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Lightweight Machine-to-Machine technology emerges in IoT networks

Last year’s report published by Gartner Research cited that connected things in use would hit 14.2 billion in 2019 with exponential growth in the years thereafter. IoT is garnering lots of attention, and a lot organizations are considering and designing many IoT services and technologies. That being said, one of the key IoT-focused emerging technologies is Lightweight Machine-to-Machine (LwM2M) protocol, which is a device communication and management protocol specifically designed for IoT services.

What is LwM2M?

The standard protocol is published and maintained by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) organization. It was first released in February 2017 and initially designed for constrained devices with radio uplink. As it stands now, LwM2M is a rather mature protocol and has been around for more than five years. Within those five years, it has gone through four versions of specifications and has been tested in eight test fests organized by OMA. Compared to other IoT device management specifications, one can say that the protocol is starting to gain wide market recognition.

The standard Lightweight M2M components and its technology stack. Source: AVSystem.

Lightweight M2M is often compared to Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), another IoT protocol that is arguably the most popular device communication protocol in IoT services. MQTT is maintained by the International Organization for Standardization organization and is a publish-subscribe  messaging protocol. As such, it requires a message broker for data communication.

The protocol comes with a well-defined data model representing specific service profiles, such as connectivity monitoring, temperature reading and firmware updates. Thanks to its well-defined data model structure, the standard enables common, generic, vendor-neutral and implementation-agnostic features, such as secure device bootstrapping, client registration, object and resource access, and device reporting. These mechanisms greatly reduce technology fragmentation and decrease potential interoperability errors.

What are the major advantages of LwM2M?

LwM2M is gaining recognition and starting to be adopted for facilitating IoT deployments due to its specific benefits. These include the following:

  • . The lightweight protocol guarantees ultra low link utilization.
  • Working over links with a small data frame and high latency, as applicable to most IoT use cases.
  • Greater power efficiency through Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) resumption and Queue Mode, which reduces energy usage and make the protocol suitable for devices in power saving mode and extended Discontinuous Reception modes.
  • Support for both IP and non-IP data delivery transport which minimizes energy consumption.
  • Optimized performance in cellular-based IoT networks such as Narrowband-IoT and Long Term Evolution Cat-M.
  • Support for low-power wide area network binding.

LwM2M also meets the needs of enterprises that have to balance multiple factors — such as battery life, data rate, bandwidth, latency and costs — impacting their IoT services.

Who can benefit from the LwM2M protocol?

Lightweight M2M is becoming important for enterprises and service providers alike because of its successful use  in IP and non-IP transports. It provides device management and service enablement capabilities for managing the entire lifecycle of an IoT device. The protocol also introduces more efficient data formats, optimized message exchanges and support for application layer security based on Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Object Security for Constrained RESTful Environments (OSCORE).

What does the future hold?

As a technology, Lightweight M2M is continually evolving. There’s an active OMA group that is constantly working on advancing the technology. The next specification release expected is a 1.2 version, which will provide support for many new things in a number of areas, such as supporting MQTT and HTTP; using IETF specification for end-to-end secured firmware updates; introduction of a dedicated gateway enabling group communication; and optimization efforts, such as registration templates and DTLS/TLS 1.3 support.

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