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The Internet of Things (IoT) is undoubtedly one of the largest enablers of digital transformation. It serves as the convergence of several technologies within the Industry 4.0 era, like artificial intelligence, cloud computing and wireless networks.

The IoT industry encompasses mass connectivity and transparency and, through these processes, generates huge amounts of data. It is very heterogeneous by nature, with applications existing in many industry verticals. More competitive than ever, its development of cross-industry solutions brings conventional industries and players together with cutting-edge access.

New IoT applications have emerged with 5G, a growth that will continue further with 6G and subsequent wireless generations, requiring more flexibility across protocols. Hence, it is imperative that the whole of the industry agrees on designing and deploying IoT applications sustainably and in the best interests of telco operators, end users and the entire supply chain.

With the internet being the most effective invention of modern times, connecting billions of people and devices throughout the world in an instant, we are witnessing today a digital social revolution. This new epoch involves a vast network of wireless objects, equipped with sensors and actuators, interacting seamlessly while utilizing readily available wireless infrastructure.

Protocol Enhancements

The hyper-connectivity of IoT devices extends to modern everyday “things”, such as industrial robots, connected cars, smart homes and intelligent healthcare, to name a few. Despite the undeniable benefits that IoT offers, several key factors are needed for its sustainability. These include adequate and affordable wireless connectivity, interoperability and common standards.

The IoT ecosystems’ design must focus on security, reliability, scalability, latency and the level of individual control on connectivity parameters. Put simply, the current design of telecom networks operates on the principle of packet forwarding between devices and network nodes to fulfill data or content requests from both ends. Yet current network protocols, such as TCP/IP, are no longer efficient in terms of performance or energy consumption.

Improvements in new IP protocols must continue through an advanced packet structure that includes flexible and expandable addressing, services with different quality-of-service (QoS) specifications, service accountability, security and support for both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.

The focus on IoT routing in the network layer is very important in wireless sensor nodes (WSN) as it can determine the best network path and transmission mode of data with most sensor nodes having limited energy. This will increase the network lifetime by maximizing energy utilization.

WSNs communicate with the internet and different applications through the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for low-rate wireless personal area networks (LRWPANs) implemented on IPv6. As a result, a huge number of applications communicate seamlessly.

By default, standards within IoT are best suited for static routing, making the implementation of mobility routing challenging. Single metric routing protocols are not able to handle the overwhelmingly higher growth of IoT routing demands.

Nodes participating in IoT communication allow different applications to have varying requirements, from static devices to mobile devices and even from energy-constrained to battery-operated devices.

Due to the ever-growing extent of IoT, 6LoWPAN, which stands for “Internet Protocol version 6 over Low-power Wireless Area Network,” is one of the potential technologies to support a large number of IoT devices with low power consumption. It designs an adaptation layer under the network layer to compress the IPv6 header and, at the same time, dramatically increases the demands on storage and computation resources.

To maximize the functionality of domestic and corporate IoT networks, IPv6 can be utilized as the modern standard of wireless network data transmission.

Every node of a 6LoWPAN protocol has its own IPv6 address, which means devices can directly connect to the internet using open standard IoT protocols like HTTP, UDP, CoAP and MQTT.

Big Tech has already begun paving the way for 6LoWPAN to become the standard wireless networking protocol across devices. By expanding the breadth of device-to-application solutions with IPv6, the IoT market is also broadened to include internet-based standards, which are required in use cases like smart electricity metering and smart manufacturing.

The new IPv6 adaptation layer also facilitates and accelerates the development of secure and interoperable applications over LoRaWAN, a LoPWAN protocol designed to connect battery-operated “things” to the internet in regional, national or global networks. IP-based solutions can also be integrated with cloud infrastructures, saving time and costs.

Optimizing IoT Devices

Optimization is a powerful tool in virtually every discipline, leading to a rigorous, systematic method for zeroing in on the most innovative, cost‐effective solutions. This is highly applicable within the IoT for improving traffic management and operating efficiency while conserving energy and reducing latency, etc.

GSMA has given the context that for IoT applications, devices typically need to communicate with a specific set of servers only. To limit any potential threat, it is therefore good security practice to restrict a device's communication with other servers. Such restrictions could be implemented using a whitelist of IP addresses or URLs.

An AWS solutions architect has stated that for a high-level sustainable IoT architecture, the following main capabilities should be present: remote device management; over-the-air (OTA) updates; and cloud service integration to access further processing capabilities while ensuring the security of devices and data, either at rest or in motion.

Generally, IoT devices are designed to stably and reliably serve one predefined purpose and are equipped for peak resource usage. But as they become more advanced, the interoperability aspect comes into play, and IoT devices should remain lean, efficient and durable to be used flexibly in the long run.

A smaller resource footprint and more efficient software allow organizations to improve operational efficiency, realizing a positive impact on emissions by minimizing a device’s carbon footprint throughout its lifecycle.

Moreover, extensive design and testing throughout all stages of the IoT development process will help ensure the IoT device will meet design expectations for the target operating environment. Understanding how an IoT device spends its power when operating in real-world conditions is also critical for optimization. Correlating the device’s current consumption to a specific RF event makes it easier to identify which subsystems or events must be maximized.

A final important thing to consider is the capability of different wireless standards and applications to share the same frequency bands. Standards-based traffic, intensive use of spectrum and high-density device deployments can all cause unavoidable interference. Experts recommend coexistence testing on the IoT device to ensure its robustness and capacity to work with consistent and predictable performance at any time.

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