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.. _module-pw_hdlc_lite:
`High-Level Data Link Control (HDLC)
<>`_ is a data link
layer protocol intended for serial communication between devices. HDLC is
standardized as `ISO/IEC 13239:2002 <>`_.
The ``pw_hdlc_lite`` module provides a simple, robust frame-oriented
transport that uses a subset of the HDLC protocol. ``pw_hdlc_lite`` supports
sending between embedded devices or the host. It can be used with
:ref:`module-pw_rpc` to enable remote procedure calls (RPCs) on embedded on
**Why use the pw_hdlc_lite module?**
* Enables the transmission of RPCs and other data between devices over serial.
* Detects corruption and data loss.
* Light-weight, simple, and easy to use.
* Supports streaming to transport without buffering, since the length is not
.. admonition:: Try it out!
For an example of how to use HDLC with :ref:`module-pw_rpc`, see the
.. toctree::
:maxdepth: 1
Protocol Description
The HDLC implementation in ``pw_hdlc_lite`` supports only HDLC unnumbered
information frames. These frames are encoded as follows:
.. code-block:: text
| | | | | | |...
| | | | | | |... [More frames]
F A C Payload FCS F
F = flag byte (0x7e, the ~ character)
A = address field
C = control field
FCS = frame check sequence (CRC-32)
Encoding and sending data
This module first writes an initial frame delimiter byte (0x7E) to indicate the
beginning of the frame. Before sending any of the payload data through serial,
the special bytes are escaped:
| Unescaped Special Bytes | Escaped Special Bytes |
| 7E | 7D 5E |
| 7D | 7D 5D |
The bytes of the payload are escaped and written in a single pass. The
frame check sequence is calculated, escaped, and written after. After this, a
final frame delimiter byte (0x7E) is written to mark the end of the frame.
Decoding received bytes
Frames may be received in multiple parts, so we need to store the received data
in a buffer until the ending frame delimiter (0x7E) is read. When the
``pw_hdlc_lite`` decoder receives data, it unescapes it and adds it to a buffer.
When the frame is complete, it calculates and verifies the frame check sequence
and does the following:
* If correctly verified, the decoder returns the decoded frame.
* If the checksum verification fails, the frame is discarded and an error is
API Usage
There are two primary functions of the ``pw_hdlc_lite`` module:
* **Encoding** data by constructing a frame with the escaped payload bytes and
frame check sequence.
* **Decoding** data by unescaping the received bytes, verifying the frame
check sequence, and returning successfully decoded frames.
The Encoder API provides a single function that encodes data as an HDLC
unnumbered information frame.
.. cpp:namespace:: pw
.. cpp:function:: Status hdlc_lite::WriteUIFrame(uint8_t address, ConstByteSpan data, stream::Writer& writer)
Writes a span of data to a :ref:`pw::stream::Writer <module-pw_stream>` and
returns the status. This implementation uses the :ref:`module-pw_checksum`
module to compute the CRC-32 frame check sequence.
.. code-block:: cpp
#include "pw_hdlc_lite/encoder.h"
#include "pw_hdlc_lite/sys_io_stream.h"
int main() {
pw::stream::SysIoWriter serial_writer;
Status status = WriteUIFrame(123 /* address */,
if (!status.ok()) {
PW_LOG_INFO("Writing frame failed! %s", status.str());
.. automodule:: pw_hdlc_lite.encode
.. code-block:: python
import serial
from pw_hdlc_lite import encode
ser = serial.Serial()
ser.write(encode.ui_frame(b'your data here!'))
The decoder class unescapes received bytes and adds them to a buffer. Complete,
valid HDLC frames are yielded as they are received.
.. cpp:class:: pw::hdlc_lite::Decoder
.. cpp:function:: pw::Result<Frame> Process(std::byte b)
Parses a single byte of an HDLC stream. Returns a Result with the complete
frame if the byte completes a frame. The status is the following:
- OK - A frame was successfully decoded. The Result contains the Frame,
which is invalidated by the next Process call.
- UNAVAILABLE - No frame is available.
- RESOURCE_EXHAUSTED - A frame completed, but it was too large to fit in
the decoder's buffer.
- DATA_LOSS - A frame completed, but it was invalid. The frame was
incomplete or the frame check sequence verification failed.
.. cpp:function:: void Process(pw::ConstByteSpan data, F&& callback, Args&&... args)
Processes a span of data and calls the provided callback with each frame or
This example demonstrates reading individual bytes from ``pw::sys_io`` and
decoding HDLC frames:
.. code-block:: cpp
#include "pw_hdlc_lite/decoder.h"
#include "pw_sys_io/sys_io.h"
int main() {
std::byte data;
while (true) {
if (!pw::sys_io::ReadByte(&data).ok()) {
// Log serial reading error
Result<Frame> decoded_frame = decoder.Process(data);
if (decoded_frame.ok()) {
// Handle the decoded frame
.. autoclass:: pw_hdlc_lite.decode.FrameDecoder
Below is an example using the decoder class to decode data read from serial:
.. code-block:: python
import serial
from pw_hdlc_lite import decode
ser = serial.Serial()
decoder = decode.FrameDecoder()
while True:
for frame in decoder.process_valid_frames(
# Handle the decoded frame
Additional features
The ``SysIoWriter`` C++ class implements the ``Writer`` interface with
``pw::sys_io``. This Writer may be used by the C++ encoder to send HDLC frames
over serial.
.. autoclass:: pw_hdlc_lite.rpc.HdlcRpcClient
- **Expanded protocol support** - ``pw_hdlc_lite`` currently only supports
unnumbered information frames with a single address byte and control byte.
Support for different frame types and extended address or control fields may
be added in the future.
- **Higher performance** - We plan to improve the overall performance of the
decoder and encoder implementations by using SIMD/NEON.