Section: Research Program

Spontaneous Wireless Networks (SWN) and Internet of Things (IoT)

The unavailability of end-to-end connectivity in emergent wireless mobile networks is extremely disruptive for IP protocols. In fact, even in simpler cases of spontaneous wireless networks where end-to-end connectivity exists, such networks are still disruptive for the standard IP protocol stack, as many protocols rely on atomic link-local services (such as link-local multicast/broadcast), while these services are inherently unavailable in such networks due to their opportunistic, wireless multi hop nature. In this domain, we will aim to characterize the achievable performance in such IP-disruptive networks and to actively contribute to the design of new, deployable IP protocols that can tolerate these disruptions, while performing well enough compared to what is achievable and remaining interoperable with the rest of the Internet.

Spontaneous wireless networking is also a key aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is indeed expected to massively use this networking paradigm to gradually connect billions of new devices to the Internet, and drastically increase communication without human source or destination – to the point where the amount of such communications will dwarf communications involving humans. Large scale user environment automation require communication protocols optimized to efficiently leverage the heterogeneous and unreliable wireless vicinity (the scope of which may vary according to the application). In fact, extreme constraints in terms of cost, CPU, battery and memory capacities are typically experienced on a substantial fraction of IoT devices. We expect that such constraints will not vanish any time soon for two reasons. On one hand the progress made over the last decade concerning the cost/performance ratio for such small devices is quite disappointing. On the other hand, the ultimate goal of the IoT is ubiquitous Internet connectivity between devices as tiny as dust particles. These constraints actually require to redesign not only the network protocol stack running on these devices, but also the software platform powering these machines. In this context, we will aim at contributing to the design of novel network protocols and software platforms optimized to fit these constraints while remaining compatible with legacy Internet.

Design & Development of Open Experimental IoT Platforms

Manufacturers announce on a regular basis the availability of novel tiny devices, most of them featuring network interfaces: the Internet of Things (IoT) is already here, from the hardware perspective, and it is expected in the near future that we will see a massive increase of the number of muti-purpose smart objects (from tiny sensors in industrial automation to devices like smart watches and tablets). Thus, one of the challenges is to be able to test architectures, protocols and applications, in realistic conditions and at large scale.

One necessity for research in this domain is to establish and improve IoT hardware platforms and testbeds, that integrate representative scenarios (such as Smart Energy, Home Automation etc.) and follow the evolution of technology, including radio technologies, and associated experimentation tools. For that, we plan to build upon the IoT-LAB federated testbeds, that we have participated in designing and deploying recently. We plan to further develop IoT-LAB with more heterogeneous, up-to-date IoT hardware and radios that will provide a usable and realistic experimentation environment. The goal is to provide a tool that enables testing a validation of upcoming software platforms and network stacks targeting concrete IoT deployments.

In parallel, on the software side, IoT hardware available so far made it uneasy for developers to build apps that run across heterogeneous hardware platforms. For instance Linux does not scale down to small, energy-constrained devices, while microcontroller-based OS alternatives were so far rudimentary and yield a steep learning curve and lengthy development life-cycles because they do not support standard programming and debugging tools. As a result, another necessity for research in this domain is to allow the emergence of it more powerful, unifying IOT software platforms, to bridge this gap. For that, we plan to build upon RIOT, a new open source software platform which provides a portable, Linux-like API for heterogeneous IoT hardware. We plan to continue to develop the systems and network stacks aspects of RIOT, within the open source developer community currently emerging around RIOT, which we co-founded together with Freie Universitaet Berlin. The key challenge is to improve usability and add functionalities, while maintaining architectural consistency and a small enough memory footprint. The goal is to provide an IoT software platform that can be used like Linux is used for less constrained machines, both (i) in the context of research and/or teaching, as well as (ii) in industrial contexts. Of course, we plan to use it ourselves for our own experimental research activities in the domain of IoT e.g., as an API to implement novel network protocols running on IoT hardware, to be tested and validated on IoT-LAB testbeds.

Design & Standardization of Architectures and Efficient Protocols for Internet of Things

As described before, and by definition, the Internet of Things will integrate not only a massive number of homogeneous devices (e.g., networks of wireless sensors), but also heterogeneous devices using various communication technologies. Most devices will be very constrained resources (memory resources, computational resources, energy). Communicating with (and amongst) such devices is a key challenge that we will focus on. The ability to communicate efficiently, to communicate reliably, or even just to be able to communicate at all, is non-trivial in many IoT scenarios: in this respect, we intend to develop innovative protocols, while following and contributing to standardization in this area. We will focus and base most of our work on standards developed in the context of the IETF, in working groups such as 6lo, CORE, LWIG etc., as well as IRTF research groups such as NWCRG on network coding and ICNRG on Information Centric Networking. We note however that this task goes far beyond protocol design: recently, radical rearchitecturing of the networks with new paradigms such as Information Centric Networking, ICN, (or even in wired networks, software-defined networks), have opened exciting new avenues. One of our direction of research will be to explore these content-centric approaches, and other novel architectures, in the context of IoT.