LPWAN to Application standardization within the IETF

By Juan Carlos Zuniga, Sigfox, IETF Internet Area Co-Chair, (edited by Alan J Weissberger)

Introduction:

Amongst the plethora of different Internet of Things (IoT) technologies [see Addendum], Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) [1] offer mature and well-established solutions for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Note 1.  A LPWAN is a type of wireless telecommunication wide area network designed to allow long range communications with low power consumption, low cost interface and a relatively low bit rate for the IIoT.  There are many types of LPWANs.  Some like LTE-M and NB-IoT use licensed spectrum, while others such as Sigfox and LoRaWAN use unlicensed spectrum.

LPWANs enables IoT systems to be designed for use cases that require devices to send small amounts of data periodically over often-remote networks that span many miles and use battery-powered devices that need to last many years.

LPWANs achieve those attributes by having the IoT devices (“things”) send only small packets of information periodically or even infrequently—status updates, reports, etc.—upon waking from an external trigger or at a preprogrammed time interval.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

In order to enable these IIoT connectivity solutions, a common standard is needed to allow the various types of LPWANs to communicate with applications using a common language.  For this to occur, each network must have the ability to connect to the Internet.  However, due to the severely restrictive nature of LPWANs, the abilities of Internet Protocols, specifically IPv6, cannot sufficiently meet the needs of these networks.

To overcome these issues, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) chartered the LPWAN working group (WG) in 2016 to identify common functionality needs across LPWANs and to standardize the protocols that could enable these functionalities across the various networks.

The goal of the IETF LPWAN WG is to converge the diverse LPWAN radio technologies toward a common hourglass model that will provide users with a standard management strategy across networks and enable common Internet-based services to the applications.

To achieve this goal, the IETF LPWAN WG has produced the Static Context Header Compression and Fragmentation (SCHC) [2] specification, an ultralightweight adaptation layer uniquely designed to support the extremely restricted communication resources of LPWAN technologies.

Note 2.  SCHC is expected to become a recognized acronym like several  other IETF protocols (e.g. HTTP, TCP, DHCP, DNS, IP, etc.).  Please see illustration below of SCHC Architecture.

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

SCHC will soon be published as a new IETF RFC.  Again, it’s objective is to achieve interoperability across the leading LPWANs, including Sigfox, LoRaWAN, NB-IoT and IEEE 802.15.4w(LPWA) [3].

Note 3.  IEEE 802.15.4w or LPWA

Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) extension to the IEEE Std 802.15.4 LECIM PHY layer to cover network cell radii of typically 10-15km in rural areas and deep in-building penetration in urban areas. It uses the LECIM FSK (Frequency Shift Keying) PHY modulation schemes with extensions to lower bit-rates (e.g. payload bit-rate typically < 30 kb/s). Additionally, it extends the frequency bands to additional sub-GHz unlicensed and licensed frequency bands to cover the market demand. For improved robustness in channels with high levels of interference, it defines mechanisms for the fragmented transmission of Forward Error Correction (FEC) code-words, as well as time and frequency patterns for the transmission of the fragments. Furthermore, it defines lower code rates of the FEC in addition to the K=7 R=1/2 convolutional code. Modifications to the Medium Access Control (MAC) layer, needed to support this PHY extension, are defined.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Why do LPWANs need their own interoperability standard?

The common characteristics of LPWANs include a power-optimized radio network, a simple star network topology, frame sizes in the order of tens of bytes transmitted a few times per day at ultra-low speeds, and a mostly upstream transmission pattern that allows devices to spend most of their time in sleep mode. These characteristics lead to ultra-long-range networks that allow for connected devices to have an extremely long battery life and be sold at a very low cost, enabling simple and scalable deployments.

LPWANs are especially well-suited for deployments in environments where battery recharging or swapping is not an option and where only a very low rate of data reporting is required. Also, LPWAN networks are fundamentally different than other networks, as they have been designed to handle infrequent message exchanges of payloads as small as approximately 10 bytes.

To manage these very specific constraints, the IETF has developed the SCHC adaptation layer, which is located between the network layer (e.g. IPv6) and the underlying LPWAN radio technology. SCHC comprises two independent sublayers – header compression and fragmentation – which are critical to meeting the specific characteristics of LPWANs.

