Dirk Kutscher

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A new Delay Tolerant Networking Architecture for LoRa

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Connecting low-power long-range wireless networks, such as LoRa, to the Internet imposes significant challenges because of the vastly longer round-trip-times (RTTs) in these constrained networks. In our newly published paper on "Delay-Tolerant ICN and Its Application to LoRa" at ACM ICN-2022, we present an Information-Centric Networking (ICN) protocol framework that enables robust and efficient delay-tolerant communication to edge networks, including but not limited to LoRa. Our approach provides ICN-idiomatic communication between networks with vastly different RTTs for different use cases. We applied this framework to LoRa, enabling end-to-end consumer-to-LoRa-producer interaction over an ICN-Internet and asynchronous ("push") data production in the LoRa edge. Instead of using LoRaWAN, we implemented an IEEE 802.15.4e DSME MAC layer on top of the LoRa PHY layer and ICN protocol mechanisms in the RIOT operating system. For our experiments, we connected constrained LoRa nodes and gateways on IoT hardware platforms to a regular, emulated ICN network and performed a series of measurements that demonstrate robustness and efficiency improvements compared to standard ICN.

Challenging Bi-Directional LoRa Communication

LoRaWAN provides a vertically integrated network architecture for connecting LoRa networks and its constrained devices to the Internet that is designed to offload power-constrained gateways relay communication between the wireless link and network servers (often co-located with additional application server infrastructure) that manage the intricate energy-conservation regime of connected LoRa devices.

The energy conservation objectives lead to a MAC layer design that incurs dramatically higher latency and round trip times (RTTs) of several seconds, compared to what connection-oriented Internet transport protocols are typically designed to support. As a result, LoRaWAN supports message-oriented transport through gateways and dedicated network servers only, without a notion of end-to-end communication from the Internet to LoRa nodes. While it is theoretically possible to run bidirectional IP-based communication on top of LoRaWAN, the resulting systems inherit latency challenges of LoRaWAN for bi-directional communication that would impact transport layer performance and applicability.

Delay-Tolerant Information-Centric Networking

Information-Centric Networking (ICN) has demonstrated benefits for improving data availability and communication performance in constrained IoT networks.

In a newly published paper on "Delay-Tolerant ICN and Its Application to LoRa" at ACM ICN-2022, Peter Kietzmann, José Alamos, Thomas Schmidt, Matthias Wählisch and myself argue that ICN is also a suitable network layer for connecting such challenged edge networks to a more regular Internet, by leveraging hop-by-hop transport functions, ICN caching and minimal application-agnostic extensions.

In earlier work, we have described a design of an improved, IEEE 802.15.4e DSME-based MAC layer for LoRa that supports packet-based communication, specifically ICN-style Interest/Data communication. Yet, RTTs can still be on the order of seconds due to the underlying power saving regime. Leveraging their work, we take an ICN-enabled LoRa subnet as a basis which is attached via an ICN forwarder on a gateway device. We developed a delay-tolerant ICN communication framework that allows connecting these LoRa sub-networks to a "regular" ICN Internet, with the following design goals:

  1. supporting IoT sensor data transmission;
  2. supporting arbitrary orders of delays, without specific assumptions of typical RTTs on other nodes on the ICN Internet;
  3. not requiring application awareness on gateway nodes;
  4. utilizing ICN-idiomatic communication to benefit from ICN principles such as accessing named data, Interest/Data semantics, caches, flow balance, etc.

We have developed interactions for IoT communication use cases that leverage bespoke (but application-agnostic) capabilities on gateway-based forwarders and the Reflexive Forwarding extensions for ICN that Dave Oran and I developed for Remote Method Invocation, RESTful communication, and IoT push data scenarios.

Our LoRa systems features two interaction patterns. First, IoT sensor data retrieval from an Internet-based consumer using Interest/Data interactions; and second, asynchronously "pushing'' data from an IoT sensor to an Internet-based consumer with pub/sub semantics.


The contributions of out work are the following:

  1. The design of delay-tolerant ICN-interactions and node behavior for this constrained environment.
  2. A complete implementation of the DSME MAC layer for LoRa and our ICN protocol extensions on RIOT, serving common LoRa sensors and RIOT-based gateways.
  3. An experiment-based evaluation of the interactions on constrained IoT hardware, connected to an emulated ICN-Internet, and a comparison with vanilla ICN approaches.

In conjunction with the OS-level implementation of ICN (and extensions), DSME, and LoRa, our two protocol mechanisms for Internet consumer-initiated and LoRa producer-initiated communication exhibit high reliability and targeted completion time (compared to Vanilla ICN) when applied to the delay-prone regime.

Despite an additional round trip, our evaluations in the paper exhibit low overhead of these approaches by overcoming redundant polling. We leveraged recently proposed gateway behavior (such as RICE) and ICN protocol extensions (reflexive forwarding), the latter of which serves many other use cases beyond phoning home and could be considered a useful standard ICN feature.


Written by dkutscher

September 15th, 2022 at 11:09 am

Posted in Publications

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Information-Centric Long-Range Networking: Re-Imagining LoRaWAN

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LoRaWAN is a popular low-power long-range communication system for IoT that is suitable for single-site deployments as well as for larger networks. It consists of LoRa, a PHY layer that allows for radio communication between 2 and 14 km, and higher-layer protocols mainly to upload IoT data to a serverbased infrastructure. These characteristics make LoRaWAN a promising option for many urban and rural IoT scenarios.

