This documentation page applies to the legacy Things Network Stack V2. Documentation for The Things Stack V3 is available here

Thing Shadows

A very powerful feature of AWS IoT are Thing Shadows: a JSON document that is used to store and retrieve current state information.

The integration supports reporting shadow state on uplink messages, and send shadow delta updates as downlink messages.

Report Shadow State

For reporting shadow state on uplink messages, you need to return the state in a state object as a result of your Decoder or Converter payload function in The Things Network. Do not put telemetry inside the state object. For example:

function Decoder(bytes, port) {
  var light = (bytes[0] << 8) | bytes[1];
  var temperature = ((bytes[2] << 8) | bytes[3]) / 100;
  var colors = ["red", "green", "blue"];
  var color = colors[bytes[4]];
  return {
    light: light,
    temperature: temperature,
    state: {
      color: color

This function returns light and temperature as telemetry and color as reported shadow state.

  1. Log in to the AWS Management Console
  2. In Services under Internet Of Things, go to AWS IoT
  3. In the menu on the left under Manage, go to Things
  4. Go to a thing that reports shadow state
  5. Click Shadow to see its shadow:

    Reported shadow

Send Shadow Delta Updates

Sending shadow delta updates as downlink messages requires you to encode a state object in your encoder payload function to bytes, for example:

function Encoder(object, port) {
  var colors = ["red", "green", "blue"];
  var bytes = [];
  if (object.state && object.state.color) {
  return bytes;

This function returns the color index of the specified color in state.

  1. Still in the AWS IoT thing’s Shadow, click Edit next to Shadow Document
  2. Add a desired object:

    Desired state

  3. Click Save. This triggers a shadow delta update
  4. When this happens, you will see the following in The Things Network Console’s Data of your application:

    Shadow delta update

    The integration schedules a downlink message with the shadow delta, to set the color to blue (row 3). This is sent to the device (row 2). The device changes its color and sends blue in the next message (row 1).

  5. The thing shadow is automatically updated in AWS IoT:

    Reported shadow

AWS IoT has extensive documentation on reported, desired and delta thing shadow states. In this guide, we use manual interaction. Programmatic interaction is easy and highly scalable by using the AWS IoT HTTP API and MQTT protocols. See Using Thing Shadows