Standards & Protocols to Consider for High Performance and Cost Effective IoT Solutions

Due to the complexity and comprehensiveness of IoT ecosystems, we need to understand relevant standards and protocols for developing solutions. IoT solutions require new standard devices, protocols, and communication mechanisms. There are several standards developed by various organisations. Therefore, it is essential to understand the IoT standards offered by established organisations such as IEEE, IETF, and ITU.

I provide a list of six established IoT standards to consider in our solutions:
1. IoT Data Link Standards
2. IoT MAC Standards
3. IoT Routing Standards
4. IoT Network Standards
5. IoT Transport Layer Standards
6. IoT Management Standards

I needed a quick break while driving in long Barton Highway when decided to write this article in my car.

There are additional IoT standards developed by Open-source organisations such as The Open Group. The IoT work-group has, thus far, produced two Open Group IoT standards for the IoT life-cycle management. These life-cycle management standards are called O-DF (Open Data Format) and the O-MI (Open Messaging Interface).

Another large organisation providing IoT standards is the LoRa Alliance, which is a non-profit association supporting more than 500-member companies. There are also other organisations, such as The Things Network, which provide a set of open tools and a global open network to build maximum security and ready to scale IoT applications at low cost.

IoT solutions require several standard protocols and newly developed IoT specific protocols. While architecting IoT protocols in our solutions, we need to consider long-range communication systems and protocols such as LPWAN (Low-Power Wide Area Network). LPWAN is a kind of wireless protocol operating at a low bit rate. LPWAN enables long-range communications between connected IoT devices to a Cloud system using wireless gateways.

LPWAN is known to have low energy requirements. On the IoT marketplace, you may hear a lot about LoRaWAN deployments. IT is an LPWAN protocol that connects IoT devices using LoRa Wireless Technology. LoRa can be used for both public and private deployments. It runs on unlicensed frequencies globally. The economical value of LoRa is that it can enable a long battery life for multitude of devices in the IoT ecosystems. Another advantage of using LoRaWAN is extending it up to 30 km in flat areas.

One of the critical protocols worth mentioning related to IoT is Sigfox. It uses UNB (Ultra NarrowBand). Sigfox signals have spectral efficiency and can reduce any potential noise. Sigfox also offers a long battery life, which, consequently, may have a positive impact on cost management for our IoT solutions. Sigfox is a global company based in France. Their offerings certainly needs to be considered in our solution options from the perspectives of cost-effectiveness, performance, and availability requirements of our IoT solutions.

Talking of protocols from performance perspective, we cannot move on without mentioning 5G. The promise of 5G sounds so compelling that it has already become popular due to its significant performance boosting capabilities for data communications. 5G is the fifth generation of cellular wireless protocol. In the very near future, the launch of 5G connectivity can show lucrative business value for out IoT solutions. As you know, at present, most IoT deployments use 4G, which poses insufficient capabilities when dealing with large volumes of streaming data generated by a large number of scattered IoT devices.

Considering the constraints of 4G for performance, there is a growing focus on 5G as a promising enabler of futuristic IoT capabilities. Industry analyses depict that 5G can create more IoT-friendly ecosystems. Some of the significant benefits of 5G are to speed up data transmission and reduce network latency dramatically. In addition, the introduction of 5G could bring potentially around 90% reduction in network energy usage. We definitely need to consider 5G in our business critical future IoT solutions to boost the required performance.

There are also Edge and Cloud Computing protocols, especially Middleware-related protocols, that we need consider for various business use cases. Some important ones are STOMP (Simple Text Oriented Messaging Protocol), MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport), CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol) and AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol). While STOMP, MQTT, and CoAP focus on increasing availability and performance for resource-poor environments. AMQP is more focused on increasing security.

I created a simple list to easily remember the protocols which can be considered in our IoT solutions based on nine broad categories. The list below contains the most popular protocols as options which can be used in IoT solutions. As IoT solution architects, knowing the pros and cons of these protocols and coherently architecting and integrating them in our solutions can be beneficial.

This knowledge can help us make better architectural and design decisions as far as IoT protocols are considered in our high performance and cost effective solutions.
1. Discovery: mDNS, DNS-SD
2. Session Layer: HTTP, MQTT, COAP, AMQP, XMPP
3. Communications and Transport: Bluetooth, LPWAN, Wifi
4. Identification: uCode, IPv6, URIs, EPC
5. Network Layer: 6LoWPAN, 6TiSCH, 6Lo, IPv6 over G.9959, IPv6 over Bluetooth Low Energy, RPL, CORPL, CARP
6. Data Link Layer: Zigbee Smart Energy, Sigfox, LTE-A, LoRaWAN, WirelessHART, Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy, DASH7, HomePlug, G.9959Weightless, DECT/ULE, IEEE 802.15.4e, IEEE 802.11
7. Device Management: TR-069, OMA-DM
8 Semantic: JSON-LD, IOTDB
9. Multi-layer Frameworks: Alljoyn, IoTivity, Weave, Homekit

Related to standards and protocols, we also need to consider APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), communication patterns, and application level communications which I plan to discuss in a separate incoming article.

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