Using the Ioto Embedded Database


The Ioto agent database (DB) is an ultra high performance NoSQL database for embedded applications.

It supports fast, in-memory, local data access and optional transparent synchronization of data to and from the cloud.

This post is the seventh of a series on the Ioto embedded web server component and it discusses how to use the Ioto embedded database.

The posts in the series are:

Ioto Database

The Ioto database is a NoSQL database for embedded applications that stores data items as JSON documents of arbitrary complexity. Data items are organized into entity tables by entity type and an entity schema that specifies data fields, types, attributes and validations.

The Ioto database uses Red/black binary search indexes and has controllable local persistency to disk and to the cloud on a per-table basis. It is modeled after AWS DynamoDB and the OneTable access library.

Database Features

Default Database

The Ioto agent will open a default database for general purpose use. This database is loaded from the state.db file using the modes/MODE/schema.json5 schema. The filename and schema file can be modified via the config/ioto.json5 properties under the database key. Most users would typically use this database and would not need to open another database instance.

The database instance reference is stored in the global ioto object in the db property.


You can create and open other databases should your device application require.

JSON documents

The database stores items as JSON documents that are a nested collection of properties to arbitrary depth. As JSON is one of the most prevalent data exchange formats, storing data in JSON greatly reduces data transformation and exchange costs.

Ioto includes a powerful JSON query engine that you can use to query and manipulate database JSON documents.

Data Types

All data types are stored internally as strings to optimize data transfer. Return values from database APIs typically return static strings that you do not need to free (const char*). To convert numbers, use the safe runtime conversion routines: stoi() and stoiradix().

API Quick Tour

If you do choose to open another database, rather than use the default database, use the dbOpen API:

Db *db = dbOpen("./data.db", "./schema.json5", 0);

The dbOpen API will open the named database and schema. Data is loaded from the database file and stored in-memory. The schema file describes the application entities, data fields and indexes. Read more about Schemas.

Creating an Item

Use dbCreate to create an item:

const DbItem *item = dbCreate(ioto->db, "Fault", DB_PROPS(
    "timestamp", rGetTime(),
    "source", "bluetooth",
    "severity", "warn",
    "subject", "Failed to sync",
), NULL);

This creates an item in the database and returns a const reference to the item. The item properties are provided using the DB_PROPS macro with key/value pairs for each property.

Database items are documents that store item properties in JSON format using JSON types (objects, arrays, strings, numbers, booleans and dates). Properties can be nested to arbitrary depth.

You can also specify the item properties as a JSON string using the DB_JSON macro. This is useful when you have nested item properties:

item = dbCreate(db, "User",
    DB_JSON("{name: 'user', details: {role: '%s'}}", role), 

Retrieving Fields

To retrieve a field from an item, use dbGetField:

const char *id = dbGetField(item, "id");

This will retrieve a reference to the the id field from the previously read item.

You can also read nested properties from within the item’s JSON document by specifying a full property path.

cchar *errors = dbGetField(item, "interfaces.bluetooth.if1.errors");

Reading Items

To read an item from the database, supply the required item key and call dbGet. The key can be the actual item key or it can be a set of fields that are used by the schema to create the key. See Value Templates for details.

CDbItem *item = dbGet(db, "Fault", DB_PROPS("id", id), NULL);

When debugging, you can use the utility routine dbPrintItem to print the contents of an item:


Finding Items

To retrieve a set of matching items, use dbFind:

DbGrid *items = dbFind(db, "Fault", DB_PROPS("severity", "critcal"), 0);

You can provide one or more properties to be used as a filter. Items will be returned that match all supplied properties.

When finished with the items, you must free the returned grid via dbFreeGrid.


To iterate over the item list, use ITERATE_ITEMS:

DbItem *item;
int    n;
for (ITERATE_ITEMS(items, item, n)) {

You can also use DB_JSON instead of DB_PROPS to provide query parameters as JSON:

items = dbFind(db, "FAULT", DB_JSON("{severity:'%s'}", severity), 0);

The JSON can be provided as JSON/5 which allows single quotes around string values.

Getting and Setting Fields

To get a single field from an item, use dbGet:

cchar *severity = dbGet(db, "Fault", "severity", DB_PROPS("id", id), NULL);

To set a single field in an item, use dbSet:

DbItem *item = dbSetField(db, "Fault", "severity", "info", DB_PROPS("id", id), NULL);

You can also use the type specific set routines: dbSetBool, dbSetDate, dbSetDouble and dbSetNum.

Updating Items

To update multiple fields in an item, use dbUpdate:

item = dbUpdate(db, "Fault", DB_PROPS("id", id, "severity", "info", "subject": "Fault resolved"), NULL);

Removing Items

To remove an item, use dbRemove:

dbRemove(db, "Fault", DB_PROPS("id", id), NULL);


When retrieving items from a large data set, you may need to paginate your results.

You can specify a limit to the number of returned results via the limit param. The dbFind routine can take a next parameter that specifies where to begin returning results. The next parameter is actually the key of the last returned item and the search begins after that point.

cchar *next = NULL;
do {
    DbGrid *grid = dbFind(db, NULL, NULL, DB_PARAMS(.next = next, .limit = 20));
    next = dbNext(grid);
} while (next);

Cloud Replication

You can transparently replicate device data to the cloud using Ioto cloud synchronization. Data can be synchronized in either direction: from the cloud to the device, or from the device to the cloud.

Database data is replicated to an AWS DynamoDB database in your device cloud. When changes are made in the cloud to synchronized models, the changes are automatically sent to the relevant device for replication. Similarly, when data is changed on the device for an item that is synchronized to the cloud, the changes will be sent to the DynamoDB database in your AWS device cloud for storage. This replication happens transparently and automatically.

If a device is offline or the network is down, synchronization will catch up when the device is next online and connected to the network.

Replication is controllable on a per-model (entity) basis via the database schema. The schema control property defines how to synchronize each model. You can “enable” an model to be stored in the cloud, in the device or in both places. You can also control the replication direction flow of changes to be “up” to the cloud, or “down” to the device.

For each Model in the schema, a property under the control collection specifies where the model resides and how it should be synchronized.

    control: {
        Status:  { enable: 'cloud' },
        Fault:   { sync: 'up' },

This enables the Status items to be stored only in the cloud whereas Fault items will be stored on the device and in the cloud and will be synchronized up from the device to the cloud.

General Configuration

You can configure the Ioto database via the config/config/ioto.json5 database property collection.

See Database Configuration for details.

database: {
    path: 'state/state.db',
    schema: 'config/schema.json5',
    maxJournalSize: '1mb',
    maxJournalAge: '5mins',
    maxSyncAge: '5secs',
    maxSyncSize: '10k',


Ioto provides a few routines that help with debugging DB API usage.

API Reference

The full API is specified here:


Want More Now?

To learn more about EmbedThis Ioto, please read:


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