IPv6 over Low power WPAN (6lowpan)

Last modified: 2014-01-16


Internet Area Directors

Internet Area Advisor

Mailing Lists:

General Discussion: 6lowpan@lists.ietf.org
To Subscribe: 6lowpan-request@ietf.org
Archive: http://www.ietf.org/mail-archive/web/6lowpan/

Description of Working Group:


Well-established fields such as control networks, and burgeoning ones such as "sensor" (or transducer) networks, are increasingly being based on wireless technologies. Most (but certainly not all) of these nodes are amongst the most constrained that have ever been networked wirelessly. Extreme low power (such that they will run potentially for years on batteries) and extreme low cost (total device cost in single digit dollars, and riding Moore's law to continuously reduce that price point) are seen as essential enablers towards their deployment in networks with the following characteristics:

  • Significantly more devices than current local area networks

  • Severely limited code and ram space (e.g., highly desirable to fit the required code--MAC, IP and anything else needed to execute the embedded application--in, for example, 32K of flash memory, using 8-bit microprocessors)

  • Unobtrusive but very different user interface for configuration (e.g., using gestures or interactions involving the physical world)

A chief component of these devices is wireless communication technology. In particular, the IEEE 802.15.4 standard is very promising for the lower (physical and link) layers. As for higher layer functions, there is considerable interest from non-IETF groups in using IP technology. The IEEE 1451.5 standard for wireless transducers has a chapter for 6LoWPAN and the ISA SP100 standard for wireless industrial networks has adopted 6LoWPAN for their network layer. This working group is expected to coordinate and interact with such groups.

Description of Working Group:

The Working Group has completed two RFCs: "IPv6 over Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPANs): Overview, Assumptions, Problem Statement, and Goals" (RFC4919) that documents and discusses the problem space and "Transmission of IPv6 Packets over IEEE 802.15.4 Networks" (RFC4944) which defines the format for the adaptation between IPv6 and 802.15.4.

The Working Group will generate the necessary documents to ensure interoperable implementations of 6LoWPAN networks and will define the necessary security and management protocols and constructs for building 6LoWPAN networks, paying particular attention to protocols already available.

6lowpan will work closely with the Routing Over Low power and Lossy networks (roll) working group which is developing IPv6 routing solutions for low power and lossy networks (LLNs).

Work Items:

  1. Produce "6LoWPAN Bootstrapping and 6LoWPAN IPv6 ND Optimizations" to define limited extensions to IPv6 Neighbor Discovery [RFC4861] for use specifically in low-power networks. This document (or documents) will define how to bootstrap a 6LoWPAN network and explore ND optimizations such as reusing the structure of the 802.15.4 network (e.g., by using the coordinators), and reduce the need for multicast by having devices talk to coordinators (without creating a single point-of-failure, or changing the semantics of the IPv6 ND multicasts). This document or documents will be a proposed standard.

  2. Produce "6LoWPAN Improved Header Compression" to describe mechanisms to allow enhancements to the 6LoWPAN headers. Specifically this document will describe compression of addresses that are not link-local. Additionally this document may include other enhancements or optimizations of the HC1 or HC2 6LoWPAN headers. This document will be a proposed standard.

  3. Produce "6LoWPAN Architecture" to describe the design and implementation of 6LoWPAN networks. This document will cover the concepts of "Mesh Under" and "Route Over", 802.15.4 design issues such as operation with sleeping nodes, network components (both battery- and line-powered), addressing, and IPv4/IPv6 network connections. This document will be informational.

  4. As a separate Internet Draft, "6LoWPAN Routing Requirements" will describe 6LoWPAN-specific requirements on routing protocols used in 6LoWPANs, addressing both the "route-over" and "mesh-under" approach. This document will be created and owned by this working group but is expected to be reviewed by the ROLL WG. This document will be informational.

  5. Produce "Use Cases for 6LoWPAN" to define, for a small set of applications with sufficiently unique requirements, how 6LoWPANs can solve those requirements, and which protocols and configuration variants can be used for these scenarios. The use cases will cover protocols for transport, application layer, discovery, configuration and commissioning. This document will be informational.

  6. Produce "6LoWPAN Security Analysis" to define the threat model of 6LoWPANs, to document suitability of existing key management schemes and to discuss bootstrapping/installation/commissioning/setup issues. This document will be referenced from the "security considerations" of the other 6LoWPAN documents. This document will be informational.

The working group will continue to reuse existing protocols and mechanisms whenever reasonable and possible.

Non-milestone work items:

The Working Group will keep two running, often-respun documents:

  • implementers guide, collecting clarifying information based on input from implementers, in particular as it becomes available from interoperability events.
  • interoperability guide, providing information for interoperability events, such as temporary interoperability testing strategies or information about test harnesses used for interoperability testing.

Both documents will be WG documents, but their disposition is not decided at this point (one example for such a document became RFC 4815 after five years of maintenance and 22 revisions).

Goals and Milestones

Working group last call on draft-ietf-lowpan-goals-assumptions-xx.txt
Submit draft-ietf-lowpan-goals-assumptions-xx.txt to IESG for consideration of publication as Informational
Working Group Last Call on draft-ietf-lowpan-ipv6-over-802.15.4-xx.txt
Submit draft-ietf-lowpan-ipv6-over-802.15.4-xx.txt to IESG for consideration of publication as Proposed Standard
Submit Improved Header Compression document to IESG for consideration as a proposed standard
Submit Routing Requirements document to IESG for consideration as an Informational RFC
Submit Bootstrapping and ND Optimizations document to IESG to be considered as a Proposed Standard
Submit Use Case document to IESG as an Informational RFC
Submit Bluetooth Low-Energy format document to IESG to be considered as a Proposed Standard

Request for Comments


Internet SocietyAMSHome - Tools Team - Datatracker - IASA - IAB - RFC Editor - IANA - IRTF - IETF Trust - ISOC - IETF Journal - Store - Contact Us
Secretariat services provided by Association Management Solutions, LLC (AMS).
Please send problem reports to: ietf-action@ietf.org.