Arch Rock’s wireless sensors go online

May 8, 2007
The company's sensor network is reportedly the first to run native IP beyond the WSN gateway to individual sensor nodes.

Arch Rock Corp. has introduced the first commercial implementation of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) 6LoWPAN proposed standard for IPv6 communication over low-power IEEE 802.15.4 wireless radio.

The company says its Primer Pack/IP, an out-of-the-box solution, is the first sensor network to run native IP end-to-end, taking the IP protocols beyond their current boundary at the WSN gateway and out to the individual sensor node.

Primer Pack/IP sensor nodes will be able to communicate directly with other IP devices, whether those devices are wired or wireless, local or across the Internet, on Ethernet, WiFi, 6LoWPAN or other types of network and regardless of vendor.

Primer Pack/IP incorporates work recently completed by the IETF 6LoWPAN Working Group, whose charter is to enable standard IP communication over low-power wireless IEEE 802.15.4 personal-area networks. 6LoWPAN, a proposed standard approved by the IETF, incorporates IP v6, the latest and most scalable version of the IP protocol.

Arch Rock founder and chief technology officer David Culler says, "The culmination of the sensor network’s migration into the IP domain—made possible by the 6LowPAN group’s work with 802.15.4 low-power radio—is the catalyst that will turn WSNs into mainstream information tools, a pervasive piece of the IP ecosystem. In joining that ecosystem, WSNs automatically ‘inherit’ the vast body of IP tools for interoperability, management and access control."

A Step Ahead?

Culler adds that 6LoWPAN is a step ahead of other standards. "Under the false assumption that adapting IP to the low-power, low-memory constraints of sensor networking was too difficult, the industry had previously fixed on proprietary solutions outside the IP realm. Even narrowly focused industrial standards efforts, such as ZigBee, SP100 and Wireless HART, are still in the early stages of addressing problems already solved in IP, such as host-naming, network management, security and integration. IP-based solutions are ready for the market today, fit into the Internet paradigm that everyone knows, and avoid the work—and the wait—of re-inventing the wheel."

Building on the comprehensive WSN functionality in the original Primer Pack, Primer Pack/IP adds native IPv6 support to the sensor nodes, AES-128-based link-level encryption and node authentication and extended data-management capabilities. Primer Pack/IP runs the native IPv6 protocol stack on the sensor nodes themselves. This gives users the flexibility of choosing either direct end-to-end IP access to the nodes or proxy access.

The Arch Rock Gateway provides IPv6-to-IPv4 translation for integration with installed IPv4 networks and with those that running the emerging IPv6 standard.

Users can create custom applications to monitor physical conditions, such as temperature, contact, motion, light and humidity, without doing any embedded programming. An embedded service-oriented architecture (SOA) allows full access to embedded WSN services and associated physical-world data through users’ web browsers, enterprise planning applications or mobile devices.

Using Primer Pack/IP, "A plant manager or field technician can use his PDA or laptop computer to take diagnostic readings on machinery or environmental conditions without having to be in range of a gateway," explains Roland Acra, Arch Rock CEO.

Gabriel Chegaray, project manager at France Telecom, said, "Our hands-on evaluation of Arch Rock technology demonstrates that the company has successfully integrated Primer Pack with standard IP v6, further moving wireless sensor networks from proprietary solutions to open standards, the ultimate path to widespread adoption."

According to company sources, Arch Rock Primer Pack/IP is currently in beta testing and will be generally available early in the second quarter of 2007.