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A Survey of Protocols and Standards for Internet of Things



The rapid growth in technology and internet connected devices has enabled Internet of Things (IoT) to be one of the important fields in computing. Standards, technologies and platforms targeting IoT ecosystem are being developed at a very fast pace. IoT enables things to communicate and coordinate decisions for many different types of applications including healthcare, home automation, disaster recovery, and industry automation. It is expected to expand to even more applications in the future. This paper surveys several standards by IEEE, IETF and ITU that enable technologies enabling the rapid growth of IoT. These standards include communications, routing, network and session layer protocols that are being developed to meet IoT requirements. The discussion also includes management and security protocols in addition to the current challenges in IoT which gives insights into the current research to solve such challenges.


Internet of Things, standards, IoT data link, Media Access Control, IoT routing protocols, IoT network layer protocols, IoT transport layer protocols, IoT management protocols, IoT security protocols, IoT challenges.


Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a high interest and popularity in both industry and academia. Its vision is to have plug-and-play smart devices that can be deployed in any environment and that can communicate and collaborate with other devices. This has become feasible only with the recent evolution in the internet protocols, sensing devices, efficient computing, big data analytics, and machine to machine (M2M) communication. According to the Gartner report in 2015, IoT technologies that enable this vision are receiving billions of dollars in investment and a high research interest, while much more is expected to come in the near future [1].

IoT is composed of two terms: “internet” and ”things”. It allows things, or non-computer devices, to hear, see, think, compute, and act by allowing them to communicate and coordinate with each other in decision making.

In other words, it allows things to act smartly and make consensus decisions that benefits many applications. They transform objects or sensors from being passive observers to actively computing, communicating, collaborating and making critical decisions. The fundamental technologies of embedded powerful sensors, new computing paradigms, data analytics, lightweight communication, and internet protocols lead IoT to offer such important services, however, they introduce the need for specialized standards and communication protocols to handle the resulting challenges.

IoT plays a significant role in different types of applications including healthcare, transportation, automation, agriculture, vehicles and emergency response to disasters. In addition, it is expected to play additional roles to improve the quality of life, business applications, and smart homes. An example of currently available IoT ecosystem is smart homes, which are composed of sensors for controlling temperature, heat, and air conditioning in our homes remotely. Future extensions of such system can be preparing our coffee, controlling TV, tracking our health statistics and driving our vehicles. These applications would impose further challenges and need for standards to handle the diversity of application requirements.

In this paper, we present an overview of current IoT standards and protocols that are being developed for different layers of the networking stack, including: Medium Access Control (MAC) layer, network layer, and session layer. In addition to that, we highlight some of the management and security standards that are being developed for all these layers. We present standards developed by Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other standards organizations. In addition, we briefly discuss IoT current challenges and further research opportunities.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section II describes the first layer of networking protocols, which is the data link layer and associated MAC protocols. Section III handles the network layer routing protocols while Section IV presents network layer encapsulation protocols. Section V handles the session layer protocols. Section VI summarizes the management protocols and Section VII describes the security mechanisms in key protocols and different security standards specialized for IoT. Section VIII highlights some discussion points about IoT challenges. Finally, Section IX summarizes our discussion and highlights the main points presented.

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