6LoWPAN is a network protocol that brings IPv6 to low-power wireless networks. Defined by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), it is an open standard protocol designed for efficient communication over a variety of wireless technologies, such as IEEE 802.15.4 mesh networks. This makes it an ideal choice for many IoT applications.
The mesh topology has many advantages over the more traditional “star” network topologies used by WiFi and LoRa because it enables wireless range extension. The mesh routing devices act like repeaters and forward data to the gateway. Using a mesh topology also allows for redundancy in network coverage to eliminate radio black spots, by providing more than one connection point to the network for wireless sensors. This is particularly important when those sensors are attached to moving assets. The mesh is also self-forming and self-healing, which means it automatically calculates the optimum routing paths for data, and dynamically adapts these routing paths to avoid radio interference.
Scalability is another big issue which limits the adoption of IoT. Due to the mesh topology, the size and coverage of the network can be scaled very easily to suit any shape of site, long and thin, wide, underground, or vertical up a skyscraper. The data packets simply ‘hop’ from one mesh node to another until they reach the gateway. Being IPv6 packets, the data is simply transferred to the internet without any complex translation within the gateway – another advantage of using an IP based network.
Given the critical nature of many IoT applications, security is always a must-have. With 6LoWPAN, end-to-end application security can be provided by TLS or DTLS, and link-layer security achieved with AES-128 in IEEE 802.15.4 as an example.
6LoWPAN fulfils the vision of low-power devices with limited processing capabilities being native citizens of the Internet. This allows developers and users to connect more things to the cloud than ever before.
Key Technical Parameters:
- Standard: RFC 4944
- Data-rate typically between 50 and 250 kbit/s
- Frequency: Typically, sub-1GHz or 2.4GHz