azure CLI to create a SharedAccessSignature.

az iot hub generate-sas-token -n <iothubName> -du <duration>

Next, replace the Authorization header with your newly generated SharedAccessSignature, then modify the iothubName, deviceId, methodName and payload parameters to match your implementation in the example curl command below.

curl -X POST \
  https://<iothubName>.azure-devices.net/twins/<deviceId>/methods?api-version=2018-06-30 \
  -H 'Authorization: SharedAccessSignature sr=iothubname.azure-devices.net&sig=x&se=x&skn=iothubowner' \
  -H 'Content-Type: application/json' \
  -d '{
    "methodName": "reboot",
    "responseTimeoutInSeconds": 200,
    "payload": {
        "input1": "someInput",
        "input2": "anotherInput"
    }
}'

Execute the modified command to invoke the specified Direct Method. Successful requests will return an HTTP 200 status code.

Note

The above example demonstrates invoking a Direct Method on a device. If you wish to invoke a Direct Method in an IoT Edge Module, you would need to modify the url request as shown below:

https://<iothubName>.azure-devices.net/twins/<deviceId>/modules/<moduleName>/methods?api-version=2018-06-30

Response

The back-end app receives a response that is made up of the following items:

  • HTTP status code:

    • 200 indicates successful execution of direct method;
    • 404 indicates that either device ID is invalid, or that the device was not online upon invocation of a direct method and for connectTimeoutInSeconds thereafter (use accompanied error message to understand the root cause);
    • 504 indicates gateway timeout caused by device not responding to a direct method call within responseTimeoutInSeconds.
  • Headers that contain the ETag, request ID, content type, and content encoding.

  • A JSON body in the following format:

    {
        "status" : 201,
        "payload" : {...}
    }
    

    Both status and body are provided by the device and used to respond with the device's own status code and/or description.

Method invocation for IoT Edge modules

Invoking direct methods using a module ID is supported in the IoT Service Client C# SDK.

For this purpose, use the ServiceClient.InvokeDeviceMethodAsync() method and pass in the deviceId and moduleId as parameters.

Handle a direct method on a device

Let's look at how to handle a direct method on an IoT device.

MQTT

The following section is for the MQTT protocol.

Method invocation

Devices receive direct method requests on the MQTT topic: $iothub/methods/POST/{method name}/?$rid={request id}. The number of subscriptions per device is limited to 5. It is therefore recommended not to subscribe to each direct method individually. Instead consider subscribing to $iothub/methods/POST/# and then filter the delivered messages based on your desired method names.

The body that the device receives is in the following format:

{
    "input1": "someInput",
    "input2": "anotherInput"
}

Method requests are QoS 0.

Response

The device sends responses to $iothub/methods/res/{status}/?$rid={request id}, where:

  • The status property is the device-supplied status of method execution.

  • The $rid property is the request ID from the method invocation received from IoT Hub.

The body is set by the device and can be any status.

AMQP

The following section is for the AMQP protocol.

Method invocation

The device receives direct method requests by creating a receive link on address amqps://{hostname}:5671/devices/{deviceId}/methods/deviceBound.

The AMQP message arrives on the receive link that represents the method request. It contains the following sections:

  • The correlation ID property, which contains a request ID that should be passed back with the corresponding method response.

  • An application property named IoThub-methodname, which contains the name of the method being invoked.

  • The AMQP message body containing the method payload as JSON.

Response

The device creates a sending link to return the method response on address amqps://{hostname}:5671/devices/{deviceId}/methods/deviceBound.

The method's response is returned on the sending link and is structured as follows:

  • The correlation ID property, which contains the request ID passed in the method's request message.

  • An application property named IoThub-status, which contains the user supplied method status.

  • The AMQP message body containing the method response as JSON.

Additional reference material

Other reference topics in the IoT Hub developer guide include:

Next steps

Now you have learned how to use direct methods, you may be interested in the following IoT Hub developer guide article:

If you would like to try out some of the concepts described in this article, you may be interested in the following IoT Hub tutorial: