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Wireless Sensor Networking: IP Connectivity for IEEE 802.15.4

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Wireless Sensor Networking: IP Connectivity for IEEE 802.15.4

Synopsis
Until recently, the use of the Internet Protocol (IP) on wireless embedded networks was not considered viable, because it was too difficult to scale down IP sufficiently to operate on microcontrollers and low-power links¾notably on the IEEE 802.15.4 radio link. The emergence of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) 6LoWPAN standard for IP communication over low-power radio has changed all that. This low-power wireless IP option offers a new set of longevity, security, and ease-of-integration tradeoffs that make it a superior alternative to existing options.

The need for an IP alternative
Makers of industrial instrumentation have repeatedly grappled with questions of how and when to utilize IP-based interconnects in place of their more traditional, often proprietary, industrial counterparts. In its favor IP offers widespread commercial adoption, rapid development cycles, and broad interoperability. Ethernet led the way as an alternative to RS485 and other multi-drop busses; and many industrial standards, including BACNet, LonTalk, CIP, and SCADA, introduced an “IP option” using either TCP/IP or UDP/IP over Ethernet.

IP’s ease of integration and broad interoperability have raised some fears about vulnerability to attack. Moreover, IP was thought to be unsuited for use in wireless embedded networks, because bulky IP protocols could not be reduced in size to operate on microcontrollers and low-power links such as IEEE 802.15.4 radio. IEEE 802.15.4 packets are quite small, and the entire stack must fit within a very small memory footprint.

Read the full Wireless Sensor Networking: IP Connectivity for IEEE 802.15.4 White Paper.