Disclaimer: I bet on 6LoWPAN 🙂
Back to the Future movie was a classic for my childhood. In movie, it was possible to travel past and future. One of the favorites parts for me were the scenes in future. Flying cars were the iconic images in the future.
I believe most of you remember the scenes regarding the flying cars. As a futurist child I strongly believed that flying cars will be part of our daily lives in 2000’s.
Well, we are almost in 2015 but still don’t see any flying car around the city. Btw I’m still futurist 🙂
Then what’s that about Flying Cars or 6LoWPAN title?
Yes we still do not have flying cars to go to work but there are much more exciting technological developments in our age. And my favorites are inventions, products, ideas relevant to Internet of Things concept. I will not tell you again from scratch about Internet of Things. You can find a good article on Wikipedia. Most people believe, data generated using IoT technologies will blow up and technology itself is about to explode by 2020.
In Internet of Things, you will need smart and small devices in the field to generate data about every single environmental details/changes. You may want to smell the air, detect the motions, switch the electric, measure usages etc. There are bunch of scenarios that can be enabled. Having smart and small devices is great for such a purpose but it’s also difficult to manage them. They are small therefore have limited power and processing capabilities. Also these devices are increasingly being based on wireless technologies. At the end of the day, to implement a smart system you will need
- Smart and small devices on the field. (sensors)
- Low power (they need to be run for years on a single battery)
- low cost (should be continuously reduce price point)
- based on wireless technologies
These requirements and challenges drove work groups to create a standard that implements low-cost, low-power wireless mesh network specifications. One of them and probably the most popular one is ZigBee. ZigBee standard supports different set of networks including star, tree or mesh topologies. It’s great for everyone that wanted to build embedded applications requiring low latency and power consumption. Being first in the field helped ZigBee to be adopted by major players in multiple industries.
ZigBee works by defining a new layer when communicating over 802.15.4 layer. Therefore it can only communicate endpoints that use same protocol.
One another standard is 6LoWPAN stands for “The IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks”.
Main purpose to create additional standard for wireless communication between these devices was to be able to enable IP based communication between these devices. Therefore these devices will be able to used by Internet of Things projects easily. Protocol uses IEEE 802.15.4 based networks and can be used in intranet or internet traffic since familiar IP based communication is being used by protocol.
(The IEEE 802.15.4 standard is maintained by the IEEE 802.15 working group and defines low-data-rate, low-power, and short-range radio frequency transmissions for wireless personal area networks (WPANs). The working group aims to keep the complexity of the standard and the cost of the necessary hardware low, making it suitable for wireless communication among constrained devices such as sensors and actuators. – See more at: http://www.mdpi.com/2224-2708/2/2/235/htm#sthash.zEq54SQ9.dpuf)
You see on above diagram that every node should have its own IPv6 address.
Main benefit of 6LoWPAN is the ability to communicate directly with other 802.15.4 wireless devices on other IP networks with a single bridge device. People can communicate across the internet without having a conversion process between IP and ZigBee.
Main challenge I see for 6LoWPAN is that we can not implement it easily since it requires knowledge over IPv6 networks.
Major players in industry such as Texas Instruments, Atmel supply 802.15.4 chips that can be used for either ZigBee and 6LoWPAN and I believe having such standards will help use to build and integrate our solutions agile.