last modified: 2018-11-12

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The code, explained steps by steps

void callAQI(String location){ (1)
1 here starts the definition of the function which will connect the board to a website giving the air pollution in a given place (the paramater location). This function will be executed when called in the loop function that you have written in the file
char* token = "put your own token here"; (1)
1 create the variable token. The value for this variable is the token you can obtain for free on this website:
a token is a kind of password (sometimes called an API secret, or a secret token). It certifies your identity when accessing an API.
char* host = ""; (1)
String webaddress = "/search/?token=" + String(token) + "&keyword=" + location; (2)
int httpPort = 80; (3)
1 the variable host contains the first part of the url (address of the website) where we will retrieve the air quality.
2 this is the second part of the url. You see that it includes your token (transformed into a String) and the location where the air pollution is measured.
3 to send and receive data via http, even if we don’t see it, we must specify the port - this is a bit like a gate number. 80 is the default port number for http. Check this this reference.
if (!client.connect(host, httpPort)) { (1)
  Serial.println("connection failed"); (2)
  return ; (3)
1 the variable "client" (which we have created in the first file) now tries to connect to the website. If it fails (see the ! in the if condition), then:
2 send a message saying the connection to the website has failed
3 return, which means stopping there and leaving the function only if the connection has failed.

The following lines of code will be executed only if our board could connect to

client.print("GET ");(1)
client.println(" HTTP/1.1");
client.print(webaddress); (2)
client.print("Host: ");
client.println("Connection: close"); (3)

unsigned long timeout = millis(); (4)
while (client.available() == 0) {
  if (millis() - timeout > 5000) {
    Serial.println(">>> Client Timeout !");
    return ;

return; (5)
1 all the lines of code starting with client.print contribute to connecting your board to the specific page of the website where the air quality for your location is available.
2 this specific line is the one where your particular location and token will be taken into account: see the webaddress we defined above.
3 this tells the board to disconnect from the website when the connection will be over.
4 this tells the board to wait until the response from the website has been completely received by the client.
5 we are done and we can leave the function callAQI. The info retrieved on the website is now stored in our client variable.

To summarize so far:

  1. the function (method) callAQI connected the board to the website

  2. on this website, it navigated to a page defined by our token and the location where we want to measure the air quality

  3. the result (info about the air quality) has been saved in the memory of our board, in the variable client we used for the connection.

We need more steps to extract the info we need from the client variable. We could have added extra lines to the function callAQI, but for a pure matter of making our code more readable, we put these lines of code in a separate function that we name readAQIResponse:

We now explain step by step what this function does:

String readAQIResponse(){ (1)
   while (client.available()) {(2)

    String line = client.readStringUntil('\n'); (3)
    Serial.println(line); (4)
    if (line.indexOf("data") < 0) { (5)
      continue; (6)
    DynamicJsonBuffer jsonBuffer (1000); (7)
    JsonObject& root = jsonBuffer.parseObject(line); (8)
    String aqiValue = root["data"][0]["aqi"]; (9)
    return aqiValue; (10)
 Serial.println("the client was not available. Returning no data");
 return "no data received";(11)
1 the function is called readAQUIResponse. When it finishes, it provides (it "returns") a value of type String
2 this while loop will read the info that the client variable received (see just above)
3 in code, the end of a line is marked by a symbol invisible to humans: it is \n. So the first line is all characters until \n.
4 To debug (help us understand when and why something is wrong), we print this line on the computer
5 we interested only in the line that contains the word "data". If this word is not present, its index will be negative. See more explanations here.
6 so if "data" is not contained in the line, just move on to the next: ignore the rest of the function and move back to the beginning of the while loop.
7 Here, we prepare a new variable which will help us extract the info we need from this line.
8 The root variable now contains the line, formatted as a json object (see more on json objects here).
9 In this root object, we reach for the subelement ["data"][0]["aqi"]. This is the value of the air pollution for our location.
10 we return this value, leave the while loop and the function.
11 if the client was not available, we received no data.

The end

Find references for this lesson, and other lessons, here.

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