There are many protocols available for enabling wireless communication in a network of smart objects. Zigbee (http://www.zigbee.org) is a low-cost and low-power radio communications protocol based on the 802.15.4 standard for Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs). 6LowPAN (http://www.6lowpan.org/) also uses the 802.15.4 standard but uses IP with the aim of achieving the wireless ‘Internet of Things’. 6LoWPAN stands for IP version 6 (IPv6) over Low Power Wireless Personal Area Networks. The IPSO Alliance (http://www.ipso-alliance.org) promotes this use of IP for smart objects and, indeed, there are many good arguments for using the existing IP protocol.
IP is an well-established open standard and is media independent which means it can run over low-powered radios such as 802.11 WiFi, long range 3G (Third Generation) telephony as well as ethernet among others. Best effort or reliable transmission is available using UDP (User Datagram Protocol) or TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) respectively. Recent implementations such as uIP have shown that IP is a lightweight protocol and its versatility means it supports any type of application and in turn is supported by a diverse range of devices from high-end servers to smart phones. This versatility has led to IP’s ubiquity and over its comparatively long life its has showm itself to be stable (after all, it is used for the Internet), manageable (using protocols such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocols – DHCP, Domain Name System – DNS and Simple Network Management Protocol – SNMP) and provides end-to-end communication.
These cogent arguments are made by the IPSO Alliance to advance the case for using IP in smart ecosystems. IPv6 is used in particular as it contains a number of optimisations for constrained devices, a category in which most smart objects will find themselves due to their unavoidable processing and memory limitations. Stateless compression of IPv6 headers is possible which means that smart objects can communicate with their neighbour in this compressed form. Packets can be fragmented and neighbouring smart object nodes can be discovered. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has defined these properties in the 6LoWPAN adaptation layer
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