A Complete Guide to IoT Protocols & Standards in 2022

Protocols in IoT are essential as they facilitate communication among the various IoT devices. Therefore, they form an integral part of the Internet of the Things technology stack. Without the IoT standards and protocols, the IoT devices are useless. It is the IoT protocols that govern how data is exchanged within the IoT devices. Through such exchange, we can extract meaningful information that we can use in various scientific and industrial processes.

A Complete Guide to IoT Protocols & Standards in 2022

When people think of IoT, they usually overlook the IoT protocols and standards. In most cases, the IoT industry key players give more attention to the communication aspect. While the interaction between IoT devices like sensors is critical, they cannot be communicated without proper IoT protocols. In this post, we will look at some of the IoT protocols and standards that a business can apply in 2022.

What are the Protocols used in IoT devices?

We can broadly classify the IoT protocols and standards into two distinct types. They include;

IoT Network protocols

These are the protocols that are used in connecting various devices over the network. They are a collection of communication protocols applied in data transmission over the Internet and operate in the data link and physical layer.

End-to-end communication between various IoT devices is allowed when IoT protocols are used within an IoT deployment. Below are some of the IoT Network protocols:

Zigbee

This is a wireless protocol developed to address low power and cost for wireless IoT networks. It helps achieve a longer battery life because of its low duty cycle and operates in the IEEE 802.15.4, an industry-standard used in networking technology. Zigbee allows point-to-point communication, has low latency, and supports mesh topologies. It has a range of 300 metres and operates at 2.4GHZ frequency, and has an AES 128-bit encryption at the network layer. There are two main profiles in this protocol, ZigBee PRO and Zigbee Remote control (RFC4CE).

The primary benefits of this protocol include; high security, high scalability and robustness, and low power operation. Zigbee is well-positioned to leverage on the merits of sensor networks and wireless control in machine-to-machine and internet of things applications. We ensure security in this protocol through the following encryption keys;

• Link key: we use this to ensure Unicast communications on the application layer through sharing the 128-bit key.

• Network key: we use this encryption key for broadcasting secure communication by sharing 128 bits keys to all IoT devices.

The two keys ensure secure communication within IoT deployments.

Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN)

LoRaWAN is a long-range, low-power protocol that facilitates the detection of signals below the noise levels. LoRaWAN is a Media Access Control later IoT Protocol. It connects battery-operated IoT devices wirelessly over the Internet in either global or private networks. We use LoRaWAN in smart cities that have millions of devices that operate with minimal power and memory. An example of this protocol is city lighting. Through this protocol, we can connect the street lights to the LoRa gateway. They connect to a cloud application that controls the various lighting aspects like intensity based on the ambient lighting. Thus, power consumption is reduced during the daytime.

Z-Wave

Developed by Zensys, Z-Wave is a home automation protocol that operates at 868.42 MHz. It works on the Application and networks layers of the OSI Model. It has a radius of 100 metres and uses FKSM (Frequency Key Shifting Modulation). Z-Wave protocol follows mesh topology in connectivity. The other advantage of this protocol is that messages can hop between up to 4 nodes. It does not suffer from interference problems compared to other protocols. Its operating frequency is location-dependent. Thus, ensure that you check the frequency requirements for your country before ordering one.

Security

It carries out communication through plain text as Z-wave. Because this protocol comes without default encryption, a foreign or malicious actor intercept and decode the data making it vulnerable to manipulations.

However, the fifth generation of Z-Wave devices has various security implementations. They use HomeID to identify the network uniquely and handle a new device on the network. For secure connectivity, the latest Sigma design uses 128-bit AES encryption. Thus, it adds an extra security implementation.

Bluetooth

This is among the most vastly used protocols in short-range IoT communications. It is a standard protocol used in wireless data transmission. IEEE categorised Bluetooth as IEEE 802.15.1, but it no longer maintains the standard. It tends to frequency hop and has a shorter range. However, besides being used in tablets and smartphones, they are also applied in wearable technologies like wireless headphones. Bluetooth technology uses 2.4GHz ISM frequency radio waves. It transmits the data in packets to one of its 79 channels.

However, in the latest Bluetooth 4.0 standard, there are 40 channels that the IoT devices can use in data sharing and has a 2Mhz. Thus, it guarantees a maximum transfer of data of up to 3Mbps. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) forms a foundation for different IoT applications in need of scalability, low consumption of power, and flexibility.

Wi-Fi

In the IoT network protocols, Wi-Fi is the most known. However, it is worth looking at how Wi-Fi works. To create a Wi-Fi network, you require a device that can send and connect to a wireless signal like a router, computer, or telephone. Wi-Fi is based on IEEE 802.11 standard. It uses radio waves for broadcasting data packets at varying frequencies. Operating at 2.4 – 5GHz channels, this protocol transfers data and a quick speed. These frequency ranges also have several channels that different wireless devices can operate. Thus, there is no overflow of the wireless network.

A Wi-Fi connection has a range of 50-100 metres. However, the network strength diminishes as you move away from the router. The effects on the speed and range of a Wi-Fi connection are if it provides external or internal coverage and the environment. Wi-Fi uses WPA, WEP, and WPA as the mechanisms for ensuring security.

