Lua Programmable IoT and Edge Controller

Why Use Lua in Embedded Systems?

Looking for an easy-to-learn programming language that helps you avoid common pitfalls like buffer overflows and memory leaks? Look no further than Lua! Similar to Python, this high-level language is perfect for embedded systems development, including running on microcontrollers.

One of the major benefits of using Lua is that it abstracts out the details of underlying microcontroller hardware, allowing developers to focus on the application-specific aspects of their projects. With Lua's handy Lua Server Pages (LSP) extension, you can also easily add IoT functionality and other advanced features to your projects.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, Lua makes it simple to design network/protocol-related functionality and high-level logic safely. Start learning Lua today and take your development skills to the next level!

Lua is the only module in the Barracuda Application Server not developed by Real Time Logic. Lua is licensed under the terms of the MIT license and can therefore be used in any commercial product without any restrictions. See the Lua license for more information.

What makes Lua special is its compact size, impressive speed, and engineering excellence. Lua was not designed to be a standalone language; it was crafted to be an extension language from the ground up. This makes Lua an excellent choice for embedding and integrating with software like our Barracuda App Server, which extends the Lua APIs for IoT and the web.

Lua For C Coders


In C, you declare variables with a specific data type, like int, float, char, etc.:

int num = 10;
char ch = 'A';

In Lua, you don’t need to specify a type; you just declare a variable:

num = 10
ch = 'A'

A string in C:

char* str = "Hello, World!";

A string in Lua:

str = "Hello, World!"

Conditional Statements

The syntax for an if statement in C:

if (num > 10) {
 printf("num is greater than 10");
} else {
 printf("num is not greater than 10");

The equivalent syntax in Lua:

if num > 10 then
 print("num is greater than 10")
 print("num is not greater than 10")


A simple for loop in C:

for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++) {
 printf("%d\n", i);

The equivalent loop in Lua:

for i = 0, 9 do


Defining a function in C:

int add(int a, int b) {
 return a + b;

Defining the same function in Lua:

function add(a, b)
 return a + b


In C, an array must be declared with a size and type:

int arr[5] = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5};

Accessing an array in C (0-based index):

int first = arr[0];

In Lua, you use tables, which are a combination of arrays and hash maps:

arr = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

Accessing a table in Lua (1-based index):

first = arr[1]

Check out our Online Interactive Lua Tutorials for a gentle introduction to Lua.

Lua Benefits

Lua is a beginner-friendly coding language that is easy for C or C++ developers to learn. It is widely used in frameworks due to its user-friendly nature and is even taught as a first language to children in programs like Roblox. This makes it an excellent choice for teams where not all members may be experienced with hard-core C/C++ programming. Using a high-level language like Lua also allows non-expert developers to work safely with embedded system programming. Learning Lua can be a great way for developers to expand their skills and capabilities.

Is Lua Capable of Real-Time Performance?

Do you think Lua is too sluggish for microcontrollers with tight resource limits? Think again! Lua is surprisingly agile and efficient, making it a perfect fit for embedded systems. Check out this video, where we tested Lua on an ESP32 microcontroller.

Is Lua difficult to integrate in embedded systems?

The Barracuda App Server C code and our version of the Lua C library are designed for easy integration into embedded systems, providing an optional amalgamated version (one C file) that can be easily added to any IDE or Makefile.

Python vs. Lua

Python is a popular data science language and may be the king of the desktop, but Lua is a better choice for embedded systems, as it is designed specifically for easy integration into larger programs. It has a strong track record in the gaming industry, and is known for its speed and efficiency, making it a top choice when performance is a priority. Additionally, Lua is easy for Python developers to learn, as the two languages have many similarities.

Most programming languages have similar basic concepts such as variables, data types, loops, functions, etc. Once you understand these concepts, you can easily apply them to any language. However, learning the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) specific to the language can be more challenging and time-consuming. To simplify the process of learning our APIs, we have dedicated significant resources to creating user-friendly IoT and web APIs with comprehensive documentation and a wealth of ready-to-use examples. This makes it easier for developers to quickly and effectively integrate these APIs into their projects, saving time and increasing efficiency.

