What is 6loWPAN and why should i try it in my IoT project?

In the world of IoT we may find different protocols and standards like 6lowpan, Wize, LoRa, Sigfox.. so many, that make us wonder which one is the most suitable for our project. In our experience we’ve find there is not a unique winner, and it will depend on the application and the technical specifications of each scenario.

Finding the right one for your project is a hard task and even more if you are a newbie in the Internet of Things sector. For this reason it’s important to know what you can get of each one.

If your project requires low-power consumption or you need to build a mesh network, 6LoWPAN is the one you definitely need to keep an eye on. Although this is not a new protocol, his name has been a bit eclipsed by others like LoRa or Sigfox which offer almost the similar features but not necessarily with the same results. Here is what you can get when using 6LowPAN in your applications:

6LoWPAN standards enable the efficient use of IPv6 over low-power wireless networks on simple embedded devices.

Ideal to create mesh networks, it carries IPv6 or v4 data packets over the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. It provides end-to-end IP and as such it is able to provide seamless connectivity to a huge variety of networks using the same standard including direct connectivity to the Internet.



In this way, 6LoWPAN adopts a different approach to the other low power wireless sensor network solutions. The overall system is aimed at providing wireless internet connectivity at low data rates and there are different application areas where 6LowPAN is being used:

The 6LoWPAN is especially designed for Smart home, Agriculture or Industry as the IPv6 provides a basic transport mechanism to produce complex control systems and to communicate with devices in a cost-effective manner via a low-power wireless network.

The most common cases for its use are:

  • Smart home:   connecting devices using IPv6, is possible to gain distinct advantages over other IoT systems. The Thread initiative has been set up to standardize on a protocol running over 6LoWPAN to enable home automation. And OpenThread helps developers to have a smooth introduction to Thread and start developing smart home solutions.
  • Smart Agriculture:    enabling all kind of sensors used in agriculture and farming by connecting devices that are far away from each other in remote areas.  The possibilities that this protocol gives us of building mesh networks makes it just the right one for this type of application.
  • Industrial IoT:   Automated factories and industrial plants provide a great opportunity for 6LoWPAN. Using automation, can enable major savings for the industry. The ability of 6LoWPAN to connect to the cloud, opens up many different areas for data monitoring, analysis and predictive maintenance.

If you are worried about security, 6LoWPAN, uses AES-128 link layer security which is defined in IEEE 802.15.4. This provides link authentication and encryption. On top of the IP protocols, other security mechanisms, such as TLS or digital signature, can be implemented.

We know it’s not so easy to make the decision of choosing the specifications of your application, the key point is to have sure the outcome that you want to get and start prototyping. If you are about to start a 6LoWPAN project you may have a look at Zolertia developing tools at our tools page or contact us for assesment at hello@zolertia.io