The SCHC header compression sublayer has been tailored specifically for LPWAN technologies, and it is capable of compressing protocols such as IPv6, UDP and CoAP. It relies on the infrequent variability of LPWAN applications to define static contexts that are known a priori to both protocol end points.

The SCHC fragmentation sublayer, on the other hand, offers a generic approach to provide both data reliability and the capability of transmitting larger payload sizes over the extremely constrained LPWAN packet sizes and the extremely severe message rate limitations. Even though the fragmentation sublayer mechanisms have been designed to transport long IPv6 packets, they can equally be applied to non-IP data messages and payloads, as the functionality can be implemented independent of the header compression.

In order to be fully operational across LPWAN technologies, SCHC has been developed by the IETF under a generic and flexible approach that aims to address the common and unique requirements of these networks. The SCHC specification offers enough flexibility to optimize the parameter settings that need to be used over each LPWAN technology.

The IETF LPWAN WG is now working on the development of different SCHC profiles optimized for each individual LPWAN technology, including Sigfox, LoRaWAN, NB-IoT and IEEE 802.15.4w. Future work also includes definition of data models to represent the static contexts, as well as operation, administration and management (OAM) tools for LPWANs.

Here’s an illustration of the Sigfox SCHC:

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

From the early stage IETF Sigfox SCHC profile spec:

The Static Context Header Compression (SCHC) specification describes a header compression scheme and a fragmentation functionality for Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies.
SCHC offers a great level of flexibility that can be tailored for different LPWAN technologies. 
The present (early stage) document provides the optimal parameters and modes of operation when SCHC is implemented over a Sigfox LPWAN.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Addendum –by Alan J Weissberger

IEEE definition of IoT:

“An IoT system is a network of networks where, typically, a massive number of objects, things, sensors or devices are connected through communications and information infrastructure to provide value-added services via intelligent intelligent data processing processing and management management for different different applications (e.g. smart cities, smart health, smart grid, smart home, smart transportation, and smart shopping).”
— IEEE Internet of Things Journal

IoT communications over LPWANs should be:
 Low cost,
 Low power,
 Long battery life duration,
 High number of connections,
 Low bitrate,
 Long range,
 Low processing capacity,
 Low storage capacity,
 Small size devices,
 Simple network architecture and protocols

Also see IETF draft RFC 8376  LPWAN Overview

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Sigfox Network Characteristics:

 First LPWAN Technology
 The physical layer based on an Ultra-Narrow band wireless modulation
 Proprietary system
 Low throughput ( ~100 bps)
 Low power
 Extended range (up to 50 km)
 140 messages/day/device
 Subscription-based model
 Cloud platform with Sigfox –defined API for server access
 Roaming capability

………………………………………………………………………………………

References:

https://www.ackl.io/blog/ietf-standardization-working-group-enabling-ip-connectivity-over-lpwan

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/10/25/lora-wan-and-sigfox-lead-lpwans-interoperability-via-compression/

https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-lpwan-schc-over-sigfox-00

 

Sigfox launches Sens’It Discovery; Network used for Gas Tank Monitoring in Mexico via IoTnet & Levelgas

At the IoT World conference, May 15th, global IoT network operator Sigfox unveiled its Sens’It Discovery solution. It combines a sensor-packed device (thermometer, hygrometer, light meter, accelerometer, magnetometer and a reed switch), the sensit.io application (for Web browsers and mobile) to remotely control the device, and 1 year of network connectivity to Sigfox’s IoT Cloud.  Sigfox hopes that Sens’it becomes one more way for users to experiment with IoT projects and/or produce insightful data to be analyzed.

The new Sens’It device and Sigfox connectivity service will be available in the 45 countries where Sigfox currently operates.  Priced at around $75, Sens’it also comes with a software development kit (SDK) for developers to start building a wide range of IoT applications from home appliances, vending machines, smart metering, asset tracking, supply chain management, logistics and even waste management.

Developers can turn the device into a development kit, create their own firmware, and fully re-configure the device thanks to a dedicated Software Development Kit (SDK) available on www.sensit.io.  They will be able to:

  • Get direct access to the device data on the Sigfox Cloud and create new application integrations.
  • Build custom embedded applications to completely change the device behaviour and adapt sensors’ logic to create new uses and solutions.
  • For hardware engineers, Sens’it Device Sources are available for download, to be re-used in other device projects.