Lua emerges as a compelling choice for embedded systems for the following reasons:

  • Purpose-Built for Integration: Lua was crafted with a specific intent: seamless integration into larger applications. This design philosophy makes it a natural fit for embedded systems where resources are constrained and integration is paramount.
  • A Legacy in Gaming: Lua's robust performance in the gaming industry is a testament to its speed and efficiency. When milliseconds matter, Lua delivers.
  • APIs: The Real Challenge and Our Solution: While the core language is easy to learn, the real challenge often lies in understanding each language's unique APIs. We recognize this hurdle. That's why we've invested heavily in crafting user-friendly Lua IoT and web APIs, complete with comprehensive documentation and many ready-to-use examples. Our goal? To empower developers to integrate these APIs effortlessly, accelerating development and boosting efficiency.
  • A Familiar Transition for Python Developers: Transitioning from Python to Lua? You're in luck. The two languages share many syntactical and structural similarities, making the learning curve gentle for Python enthusiasts.
  • The Universality of Programming Concepts: Whether it's Python, Lua, or any other language, foundational programming concepts remain consistent - variables, loops, functions, and more. Master these, and you're well on your way to mastering any language.

Barracuda App Server adds the missing IoT batteries

The Barracuda App Server expands the functionality of the Lua language by offering a comprehensive set of IoT and web APIs, also known as "batteries", thus enabling developers to utilize the language in embedded devices fully. Providing these IoT and web APIs simplifies the development process and allows developers to take advantage of the many benefits of using Lua in their projects.

How to Use Lua Efficiently

When using Lua, it is crucial to focus on its strengths, as this has been a critical factor in its popularity and success in the gaming industry. By utilizing its core capabilities, developers can leverage the full potential of the language and reap its benefits. The Barracuda App Server offers a unique approach by allowing developers to use C for real-time components and Lua to manage them. This creates a powerful combination that makes developing complex embedded systems with IoT and cloud connectivity easier. By using the best tools for the job, developers can ensure their projects are efficient, reliable, and effective, providing optimal results for their users.

Don't let doubts or concerns hold you back from using Lua in your design. Our team is here to support you and help you make the best decisions for your development projects. We welcome any questions you may have and are happy to have a friendly chat with you. Contact us today, and let's work together to bring your project to success!

Using LSP for both Embedded Code and Web Applications

Lua Server Pages (LSP) is a powerful and flexible tool that was initially designed for server-side web development but now provides much broader support for embedded and network-related programming. With our inovative LSP engine, it is easy to create your own custom programmable Lua powered edge controller using the Barracuda App Server.

At Real Time Logic, we have found that using Lua has greatly simplified our own development process and has allowed us to build complex protocol stacks more quickly. We have used Lua to expedite the development of a range of protocols, including:

Lua has allowed us to focus on delivering high-quality products and solutions to our customers rather than spending unnecessary time and resources on low-level coding tasks. Whether you're working on a small-scale project or a large enterprise deployment, using Lua can help you streamline your development process and bring your products and solutions to market faster.

If you're interested in learning more about how Lua Server Pages (LSP) can be used to fast-track embedded web application development, we encourage you to read the article Lua fast-tracks embedded web application development. This article provides a detailed overview of how LSP works and how it can help you streamline your development process. In addition, we recommend reading the article What is an Embedded Application Server, which explains the difference between a web server and an application server and how they can be used in different scenarios. Finally, the article Rapid Firmware Development explores how Lua can be used to develop an IoT network client and the benefits it can offer in terms of speed and ease of use. These articles provide valuable insights into the capabilities and potential of LSP and Lua in the world of embedded and IoT development.

Download the Barracuda App Server for RTOS or Linux Now!


If you are using an RTOS and are looking for a cost-effective solution for building professional gateway products or developing a powerful edge and IoT foundation, consider using our ready-to-run Barracuda App Server build files for NXP's crossover MCUs. This ready-to-use project is easy to use and can help you quickly and easily build high-quality, feature-rich applications and products quickly and easily. Alternatively, if you are exploring and/or learning, check out our ready-to-use Barracuda App Server project for the ESP32 MCU, which includes ready-to-use Lua code for controlling servos and GPIOs. Regardless of which RTOS platform you choose, the Barracuda App Server will provide a strong foundation for your development efforts, helping you build reliable and scalable RTOS powered solutions that meet the needs of your organization.


Embedded Linux users can download our Mako Server. We provide ready-to-run binaries for many embedded platforms. You can also cross-compile the code for your own device. See the tutorial Embedded Linux Web Interface Design for details.

Lua Debugger Screenshot

The Lua debugger makes it easy to develop and test Lua in embedded systems

Lua Server Pages Use Cases

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