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6LoWPAN State of the Union

The 6LoWPAN working group of the IETF was formally instituted 7.5
years ago, in March 2005. It was reasonably quick getting its first
few RFCs published, RFC 4919 (August 2007) with the problem statement
and RFC 4944 (published September 2007, approved 2007-05-01) with the
protocol specification. This has since been extended by RFC 6282
(September 2011, approved 2011-03-29) with an improved header
compression mechanism. While yours truly was on vacation, the third
component of the 6LoWPAN set of specifications was approved
(2012-08-24): It does not yet have an RFC number (final text still
being worked on by the RFC editor), but it is fondly known as
6LoWPAN-ND (Neighbor Discovery optimizations). Multiple instances of
running code for all these specifications have existed for quite some
time, and a number of interoperability tests have demonstrated that
they work.

This means we now have a complete set of specifications for 6LoWPAN,
and the work of the 6LoWPAN WG is formally complete. We also have
submitted a specification for applying 6LoWPAN technology to Bluetooth
Low-Energy (part of the Bluetooth 4.0 specification, marketed as
Bluetooth Smart). This has not passed the IESG yet, mainly on
procedural issues; work to clear those up is ongoing.

There are other documents that are candidates for joining the 6LoWPAN
family. Instead of making this post too long, let me just point to
the 6LoWPAN roadmap, freshly updated by yours truly.

But as far as the 6LoWPAN WG is concerned, we are done. It is a good
principle of the IETF to close WGs when they have done their work, and
we can expect this to happen soon. Of course, this doesn't mean the
specifications won't receive continued attention. Further work may
happen in IETF WGs such as 6man (IPv6 maintenance), intarea (general
Internet area issues), or maybe a new, newly-focused WG if that turns
out to be justified. The mailing list will also stay
open, so this will continue to serve as a focal point for anyone
seeking to clarify, fix, or extend the 6LoWPAN set of specifications.

A number of other IETF WGs do 6LoWPAN-related work. The ROLL WG has
created a routing protocol for constrained node networks, RPL (RFC
6550). The CoRE WG is in the process of completing an application
protocol (CoAP) that does many of the things HTTP does well, with much
less complexity. The LWIG WG is trying to document some of the
implementation issues in this space. Also, some pre-WG efforts are
springing up such as COMAN (Management for constrained node networks)
and SOLACE (Smart Object Lifecycle Architecture for Constrained

Building the actual Internet of Things is going to stay exciting, and
the 6LoWPAN technologies are going to keep the central place in this,
even if we now longer need an IETF working group with that name.

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