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The main challenge with the TCP/IP stack, since it was designed for the internet, is that it does not handle the constraints brought on by the Internet of Things in the most efficient manner. These constraints include small objects with low available power and low power consumption, needing to connect with low available bandwidth, and delivering low data connection on a scarce wireless network.

The European IoT6 research project is a 3 years FP7 European research project on the Internet of Things. It aims at exploring the potential of IPv6 and related standards (6LoWPAN, CORE, COAP, etc.) to overcome the current shortcomings and fragmentation of the Internet of Things. They have designed and tested a protocol suite enabling the integration of multiple communication protocols into an architecture.

The research project has collaborated with several international standardizations bodies such as:

  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a non-profit organization formed in 1963. The IEEE Standards Association has a portfolio of over 1,100 active standards and more than 500 standards under development including the prominent IEEE 802® standards for local, metropolitan, and other area networks, including Ethernet and Wireless LAN (commonly referred to as Wi-Fi®). There are more than 421,000 members in more than 160 countries.
  • The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is an open standard organization formed in 1986. IETF is an organized activity of the Internet Society which is a non-profit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet-related standards, education, and policy. IETF is particularly responsible for the TCP/IP suite. IETF specifications (drafts and final versions) are published as “request for comments” (RFCs).
  • The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) was formed in 1865 as a body standardizing international telegraph exchange. The ITU-T is one of the three sectors of the International Telecommunication Union(ITU) which is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies. ITU-T coordinates standards for telecommunications through study groups which develop and release standards recommendations.
  • OASIS (Advancing open standards for the information society) is a non-profit consortium founded in 1993 by vendors and users wanting to have guidelines among products that supported the Standard Generalized Markup Language. It now has more than 5000 participants in more than 65 countries. OASIS releases standards for multiple usages such as Smart Grid, IoT/M2M, Big Data and so forth.

The European IoT6 research project has gathered some key recommendations on how to exploit IPv6 features for the IoT in their “Integration handbook for SMEs” available on their website: www IoT6.eu.

They consider that the main benefits of IPv6 for the IoT are the following :

  • Scalability
  • Enabling the extension of the Internet and the web of things
  • Solving the NAT barrier
  • Improving Routing
  • StateLess Address AutoConfiguration
  • Multicast and anycast
  • Quality of Service
  • Mobility
  • Security
  • IPv6 version available for low-power devices
  • Fully Internet compliant

Taking into consideration the fact that IoT objects need very low power consumptions and optimized transmission of “unneeded data, protocol overhead, and non-optimized communication patterns”, they have proposed and clarified an IoT architecture and the following level :

  • Device Level: devices leveraging IPv6 and legacy devices leveraging specific protocols, such as KNX, ZigBee, or Bluetooth, as well as IPv4.
  • Communication Level: Devices are connected either via the so-called half gateways (that convert legacy protocols to IPv6) or directly, when they are IPv6-enabled.
  • Service Level: the IoT6 architecture support several solutions for service registration and discovery.

 

Other standardization groups are also contributing to the standards of the IoT such as:

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent non-governmental organization of national standards bodies (individuals or companies cannot become members).

In conclusion of this paragraph and to summarize:

  • IPV6 is a reliable solution to address the specific requirements (scalability, interoperability, multicast and anycast, etc.) of the IoT
  • IoT is likely to keep a certain level of heterogeneity including several communication protocols.
  • IoT is likely to integrate all this heterogeneous landscape into IPv6
  • IPv6 is part of a wider IoT architecture including complementary standards

IoT acronyms

Here are some clarifications of important acronyms to know when speaking about the technical side of the IoT:

  • Interoperability and communication protocols:
    • IEEE 802.15.4: Low Rate WPAN. These Wireless Personal Area Networks enable interoperability and communication between portable and mobile computing devices such as PCs, Smartphones, electronic tablets, peripherals, cell phones and consumer electronics. One of the objectives of the Low Rate WPAN is to enable low data rate solution between those devices with multi-month to multi-year battery life as well as keeping the complexity at a low level. IEEE 802.15.4 operates in unlicensed international frequency bands for IoT devices such as sensors, smart badges, actuators, controls and home automation. The IEEE 802.15.4 has undergone multiple releases and variants to adapt to different forms of physical layers and applications. It is the standard used by other specifications such as ZigBee, 6lowPAN, ISA100.11a and Thread. Those specifications extend the current standard by specifying some upper layers.
    • IETF 6loWPAN: an acronym for IPv6 over Low Power Wireless Personal Area Networks, enhances IPv6 to support the communication requirements of low-power devices and IEEE 802.15.4 networks and is a compressed version of IPv6. 6loWPAN is how you do IPV6 over low-power networks which is typically one of the constraints that IoT devices have.
  • Routing protocols:
    • IETF RPL: IPv6 Routing Protocol for Lowpower and Lossy Networks (LLNs). LLNs are networks in which routers are constraints due to processing power, memory, and energy (battery power); as well as their interconnects that are characterized by high loss rates, low data rates, and instability. These networks can range from small numbers of routers (in the range of 10) to large network made of thousands of routers. These networks can be point to point type of connection to full meshed multipoint architectures.
  • Messaging protocols:
    • IETF CoAP: Constrained Application Protocol. It’s a web transfer protocol meeting (like HTTP, which is not the most adapted to the IoT constraints) adapted to very low overhead, and simplicity for constrained environments.
    • ISO MQTT: Message Queuing Telemetry Transport. MQTT is a Client Server publish/subscribe messaging transport protocol. It is light weight, open, simple, and designed to be easy to implement and used in constrained environments that require small code footprint or limited bandwidth.
    • IETF XMPP: Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol enables streaming of Extensible Markup Language (XML) elements in close to real time between any two network endpoints and is used mainly for the purpose of building instant messaging and presence applications that meet the requirements of RFC 2779.
    • ISO AMQP: Advanced Message Queuing Protocol defines a binary wire-level protocol, meaning that the data is sent as a stream of bytes and therefore can be created or read by any tool that comply with this format. Unlike HTTP and XMPP, AMQP does not have a standard API.

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