“With Sens’it, our goal is to demystify IoT and accelerate its adoption by showing how easy anyone, from consumers to developers, can connect anything to the Internet,” says Cédric Giorgi, the director of experience design at Sigfox. “Just attach the device to your door, a bicycle or anything really, and you will start receiving feeds of real-time data coming from the device, via the Sigfox Cloud, on your phone, through email, SMS or push notifications. It’s that easy.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Backgrounder:

Sigfox, which has raised almost $300 million in venture capital, operates a low-power, low data rate communications network to send tiny packets of information using 2G – like radio technologies. The idea is to allow large volumes of connected devices to send small amounts of data without needing much battery power and at a very low cost.  That enables massive numbers of devices to be deployed over long periods of time without having to replace the batteries.

Today, large scale IoT applications are mostly deployed over 2 competitive low-power, wide-area (LPWA) IoT network: The one built by Sigfox and its telecom operators partners, and the other, LoraWAN, pushed by chip supplier Semtech through the LoRa Alliance.  We compared and contrasted those two LPWANs in this article.

Sigfox devices have better power efficiency (longer battery life) and resistance to jamming and interferences. And unlike Semtech, which is the only one making the radio for LoRa, Sigfox offers its technology license-free, making their money on network services and not on the device itself.

The SigFox network covers 45 countries, which means that a Sigfox device will work seamlessly anywhere wherever it operates in the world.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

For additional information about Sens’it please visit: https://www.sensit.io/

References:

https://www.sigfox.com/en/news/sigfox-launches-sensit-discovery

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/10/25/lora-wan-and-sigfox-lead-lpwans-interoperability-via-compression/

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

In a superb tag team presentation late Thursday afternoon, a Mexican MVNO and device maker provided a real life case study: How LPWAN is Helping Levelgas Uberize Gas Tank Monitoring.  Daniel Guevara – CEO, IoTnet Mexico – aka WND Group (the Sigfox MVNO) and Pedro Gabay Villafaña – Founder of Edison Effect were the presenters.

IotNet is the exclusive network operator for Sigfox in Mexico and will initially focus on utility applications, such as remote metering for water, gas and residential electricity. The company is owned by the shareholders of NXTVIEW, a company that is deploying the first metering-as-a-service that exists in the Mexican energy market.  They worked closely with Edison Effect which makes the Levelgas product for measuring the level of gas in tanks.  Collectively, the two companies provide a complete end to end solution for gas companies throughout Mexico.

IoTnet provides CONNECTIVITY for the INTERNET OF THINGS in all of MEXICO:

LOW CONSUMPTION

Optimized communication for low power consumption devices.

LOW COST

Low cost subscription, with easy integration technology and open protocol.

LONG-RANGE

The IoT global network with a coverage of 1.7 million km.

TRUSTWORTHY

The SigFox network is built on strong security mechanisms.

Levelgas is revolutionizing the management of stationary gas tanks in homes.  Its solution integrates a device that is quickly placed directly in the tank and sends information (via Sigfox) to a mobile application where the user can check the gas level, calculate refills, verify the supply of the tank in real time , buy gas remotely and transparently, and know their consumption habits.

For the gas companies, Levelgas becomes a commercial partner with a unique advantage: generating data. This data becomes essential when it is translated into a deep knowledge of the market for better marketing strategies, the optimization of routes based on real demand, and a logistical efficiency that results in important savings.

More in a future IEEE Techblog article………………………………

 

LoRaWAN and Sigfox lead LPWANs; Interoperability via Compression

Backgrounder:

The Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) market is focused on IoT WAN connectivity for devices (endpoints) that consume low power, send/receive short messages at low speeds, and have low duty cycles.   There are two categories of LPWANs:

1] Cellular (e.g. NB-IoT and LTE Category M1) WANs using licensed spectrum.

2] Wireless WANs operating in unlicensed frequency bands.

While cellular may be the ultimate winner, Sigfox and LoRAWAN currently have a lot more market traction and are growing very fast.  Other non-cellular LPWANs (Ingenu, Weightless SIG, etc.) are also getting some attention, but if there are too many commercially available LPWANs the market will be segmented and fractured.

Overview of LoRaWAN and Sigfox network:

Let’s look at the two most popular unlicensed band LPWANs:

1.  LoRaWAN:

  • LoRaWAN is specified by the LoRa Alliance which includes 47 network operators.