The LoRaWAN network design incurs, however, four notable shortcomings:

  1. LoRaWAN is heavily optimized towards retrieving data from constrained Nodes. Sending data to Nodes is expensive and involves significant latencies. Many networks such as the popular community The Things Network (TTN) thus deprecate sending data to Nodes above a very low message rate, making LoRaWAN unsuitable for most control scenarios.
  2. LoRaWAN has not been designed with the objective to provide a platform for Internet protocols. It is possible to use IP and adaptation layers on top of LoRaWAN, albeit very inefficiently.
  3. The whole LoRaWAN system is a vertically integrated stack that leads to inflexible system designs and inefficiencies. For example, all communication is channeled through LoRaWAN Gateways as well as Application- and Network Servers that interconnect with applications.
  4. The centralization and lock-in into vertical protocol stacks challenge data sharing (between users) and the creation of distributed applications (across LoRa island and the Internet).

A new LoraWAN architecture based on DSME and ICN

In our IFIP Networking 2022 paper "Long-Range ICN for the IoT: Exploring a LoRa System Design", Peter Kietzmann, José Alamos, Thomas C. Schmidt, Matthias Wählisch, and myself aim for a better integration of the LoRa-based Internet of Things into the remaining Internet. We base our system design on the following four requirements:

  1. enabling LoRa networks and Nodes in these networks to communicate directly with hosts on the Internet;
  2. empowering LoRa Gateways to act as routers, without the need to employ Network Servers and to tunnel all traffic to or from them;
  3. enabling secure data sharing and wireless Node control; and
  4. maintaining the important power conservation and robustness properties of current LoRaWAN systems.

To achieve these goals without abandoning the benefits of the LoRA PHY (i.e., a robust, energy-efficient long-range communication channel) we developed both a complete redesign of the MAC layer and a data-oriented network layer on top. Our work leverages two key building blocks.

  1. the Deterministic and Synchronous Multi-Channel Extension (DSME) extension to IEEE 802.15.4e, a flexible MAC layer that consists of contention-access and contention-free periods, and,
  2. the Information-Centric Networking (ICN) protocol NDN, which provides secure access to named data in networks.

LoRa and ICN

Prior work showed that ICN provides clear benefits over traditional IP and CoAP or MQTT stacks in the IoT. Our research showed that ICN is also well-suited for LoRa networks because its hop-wise data replication increases robustness and flexibility while reducing retransmission load. This enhances adaptivity and decreases communication overhead, whereas link capacity is scarce with LoRa. Named and authenticated data access enables location-independence since applications can access named data directly, without resorting to lower-layer addresses. Furthermore, built-in caches in ICN facilitate more efficient LoRa networks. Requests that are satisfied by an in-network cache

  1. reduce link utilization, to improve on air time and wireless interference;
  2. facilitate Node sleep; and
  3. reduce long round trips introduced by slow transmissions.


In our paper, we describe

  1. the design of ICN over LoRa, including a suitable DSME configuration and options for mapping ICN messages to DSME;
  2. a complete simulation environment in OMNeT++ that combines ccnSim as an ICN stack, openDSME as a MAC layer, and FLoRa to simulate LoRa-type devices—and a demonstration of our adaptation layers in that system.
  3. Preferred mappings and additional Node requirements for implementing relevant ICN interaction patterns, based on our simulation results.

Code and documentation is available at https://github.com/inetrg/IFIP-Networking-LoRa-ICN-2022, and the whole system is currently being implemented for the RIOT Operating System.


Written by dkutscher

May 17th, 2022 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Publications

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Re-Thinking LoRaWAN

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Low-power, long-range radio systems such as LoRaWAN represent one of the few remaining networked system domains that still feature a complete vertical stack with special link- and network layer designs independent of IP. Similar to local IoT systems for low-power networks (LoWPANs), the main service of these systems is to make data available at minimal energy consumption, but over longer distances. LoRaWAN (the system that comprises the LoRa PHY and MAC) supports bi-directional communication, if the IoT device has the energy budget. Application developers interface with the system using a centralized server that terminates the LoRaWAN protocol and makes data available on the Internet.

While LoRaWAN applications are typically providing access to named data, the existing LoRaWAN stack does not support this way of communicating. LoRaWAN is device-centric and is generally designed as a device-to-server messaging system – with centralized servers that serve as rendezvous point for accessing sensor data. The current design imposes rigid constraints and does not facilitate accessing named data natively, which results in many point solutions and dependencies on central server instances.

In our demo paper & presentation at ACM ICN-2020, we are therefore describing how Information-Centric Networking could provide a more natural communication style for LoRa applications and how ICN could help to conceive LoRa networks in a more distributed fashion compared to todays mainstream LoRaWAN deployments. For LoWPANs (e.g., 802.15.4 networks), ICN has already demonstrated to be an attractive and viable alternative to legacy integrated special purpose stacks – we believe that
LoRa communication provides similar opportunities.

Watch my Peter Kietzmann's talk about it here:

Written by dkutscher

October 6th, 2020 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Events,IRTF,Projects,Talks

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