New Standards Group Targets Interoperable IP Routing for Low-power Wireless Networks

The approach would enable systems of low-power embedded devices to be connected and managed seamlessly under the IP umbrella regardless of the type of physical links on which they are connected.

A new Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Working Group has been chartered to develop a framework for using Internet protocol (IP)-based routing techniques over low-power, “lossy” networks—networks that wirelessly connect large numbers of sensors and other small, embedded devices in applications ranging from factory automation to the “connected home.”

The efforts of the IETF Routing Over Low-power and Lossy Networks (ROLL) Working Group build on recent IETF advances such as those of the IETF 6LoWPAN Working Group (RFC 4944), which addressed the standardization of IP protocols over low-power wireless radios links. 6LoWPAN is an acronym for IP version 6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks.

Multiple links

The new ROLL group’s focus is on developing efficient and interoperable routing protocols that support the use of open-standard, low-power IP networking over a variety of physical links, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ IEEE 802.15.4, Bluetooth, Low Power Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) and wired links. An end-to-end IP-based routing framework will help enable systems of embedded devices that have limited power, memory and processing resources to be connected and managed seamlessly under the IP umbrella regardless of the type of physical links on which they are connected. This contrasts with earlier non-IP architectures that have linked entire networking and routing schemes to a single radio technology.

The IETF ROLL Working Group held its first meeting in March during IETF-71 in Philadelphia. Co-chairing the new group are Jean-Philippe Vasseur, distinguished engineer at Cisco Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif.-based network systems provider, and David Culler, Ph.D., co-founder and chief technology officer of Arch Rock Corp., a San Francisco-based wireless sensor network technology provider, and professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley.

“The IP standard is moving at breakneck speed into new spheres such as industrial monitoring, home and building automation, and urban infrastructure networks,” said Culler. ”But the links and devices in these environments have different characteristics than in the traditional IT- oriented Internet—lower power, bandwidth and processing capability, and the need to route around obstructions. Building on earlier IETF work that enabled IP to run efficiently in such environments, it is now critical to specify the most efficient dynamic routing protocols with multi-vendor interoperability in mind. Arch Rock and Cisco share a belief that solutions developed for this new ‘embedded tier’ of the Internet should naturally extend the ubiquitous IP infrastructure without the protocol translation gateways and proxies that have previously been required to connect non-interoperable legacy networks.”

Powerful force

“The early adoption of open-standard, IP-based solutions made the Internet the incredibly powerful force it is today,” Vasseur added. “Cisco and Arch Rock strongly support the standardization of IP-based routing solutions for low- power networks through ROLL because we believe that adapting the known body of IP routing techniques to a new class of links with specific resource constraints will address the needs of emerging embedded markets far better than non-standard, non-IP approaches. IP has proven to be the open standard for a variety of devices, and the use of IP in low-power networks will enable a variety of new services in connected homes and buildings, factories and smart cities, making the “Internet of Things” a reality. The objective is to reuse a number of existing IP-based technologies and extend or adapt them only when needed to address the specific requirements of these networks. An interoperable IP-based approach, available over a choice of industry-standard low-power radio networks, will help offer our customers maximum interoperability, deployment flexibility and investment protection at minimum cost.”

IETF ROLL Working Group

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