ESP8266: Parsing JSON

The objective of this post is to explain how to parse JSON data using the ArduinoJson library.


In this post, we will create a simple program to parse a JSON string simulating data from a sensor and print it to the serial port. We assume that the ESP8266 libraries for the Arduino IDE were previously installed. You can check how to do it here.

In order to avoid having to manually decode the string into usable values, we will use the ArduinoJson library, which provides easy to use classes and methods to parse JSON.

This very useful library allows both encoding and decoding of JSON, is very efficient and works on the ESP8266.

It can be obtained via library manager of the Arduino IDE, as shown in figure 1.

ArduinoJSON library

Figure 1 – Installation via Arduino IDE library manager.


First of all, we will include the library that implements the parsing functionality.

#include <ArduinoJson.h>

Since this library has some tricks to avoid problems while using it, this post will just show how to parse a locally created string, and thus we will not use WiFi functions. So, we will just start a Serial connection in the setup function.

void setup() {

  Serial.println();  //Clear some garbage that may be printed to the serial console


Main loop

On our main loop function, we will declare our JSON message, that will be parsed. The \ characters are used to escape the double quotes on the string, since JSON names require double quotes [1].

char JSONMessage[] ="{\"SensorType\":\"Temperature\", \"Value\": 10}";

This simple structure consists on 2 name/value pairs, corresponding to a sensor type and a value for that sensor. For the sake of readability, the structure is shown bellow without escaping characters.

"SensorType" : "Temperature",
"Value" : 10

Important: The JSON parser modifies the string [2] and thus its content can’t be reused. That’s the reason why we declare the string inside the main loop and not as a global variable, even though its content is always the same in this program. This way, the variable is local and when the main loop function returns, it is freed and a new variable is allocated again in the next call to the loop function. Check here some definitions about variable scopes.

Then, we need to declare an object of class StaticJsonBuffer. It will correspond to a preallocated memory pool to store the object tree and its size is specified in a template parameter (the value between <> bellow), in bytes [3].

StaticJsonBuffer<300> JSONBuffer;

In this case, we declared a size of 300 bytes, which is more than enough for the string we want to parse. The author of the library specifies here 2 approaches on how to determine the buffer size. Personally, I prefer to declare a buffer that has enough size for the expected message payload and check for errors in the parsing step.

The library also supports dynamic memory allocation but that approach is discouraged [4]. Here we can check the differences between static and dynamic JsonBuffer.

Next, we call the parseObject method on the StaticJsonBuffer object, passing the JSON string as argument. This method will return a reference to an object of class JsonObject [5]. You can check here the difference between a pointer and a reference.

JsonObject&  parsed= JSONBuffer.parseObject(JSONMessage);

To check if the JSON was successfully parsed, we can call the success method on the JsonObject instance [6].

if (!parser.success()) {

  Serial.println("Parsing failed");


After that, we can use the subscript operator to obtain the parsed values by their names [7]. Check here some information about the subscript operator. In other words, this means that we use square brackets and the the names of the parameters to obtain their values, as shown bellow.

const char * sensorType = parsed["SensorType"];
int value = parsed["Value"];

The whole main function is shown bellow. We included some extra prints to separate each iteration of the loop function and to show how the original string is modified when parsed. We need to print it char by char because the parser introduces \0 characters and thus, if we used Serial.println(JSONMessage), we would just see the content until the first \0 character.

void loop() {

  Serial.println("—————— -");

  char JSONMessage[] = " {\"SensorType\": \"Temperature\", \"Value\": 10}"; //Original message
  Serial.print("Initial string value: ");

  StaticJsonBuffer<300> JSONBuffer;   //Memory pool
  JsonObject& parsed = JSONBuffer.parseObject(JSONMessage); //Parse message

  if (!parsed.success()) {   //Check for errors in parsing

    Serial.println("Parsing failed");


  const char * sensorType = parsed["SensorType"]; //Get sensor type value
  int value = parsed["Value"];                                         //Get value of sensor measurement


  Serial.print("Final string value: ");

  for (int i = 0; i < 31; i++) { //Print the modified string, after parsing






Figure 2 illustrates the result printed to the serial console.

ESP8266 JSON Parsing

Figure 2 – Output of the program in the Arduino IDE serial console.

As seen by the previous explanation, this library has some particularities that we need to take in consideration when using it, to avoid unexpected problems. Fortunately, the github page of this library is very well documented, and thus here is a section describing how to avoid pitfalls.

Also, I strongly encourage you to check the example programs that come with the installation of the library, which are very good for understanding how it works.

Final notes

This post shows how easily is to parse JSON in the ESP8266. Naturally, this allows to change data in a well known structured format that can be easily interpreted by other applications, without the need for implementing a specific protocol.

Since microcontrollers and IoT devices have many resource constraints, JSON poses much less overhead than, for example, XML, and thus is a very good choice.

Nevertheless, we need to keep in mind that for some intensive applications, even JSON can pose an overhead that is not acceptable, and thus we may need to go to byte oriented protocols. But, for simple applications, such as reading data from a sensor and sending it to a remote server or receiving a set of configurations, JSON is a very good alternative.



[2] the-string-isnt-read-only







Technical details

  • ESP8266 libraries: v2.3.0.
  • ArduinoJson library: v5.1.1.
This entry was posted in ESP8266, IoT, Microcontrollers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ESP8266: Parsing JSON

  1. Pingback: ESP8266: Parse JSON Arrays | techtutorialsx

  2. Pingback: ESP8266: Encoding JSON messages | techtutorialsx

  3. moyo says:

    how to make json parser to control rgb led in esp8266 from android?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. moyo says:

    thanx antepher
    I will take a look

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: ESP32: Parsing JSON | techtutorialsx

  6. Pingback: ESP32: Creating JSON message | techtutorialsx

  7. Pingback: ESP32: Sending JSON messages over MQTT | techtutorialsx

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