  • The LoRa Alliance states on its website: “LoRaWAN™ is the open global standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWA connectivity. With a certification program to guarantee interoperability and the technical flexibility to address the multiple IoT applications be they static or mobile we believe that LoRaWAN can give all THINGS a global voice.”
  • For the Physical layer (PHY), LoRa uses a modulation scheme called chirp spread spectrum (CSS) and a radio both developed and sold or licensed by Semtech Corporation.
  • About two years ago, Semtech licensed its technology to Microchip and  NXP (like ARM, Semtech now licenses to other semiconductor companies).  As a result, the core LoRa hardware (PHY layer) is no longer provided by a single global chip manufacturer.
  • LoRaWAN defines the media access control (MAC) sublayer of the Data Link layer, which is maintained by the LoRa Alliance. This distinction between LoRa and LoRaWAN is important because other companies (such as Link Labs) use a proprietary MAC sublayer on top of a LoRa chip to create a better performing, hybrid design (called Symphony Link by Link Labs).
  • Many of the LoRa Alliance companies building products are focusing on software defined enhancement and use the LoRaWAN defined MAC.
  • LoRaWAN will most likely be best used for “discrete” applications like smart buildings or campuses, where mobile network connectivity is not needed.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

2.  Sigfox:

  •  Sigfox has designed its technology and network to meet the requirements of mass IoT applications; long device battery life-cycle, low device cost, low connectivity fee, high network capacity, and long range.
  • Sigfox has the lowest cost radio modules(<$3, compared to ~$10 for LoRa, and $12 for NB-IoT).
  • recent announcement from Sigfox noted the addition of a new service called “Admiral Ivory,” that makes possible to connect devices with hardware components costing as little as $0.20.
  • An overview of Sigfox’s network technology is described here.  It consists of: Ultra Narrow Band radio modulation, a light weight protocol, small frame size/payload, and a star network architecture.
  • The Sigfox network is currently deployed in 36 countries, 17 of which already have national coverage.
  • In February, Sigfox reached an agreement with mobile network operator Telefonica to integrate Sigfox’s low-powered connectivity into the Telefonica’s managed connectivity platform.  By complementing Telefónica’s cellular connectivity offerings, with Sigfox’s LPWAN connectivity solution, customers can choose the most appropriate type of connectivity or combine them, implementing use cases and creating new service opportunities that otherwise may not have been possible.
  • Additionally, Telefónica´s managed connectivity platform will integrate Sigfox’s cloud, which gives the company the ability to develop its own end-to-end IoT solutions, based on Sigfox’s connectivity solution and including device integration, as well as data collection and management.
  • While Sigfox is a proprietary IoT network architecture, the company has provided their intellectual property library free of charge and royalty-free to semiconductor companies which have implemented chipsets with dedicated Sigfox interfaces or multi-mode capabilities. The list of chipsets/modules supporting Sigfox (+ multimode) includes:  Pycom (+ WiFi, BLE=BlueTooth Low Energy), Texas Instruments (+ BLE),  STMicroelectronics (+ BLE), Microchip/Atmel, Analog Devices (+ BLE), NXP,  OnSemiconductor (SiP), SiLabs, M2Com, GCT Semiconductor (+ BLE, CatM1, NB-IoT, EC-GSM, GPS), Innocom, and Wisol.
  • The current Sigfox ecosystem is composed of several chipset vendors, device makers, platform providers and solution providers.
  • Here’s a graphic from the Sigfox website on their expanding network footprint:

Sigfox boosts its IoT global footprint, achieving national coverage in 17 countries, and expands into four new countries

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Sigfox’s LPWAN Interoperability using Internet Compression Technology:

In a phone conversation with Sigfox standardization expert Juan Carlos Zuniga last week, I learned that Sigfox plans to achieve LPWAN interoperability at the Application layer, rather than building multi-mode base stations with different radio access networks.  Here’s a glimpse on how that might happen:

At the IETF 98 Bits-n-Bites event, March 30th in Chicago, Sigfox demonstrated IoT interoperability with internet compression technology. which enables LPWAN applications to run transparently over different IoT radio access network (RAN) technologies.

