Behavioural Design patterns: Observer

Observer is one of the most popular design patterns. It has been used a lot on many software use cases and thus many languages out there provide it as a part of their standard library.

By using the observer pattern we can tackle the following challenges.

  • Dependency with objects defined in a way that avoids tight coupling
  • Changes on an object changes its dependent objects
  • An object can notify all of its dependent objects

Imagine the scenario of a device with multiple sensors. Some parts of the code will need to get notified when new sensor data arrive and thus act accordingly. We will start by a simple class which represents the json data.

package com.gkatzioura.design.behavioural.observer;

public class SensorData {

    private final String sensor;
    private final Double measure;

    public SensorData(String sensor, Double measure) {
        this.sensor = sensor;
        this.measure = measure;
    }

    public String getSensor() {
        return sensor;
    }

    public Double getMeasure() {
        return measure;
    }
}

The we shall create the observer interface. Every class that implements the observer interface shall be notified once a new object is created.

package com.gkatzioura.design.behavioural.observer;

public interface Observer {

    void update(SensorData sensorData);

}

Next step is to create the observable interface. The observable interface will have methods in order to register the observers that need to get notified.

package com.gkatzioura.design.behavioural.observer;

public interface Observable {

    void register(Observer observer);

    void unregister(Observer observer);

    void updateObservers();

}

Now let us put some implementations.
The sensor listener will receive data from the sensors and notify the observers about the presence of data.

package com.gkatzioura.design.behavioural.observer;

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.Iterator;
import java.util.List;

public class SensorReceiver implements Observable {

    private List data = new ArrayList();
    private List observers = new ArrayList();

    @Override
    public void register(Observer observer) {
        observers.add(observer);
    }

    @Override
    public void unregister(Observer observer) {
        observers.remove(observer);
    }

    public void addData(SensorData sensorData) {
        data.add(sensorData);
    }

    @Override
    public void updateObservers() {

        /**
         * The sensor receiver has retrieved some sensor data and thus it will notify the observer
         * on the data it accumulated.
         */

        Iterator iterator = data.iterator();

        while (iterator.hasNext()) {

            SensorData sensorData = iterator.next();

            for(Observer observer:observers) {
                observer.update(sensorData);
            }

            iterator.remove();
        }
    }

}

The we will create an observer which shall log the sensor data received to database, it might be an influxdb or an elastic search you name it.

package com.gkatzioura.design.behavioural.observer;

public class SensorLogger implements Observer {

    @Override
    public void update(SensorData sensorData) {

        /**
         * Persist data to the database
         */

        System.out.println(String.format("Received sensor data %s: %f",sensorData.getSensor(),sensorData.getMeasure()));
    }

}

Let’s put the all together.

package com.gkatzioura.design.behavioural.observer;

public class SensorMain {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        SensorReceiver sensorReceiver = new SensorReceiver();
        SensorLogger sensorLogger = new SensorLogger();
        sensorReceiver.register(sensorLogger);
        sensorReceiver.addData(new SensorData("temperature",1.2d));
        sensorReceiver.updateObservers();
    }
}

You can find the source code on github.

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