ISOBlue 2.0 Explained (Part 1): CAN Logging

The CAN data logging on ISOBlue 2.0s' is fully automatic. Machine operators need to install ISOBlues once and these little boxes will take care of the logging of CAN streams coming from the tractor and the implement busses. No human intervention needed.

How does everything work under the hood?

In this part of the series, we will look into how ISOBlue 2.0 works in terms of CAN data logging.

As ISOBlues run on a customized version of Linux. Let us go over two basic concepts in Linux first:


udev is the device manager for the Linux kernel. It handles all user space events when hardware devices are added and removed. It primarily manages device nodes in the /dev directory in Linux. For instance, if you plug in a wireless mouse to your computer, as long as your Linux distribution has the proper driver for it, udev will correspondently match the mouse's device ID, load the driver for you, and voila, you will be move your cursor and navigate your way within your desktop environment.

Moreover, you can also write custom udev rules for running custom scripts whenever a known device is installed onto a system.

You can read more about it in here.


systemd is a software suite that handles system/user service configurations and manages processes in a Linux operation system. You can start, stop, and restart background services. In addition, you can monitor the statuses of your background services using systemd.

You can read more about it in here.

The CAN data logging part of ISOBlue relies on these two tools heavily. Once you get an idea of what they are for, then the whole workflow which I am about to explain is just a piece-of-cake to understand.

CAN Logging Workflow

You can see from the picture below that the workflow is represented with nodes within a timeline. Each node on the timeline represents an important event in our workflow. Now, imagine you are carrying an ISOBlue and want to deploy it in one of your tractors. You plugged in one end of the ISOBUS diagnostic cable into the diagnostic port and the other end to your ISOBlue. Here are what will happen.

CAN logging workflow

System Boots

This indicates the startup sequence of the ISOBlue. The kernel is working hard at this point to have all the required system services up and running as well as registering all the devices along with their drivers.

CAN Devices Ready

At this point, the two CAN interfaces available on the ISOBlue are enumerated as can0 and can1 in /dev.

Pink Node

As soon as udev sees the CAN interfaces are available, it triggers the udev rule 70-isoblue2-can.rules:

# CAN interface on tractor bus
KERNEL=="can[0-9]*", KERNELS=="2090000.can", NAME="tra", TAG+="systemd", ENV{SYSTEMD_WANTS}="can_up@tra.service"
# CAN interface on implement bus
KERNEL=="can[0-9]*", KERNELS=="2094000.can", NAME="imp", TAG+="systemd", ENV{SYSTEMD_WANTS}="can_up@imp.service"

This udev rule will rename can0 and can1 to tra (tractor bus) and imp (implement bus). It will also trigger two systemd services to properly set up the two interfaces with the correct baudrates.

Moreover, it also triggers another udev rule 80-wakeoncan.rules. This rule enables the wake-on-CAN features on two CAN interfaces. Now, the two CAN interfaces of the ISOBlue are propertly configured.

First Blue Node

Shortly after the interfaces are set, the can-watchdog service will start. The service runs a program that monitors the CAN activities on the two CAN interfaces. Whenever there is no CAN activity for 5 seconds, the program will issue a suspend command to the system.

Zookeeper Up

This indicates the Zookeeper is up and running in the ISOBlue.

Kafka Broker Up

A Kafka broker is then brought up by a systemd service. Note the Requires line in the systemd service file. The Requires is a systemd unit dependency directive. It means that, in this context, it requires all the services after the equal sign to run as long as the Kafka broker is up.

Description=Apache Kafka Broker Service
Requires=zookeeper.service can-log-limp.service can-log-ltra.service can-log-rimp.service can-log-rtra.service can-d-mr-imp.service can-d-mr-tra.service heartbeat.service dev-sda1.device zookeeper.service
ExecStart=/opt/kafka/bin/ /opt/kafka/config/

Therefore, the broker service spawns four CAN logging services:

  • can-log-ltra
  • can-log-limp
  • can-log-rtra
  • can-log-rimp

The letter "l" stands for local and "r" stands for remote. For the local Kafka CAN logging services, they logs every single CAN message and append all of them to Kafka. On the other hand, the remote services log only the messages specified by a PGN list file. Both local and remote services run the same program; different flags are utilized to have them running in different modes.

systemdctl suspend and System Suspends

Now say you have driven your tractor for some time and need to take a lunch break. You turn your key and the tractor is off. Now the can-watchdog is not happy, the program cannot see any CAN activity on the CAN interfaces so it tells the ISOBlue to go to suspend.

Before going to suspend, all system states will be saved to memory and shortly after systemctl suspend has been issued, the ISOBlue goes to suspend.

System Wakes Up

Now you are back from your lunch break and need to get back to work. You turn on the tractor. Since the CAN interfaces are configured to wake on CAN, the system resumes from the suspend state to normal. The system is then restored to wherever it was left off earlier and start to collect more data.

That's pretty much it. Hope you enjoy the first part of ISOBlue Explained!