IoT data protocols

The second category of protocols and standards in IoT deployments is the IoT data protocols. You can use this protocol for connecting low-power Internet of Things devices. They provide point-to-point communication with the devices on the side of the user with no internet connection. Either cellular or wired networks enable the connectivity of IoT devices. Below are the IoT data protocols.

Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP)

We use constrained Application Protocol in the application layer of the OSI model. It addresses the requirements of HTTP-based Internet of Things deployments. Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the basis on which data communication takes place on the Internet.

Although any IoT device can connect and use the Internet freely, most IoT applications and devices find it too heavy and power-consuming. Thus, many within the IoT community have dismissed HTTP protocol on its suitability.

CoAP addresses this limitation by translating it to restrictive network environments and devices. Among its benefits are its ease of deployment, incredibly low overheads, and multicast support. Thus, we can ideally use it in resource-limited devices like WSN nodes and IoT microcontrollers. It is used for building automation and smart energy management.

Hypertext Transfer Protocols (HTTP)

We have briefly touched HTTP has on above in CoAP. It is not a preferred protocol as an IoT standard because of its battery life, cost, consumption of power, and weight issues. However, HTTP is still used in various IoT deployments in some industries. In 3-D printing and manufacturing, we use HTTP because of its ability to publish large amounts of data. It allows the connection between your personal computer and the 3-D printer on the network and prints various objects.

Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP)

It is an application layer protocol used for various transactional messaging applications among servers in an IoT deployment. It comprises a fast component used for routing and saving messages in the carrier broker. It also has a set of policies that wire the components together. Using AMQP protocol, IoT patron programs can talk to the dealer and interact with the AMQP model. It has the following functionalities;

• Storing messages

• To set up various relationships among components

• Placing and receiving messages in the queues

AMQP is highly reliable. Thus, it is used in environments that require server-based environments that are analytical, such as the banking sector. Beyond that, we don’t use it extensively elsewhere. Because of its heaviness, it is not suitable for low-memory IoT sensors or devices. Thus, its applications in IoT are still low.

Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT)

The protocol was developed by Arlen Nipper of Armcom and Andy Stanford -Clark of IBM. It is a lightweight data protocol for the Internet of Things featuring a subscriber, publisher, and broker model of messaging. The publisher’s task is to collect the data and send the information to the subscribers through the broker’s mediation layer. The broker then cross-checks the authorization of the subscribers and the publishers to ensure security. Such a model allows a simple flow of data among various devices. There are three modes that MQTT uses to provide Quality of Service. They include:

• QoS0 (Once at most): this is the least reliable model, although it is the fastest. QoS0 allows sending of the publication once without receiving the confirmation.

• QoS1 (Once at least): in this mode, the message is delivered at least once, although there may be duplicates.

• QoS2 (one time): this is the most reliable mode but consumes the most bandwidth. To ensure that you deliver the message once, you control the duplicates.

Architecture is the key selling point for Message Queuing Telemetry Transport. Because of its genetic make-up, it is lightweight and basic. Thus, it can allow low power consumption among IoT devices. This protocol works on top of the TCP/IP protocol stack.

It was designed that the IoT data protocols were to remove the unreliability of the communications in the networks. With the increasing number of cheap, small, and low-power IoT devices, the MQTT protocol has become necessary. However, although MQTT has seen wide adoption as an IoT standard on industrial applications, it does not support device management structure mode and defined data representation. Thus, implementation of management capabilities of the device and data is vendor- or platform-specific.

With its wide application in IoT devices like electric metres, detectors, vehicles, and sanitary or industrial equipment, MQTT offers:

• Minimum consumption of energy

• Low usage of bandwidth

• Low memory and processing resources

• Operation over the wireless networks, and

• High reliability.

WebSocket

WebSocket is a bi-directional protocol for communication that came after the unveiling of HTML5. It operates over TCP as an upgraded standard for HTTP connections. Thus, the capabilities for full-duplex communication are based on messaging between the server and the client using a single socket.

Besides enhancing the current HTTP protocol, WebSocket is more advanced, especially in event-driven real-time communication.

Thus, this protocol is suitable for the IoT environment where data bundles are transmitted within multiple devices continuously. It eases the communication between the IoT device and the server. You need to install a web socket to the server and a client WebSocket and browser installed on a device that supports the WebSocket. To link the IoT device and the WebSocket, HTML5 acts as a bridge. IoT deployments and applications require real-time, reliable communications that have very low latency.

Data Distribution Services (DDS)

DDS provides reliable, real-time, scalable, better overall performance and interoperable statistics. It operates on the submit-subscribe method. It uses multitasking and broker-less architecture to deliver high Quality of Service (QoS) to IoT applications.

We can apply DDS in various platforms that range from small devices to the cloud. Thus, it is ideal for real-time and embedded IoT systems. Unlike Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT), this protocol allows an independent and interoperable data exchange between the software and hardware platform. People consider DDS the first open international IoT standard for middleware.

Conclusion

The last couple of years has been rapidly expanding globally. Its applications are in healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, transportation, security, and many more industries, empowering these industries significantly.

For seamless communication among devices, IoT protocols are necessary. Experts in this field are now clamouring for the standardisation of these protocols worldwide. Effective device-to-device connectivity and communication are critical for the proper functioning of IoT deployments.

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