To achieve this milestone and enable IP applications to communicate over its network, Sigfox and Acklio implemented Static Context Header Compression (SCHC) -a compression scheme being standardized by the IETF IPv6 over LPWAN working group*, which Juan Carlos participates in.  SCHC allows reducing IPv6/UDP/CoAP headers to just a few bytes, which can then be transported over LPWAN network small frame size for low-power, low-cost IoT applications.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

*  The focus of the IPv6 over LPWAN working group is on enabling IPv6 connectivity over four different Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) technologies: Sigfox, LoRa WAN, WI-SUN and NB-IOT (from 3GPP).

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The demonstration platform was based on an Acklio compression protocol stack running on Sigfox-enabled devices and cloud-based applications over the live Sigfox network in Chicago. Two scenarios were demonstrated: 1] CoAP requests to legacy IP LPWAN devices, and 2] CoAP interoperability over the live Sigfox and cellular networks in Chicago with IP enabled endpoint devices.

“We are thrilled with this latest milestone in our quest to support and promote interoperability in the IoT,” said Juan-Carlos Zúñiga, senior standardization expert at Sigfox and co-chair of the IETF IntArea working group. “It is critical that the industry rallies together to adopt open internet standards to unlock the true potential of the IoT.”

Compression based technology for LPWAN application interoperability builds on Sigfox’s commitment to supporting the development of IoT interoperability as an active member of standards development organizations including the IETF, ETSI and IEEE 802.  And the number of chip companies providing Sigfox network interfaces (see above list) is equally impressive.

References:

https://www.iotforall.com/a-primer-for-loralorawan/

https://www.sigfox.com/en/news/sigfox-pioneers-internet-things-interoperability-further-accelerate-mass-market-adoption

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2017/10/03/sigfox-boosts-its-iot-global-footprint-achieving-national-coverage-in-17-countries/

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2016/05/23/iot-world-summary-part-iii-too-many-wireless-wan-lpwan-standards-specs/

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Juan Carlos will be following up with a blog post on LPWAN application layer interoperability as well as a more detailed description of the IETF work on LPWANs.

 

Sigfox boosts its IoT global footprint, achieving national coverage in 17 countries

At Sigfox World IoT Expo last week in Prague-Czech Republic, Sigfox announced that its network now spans 36 countries, as part of its mission to offer a consistent level of connectivity quality and service anywhere in the world.

Here are the highlights of the Sigfox conference:

“We’re excited to work with all of our new partners, this move marks yet another key milestone towards Sigfox’s vision of a global IoT network. We are looking forward to collaborating with our new Sigfox operators to help their local ecosystems to seamlessly scale IoT solutions wherever the Sigfox network is present in the world. Together, we’re building a future that will be better to live in,”  said Rodolphe Baronnet-Frugès, Executive Vice President of Operators at Sigfox.

Sigfox operators are not only contributing to accelerate IoT development in their local markets, they are also committing to deploy and operate the network infrastructure and offer national coverage in their country. Up to now, almost 100 million euros have been invested by Sigfox operators to offer a unique access to the Sigfox IoT services, with the exact same quality of service.

This unique global offer is enriched with Sigfox new service Monarch, now allowing IoT devices to recognize and automatically adapt to every local communications standard in the world without roaming. By enabling ‘globe trotter’ assets that can seamlessly adapt as they move across borders, Monarch could be a game-changer for logistics, freight, and consumer goods industries.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

In Ireland, Sigfox Operator VT signed a €1-mill IoT subscription with Dunraven Systems, a market leader in the design and development of ultrasonic fuel tank monitors.

………………………………………………………………………………………..

In addition to its core IoT connectivity service, Sigfox offers a range of services to make even more simple to use Sigfox’s technology, to deploy and to adopt mass IoT solutions. These services allow to connect billions of wireless devices that are not yet connected to the internet.

Image result for SIGFOX image

Above illustration courtesy of Sigfox

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This potential game-changing development has been made possible by the cognitive capabilities of the Sigfox network and its Software Defined Radio technology, where all the network and computing complexity is managed in the Cloud rather than on the device. This enables Sigfox to constantly improve its network features and make them available by simple software upgrade.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

A key question for Sigfox is whether they’ll also support the new LPWAN standards and specs (LTE category M1, NB-IoT, LoRA WAN, etc).  We’ve asked the company and are eagerly awaiting their reply.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Recent Posts