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ThingsBoard Documentation

Documentation for using ThingsBoard IoT Platform.

Advanced Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) for IoT devices and applications


ThingsBoard PE Feature


Only ThingsBoard Professional Edition supports Advanced RBAC for IoT devices and applications feature.

See Get ThingsBoard PE to install ThingsBoard PE.

See video tutorial below for step-by-step instruction how to use this feature.


ThingsBoard CE vs PE security features comparison

ThingsBoard Community Edition (TB CE) supports straight-forward security model with three main roles: System administrator, Tenant administrator and Customer user. System administrator is able to manage tenants, while tenant administrator manages devices, dashboards, customers and other entities that belong to particular tenant. Customer user is able to view dashboards and control devices that are assigned to specific customer. TB CE functionality is sufficient for a lot of simple use cases, especially building real-time end-user dashboards.

ThingsBoard Professional Edition (TB PE) brings much more flexibility in terms of user, customer and role management. It is designed to cover use cases for businesses and enterprises with multiple user groups that have different permissions but may interact with the same devices and assets.

TB PE security model was significantly improved in v2.3 to enable new security features and to support advanced RBAC for IoT applications. For example:

This document covers features that are exclusive to TB PE. We will start with a glossary and will provide step-by-step examples how to configure most popular use cases.

Glossary

Tenant

You can treat tenant as a separate business-entity: individual or organization who owns or produce devices and assets. Tenant may have multiple tenant administrator users and millions of customers.

Entity

Any entity managed by ThingsBoard. For example: device, asset, user, dashboard, entity view, etc. See entities and relations guide for more details.

Entity Group (EG)

Entity Groups are groups of entities of the same type, for example: Device Group or Asset Group. Single entity may belong to multiple entity groups simultaneously. For example, thermostat device may belong to group “Thermostats” that contains all devices and more specific group like “Thermostats with FW v1.2.3”.

Customer

Customer may be a separate business-entity: individual or organization who purchase or uses tenant devices and/or assets. Customer may also be a division within Tenant organization. Customer may have multiple users, inner customers and millions of devices and/or assets.

Customer Group (CG)

Customer group is also an EG. It has the same features as regular EG, but we have a separate term for CG to be able to easily distinct CGs and all other EGs.

User

Users are able to login to ThingsBoard web interface, execute REST API calls, access devices and assets if allowed. User is also an Entity in ThingsBoard.

User Group (UG)

User group is also an EG. It has the same features as regular EG, but we have a separate term for UG to be able to easily distinct UGs and all other EGs.

Owner

Each EG belongs to one owner. This may be either Tenant or Customer. Also, each Customer has also only one owner. If the Customer Owner is Tenant, it means that this is a top-level Customer. If the Customer owner is another Customer, it means that this is a sub-customer. There might be multiple levels of Customers in ThingsBoard.

Resource

Anything that has secure APIs or represents a ThingsBoard Entity is a resource. Examples of Entities are listed in the Entity definition above. Groups of entities are also resources, for example: Device Group, Asset Group, Dashboard Group. Additional resources are white-labeling, audit logs and admin settings.

Operation

Operations represent actions that you might perform over Resources. There are generic actions like “create”, “read”, “write”, “delete”, “add to group”, “remove from group”. There are also specific actions like “read/write credentials”.

Role

Role contains a list of Resources and a list of allowed Operations for each of those resources. There are two Role types: Generic and Group. There is a special resource “All” that is a shortcut to all available resource types. There is also a special operation “All” that is a shortcut to all possible operations.
We will explain the differences between them later in this article.

Group Permissions Entity (GPE)

GPE is basically a mapping between UG, Role and optional EG. See “Generic roles” and “Group roles” for more details.

Customer hierarchy

ThingsBoard supports “recursive” customer hierarchy with unlimited number of sub-customers. The root level Owner is Tenant. Each Owner may have multiple Entity Groups (EGs), User Groups (UGs) and Customer Groups (CGs).

Note: Each Entity has exactly one owner. However, Entities may belong to multiple EGs that belong to the same owner.

Since CGs may contain multiple Customers, each Customer may also own his EGs, UGs and CGs (i.e sub-customer groups). See diagram below for visual representation of relations between those entities.

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Roles

Role maps Resource type to a list of allowed Operations. There are two Role types: Generic and Group.

Generic roles

Each Role is related to one or more User Group. Each User Group has only one Owner. With Generic Role you grant UG with the same permissions over all entities that belong to the same Owner and all it’s sub-customers recursively. We use special “connection” object called Group Permission Entity to make a connection between User Group and Generic Role.

Let’s review the diagram below.

User Bob will be able to perform any operations over any entity that belongs to either his Tenant A or Customer B as long as any other customers and sub-customers for the same Tenant. However, User Alice will be able to perform any operations over any entity that belongs to only her Customer B and all it’s sub-customers. So, Alice and Bob are able to access Device B1, but only Bob is able to access Device A1.

image

Group roles

Group Role allows you to map set of Permissions for specific User Group to specific Entity Group. We use special “connection” object called Group Permission Entity to make a connection between User Group, Entity Group and Group Role.

Let’s review the diagram below.

User Bob belongs to “Tenant Administrators” group and is able to do any operations with any tenant entities. Basically Bob has full control over both Device Groups A and B. User Alice belongs to “Group A Administrators” and has read/write access to all devices in device group A. However, Alice will not be able to see or use devices from group B.

image

Note: Since Entity Group has exactly one Owner, you can assign Group Role to any User Group that belongs to the same Owner or any parents of the Owner.

Examples and How-Tos

See list of configuration examples below for the most popular use cases.

Smart Buildings: Separate User Groups per Facility

Let’s assume your solution manages commercial buildings. Your main customer is a Building Manager that wants to monitor HVAC systems, electricity consumption and other smart devices in the building.
Building Manager may want to design and share some dashboards with the end users - office workers. Besides, your engineers responsible for the maintenance are interested in supervising the devices state, for example, receiving alerts when the battery level for goes below certain thresholds.

To summarize those requirements in ThingsBoard terms, we should implement the following roles:

Let’s configure ThingsBoard to support this use case. The instructions below assume that you have logged in as a Tenant Administrator.

Supervisors

We will create a separate User Group named “Supervisors” and a separate Dashboard Group “Supervisor Dashboards”. Our goal is to allow Supervisors to manage dashboards in “Supervisor Dashboards” group, but for all other entities in the system, they should have read-only access.

Let’s start from creating a “Supervisor Dashboards” group. See screencast below.

We should create two roles to implement this use case:

We will assign those roles to the “Supervisors” group. See screencast below:

Facility managers

We will create separate Customer entity for each building or group of buildings. We will add a Facility Manager user account to a default “Customer Administrators” group that is automatically created for each Customer. As a Facility Manager we can now login, design dashboards, provision devices and end users.

End Users

Let’s login as Alice (created in a previous screencast), Building A administrator, and create several dashboards. To simplify this guide we will not demonstrate particular dashboard creation steps (there are planty of guides available).

image

Now, let’s create a read-only user. Let’s assume we want to assign “End User Dashboard” to him and make sure that this dashboard will open full screen once the user is logged in. So, our read-only user will not have access to the administration panel to the left, since he is still not allowed to perform any server side API calls, except read-only browsing the data.

DaaS: Device as a Service

TODO: Stay tuned, this doc will be available upon v2.3 release.

Next steps