Spec spans array of standards, options
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Analysts gave guarded praise to JupiterMesh, a new specification for a wireless mesh network from the Zigbee Alliance, targeting utility, industrial and smart city markets. JupiterMesh supports IPv6 traffic at data rates from 6.25 to 800 Kbits/second over 800 MHz to 2.4 GHz unlicensed bands, embracing IETF and other security standards.
JupiterMesh could become a viable alternative to the Wi-SUN field area network announced in May, analysts said. The new spec adds another option to a rapidly widening field of low power wide area network (LPWA) options.
The alliance announced JupiterMesh at a members meeting in Amsterdam. Multiple vendors successfully tested different modulation options and data rates in the spec at an interoperability event hosted byPowertech Labs Inc., a subsidiary of an electric utility based outside Vancouver.
JupiterMesh is based on IEEE 802.15.4e/g media access control and physical layers including support for CSMA or TSCH modes. It supports 6LoWPAN, UDP, TCP, RPL, CoAP, and other IETF protocols as well as multicasting.
The spec can use multiple modulation techniques including FSK, O-QPSK, OFDM. It supports IETF security protocols such as PANA, EAP-TLS and HIP-DEX for network access authentication and key distribution, and AES-128-CCM-based message authentication and encryption. It works with existing metering protocols, such as IEC TC13’s DLMS/COSEM, ANSI C12, OpenADR, GOOSE, IEC 61850 and DNP3.
The spec is finished and undergoing validation testing using several vendor’s implementations. Certified products are expected to ship by June 2017. Zigbee members contributing to the spec include Analog Devices, ARM, the Atmel subsidiary of Microchip Technology, Itron, Landis+Gyr, NXP, Renesas Electronics, Silicon Labs and Texas Instruments.
The spec “enables new applications and use cases for electric, gas and water utilities and smart cities…[such as] applications to improve grid and pipeline safety, efficiency, and reliability; to accommodate renewable and distributed generation integration; and to drive improvements in consumer-facing applications such as demand response [and] energy efficiency,” said Ed Eckert, Itron’s director of standards and a ZigBee Alliance board director, speaking in a press statement.
In addition, the spec is “ready for future evolutions such as deterministic networking and efficient spectrum sharing being worked on today in the IEEE and IETF,” said ZigBee Alliance chief executive Tobin Richardson in the press statement.
Next page: Overlap with Wi-SUN cited
Overlap with Wi-SUN cited
The new spec emerges after a wave of consolidation efforts at the Zigbee Alliance.
In December, the group ratified its 3.0 spec that created a common framework uniting an array of application profiles it had spawned for its original Zigbee spec aimed at home and building automation, and it started a collaboration with the EnOcean Alliance. More than a year ago, the alliance struck a deal to interoperate with Thread, the smart home protocol launched by Google’s Nest group.
Neither effort touched on Zigbee’s utility specification, Smart Energy Profile 2 (SEP 2), an IP application protocol the Zigbee Alliance rolled out in 2013 for utility networks. The alliance made no mention of that spec in its press materials, however it did say the earlier Smart Energy 1.x spec that does not use IP is deployed in more than 100 million nodes, mainly smart meters.
Over email, Alliance CEO Richardson said SEP 2 could run over JupiterMesh. However, SEP 2 is focused on the home area while the new spec targets the neighborhood area.
JupiterMesh arrives amid a growing array of competing options for LPWA networks targeting a variety of uses including smart city apps. Sigfox and the LoRa Alliance are seen as leaders in a pack of more than a dozen options that generally target ultra-low data rates to hit low cost points and enable nodes with long battery life.
One of JupiterMesh’s closest rivals likely will be Starfish, Silverspring Networks’ implementation of Wi-SUN announced in December for use as a public LPWA network. The mesh net supports data rates up to 1.2 Mbits/s and reach of up to 50 miles using up to three hops at 10-50 millisecond latency per hop. So far Silverspring has struck deals to open existing utility networks in a handful of cities including Chicago, Calcutta, Copenhagen, San Antonio, San Jose as well as Bristol and Glasgow in the UK.
“We haven’t had time to study [JupiterMesh] in depth but…the closest alternative is the Wi-SUN Alliance’s Field Area Network specification that was just released in May,” said Mareca Hatler, director of research at market watcher On World (San Diego). “Both technologies…seem to be very similar, [and] supporters of both standards overlap…so there is a possibility of convergence,” she added.
Aapo Markkanen, an LPWA analyst at Machina research agreed. “I think the two [network specs] will have a rather significant overlap -- the target markets include mostly the utility sector and smart cities,” he said.
One IoT networking expert who asked not to be named said the JupiterMesh backers “are picking the right collection of IEEE/IETF standards
to use, for the first time in the history of Zigbee -- this could be a big deal.”
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times