With all the news about various ways of implementing wireless sensor networks (WSNs) in manufacturing plants, no one has addressed making each node easier to find. Arch Rock Corp. has introduced an implementation of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) 6LoWPAN proposed standard for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) communication over low-power wireless radio based on the 802.15.4 standard promulgated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Arch Rock Primer Pack/IP, an out-of-the-box solution that lets users create pilot WSNs in manufacturing, office and retail environments using a service-oriented architecture (SOA), runs native IP end-to-end, taking the IP protocols beyond their current boundary at the WSN gateway and out to the individual sensor nodes.
Primer Pack/IP sensor nodes will be able to communicate directly with other IP devices, whether those devices are wired or wireless, local or across the Internet, on Ethernet, WiFi, 6LoWPAN or other types of networks, and regardless of vendor. Network managers will gain direct, real-time access to sensor nodes and the ability to apply a broad range of Internet management and security tools, while end-users will get applications that accommodate their demands for increased mobility and flexibility.
IP made easy
Arch Rock founder and Chief Technology Officer David Culler said, “Applying standard IP solutions to networking problems has historically been the communications market's single most powerful accelerator, helping vendors to speed product development and giving users a wide choice of products and price points. The culmination of the sensor network's migration into the IP domain—made possible by the 6LowPAN group's work with 802.15.4 low-power radio—is the catalyst that will turn WSNs into mainstream information tools, a pervasive piece of the IP ecosystem. In joining that ecosystem, WSNs automatically ‘inherit’ the vast body of IP tools for interoperability, management and access control.
“Under the false assumption that adapting IP to the low-power, low-memory constraints of sensor networking was too difficult,” Culler said, “the industry had previously fixed on proprietary solutions outside the IP realm. Even narrowly-focused industrial standards efforts such as ZigBee, SP100 and Wireless HART are still in the early stages of addressing problems already solved in IP, such as host naming, network management, security and integration. IP-based solutions are ready for the market today, fit into the Internet paradigm that everyone knows, and avoid the work—and the wait—of re-inventing the wheel.”
The IETF 6LoWPAN working group was formed in 2004 to address the challenge of enabling wireless IPv6 communication over the newly standardized IEEE 802.15.4 low-power radio for devices with limited space, power and memory, such as sensor nodes. One key goal was developing a practical means of compressing IP's powerful addressing and header information to fit into small packets whose transmission would consume minimum energy, while preserving interoperability. Another challenge was accommodating efficient multihop routing over IEEE 802.15.4 mesh networks.