Security Communication Protocols of Internet of Things(IOT)

Uvindu Sandaken
14 min readMay 9, 2021


IoT devices are a major source method and modern lactic of transferring data in today’s industry due its exceptional benefits people gain when compared to other data transferring mediums. IoT devices being a main source of data transfer has drastically increased the probability of many possible attacks due the high number of end-point devices which can cause major defects such as access to sensitive and personal information, sabotage and others for instance like botnet also called DDos attacks. Hence has increased the need of security which is being provided by communication protocols to protect the data while being transferred. Along with the rapid developments in technology, communication protocols also have developed increasing their ability to secure the data being transferred. This report will acknowledge how communication protocols of IoT devices have evolved throughout these years and how they will be developed in future. Moreover, this illustrates the most convenient protocols and their propensity to secure data when compared to other protocols.


The IoT (Internet of Things) is the network that links devices like smartphones and backend devices such as computers and laptops to enable them to share data without human intervention. A normal device can become an IoT device if they have the capability of connecting to the internet and if the device has technologies such as sensors, functional software requirements and some inbuilt technology that supports to connect to the network and actuators which helps the device to operate. In an IoT device data is exchanged by being sensed or controlled remotely across the network. It not only transfers data but also makes decisions on behalf of the humans. Home automation is the most widely used IoT device in the current market. This is a smart system which can conduct many functions such as controlling lights, air conditioning systems and even appliances like televisions, washing machines and ovens. Even though the IoT devices are currently only capable of transferring data and making decisions, in future they will be developed with advanced features such as performing actions. IoT devices are rapidly increasing according to Gartner, in 2020 this year the number of IoT devices are going to increase approximately over 25 million. Allowing all these devices to connect to the Internet and share data have many benefits like saving a lot of time and money, increasing efficiency and can increase the quality of life. However, it also does have disadvantages and can increase the threats on a person. As accessing personal information has been made easy for people having unauthorized access to access data. For example, in January 2014, a cyber-attack campaign discovered that even a harmless fridge can be used as a security attack. Securing these data requires communication protocols where these security concerns can be managed effectively. The IoT communications protocol protects and ensures security regarding the exchange of data between the interconnected devices. Communication protocols are divided into two main categories and these categories include sub communication protocols. These are Short Range Network and Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN). Short Range Networks include Bluetooth Low Energy, ZigBee, RFID, NFC and Z-Wave. Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) includes SIGFOX and Cellular. Each of these methods can have drawbacks when it comes in terms of power consumption, range and bandwidth, and other factors that must be considered when selecting a communication protocol. This report includes how the communication protocols have evaluated and how they will be developed further in the future. Moreover, it will discuss why communication protocols must be used when compared to other IoT security measures.


Short Range Network

1. Radio frequency identification (RFID)

RFD is a wireless electromagnetic field used for identifying objects. RFID’s limited range is 10cm however it can extend up to 200m in length. This was invented in 1945 by Leon Theremin as a device to spy on the Soviet Union. RFID bands work on a scale of 120–150 kHz (10 cm) and 433 MHz (1–100 m), 902, 928 MHz (1–12 meters) (902–928 mHz (1–10 m). For animal recognition, factory data collection, road tolls, and building access can be used with RFID. A tag is also connected in the RFID to an inventory in order to track the advancement of its growth and creation through the assembly line. As an example, it is possible to monitor pharmaceuticals via warehouses. After 1980’s RFID technology was replaced as a Nearfield Communication (NFC) technology.

2. Near Field Communication (NFC)

NFC is the former version of RFID. NFC communicates with devices that are close in range operating at 13.56 MHz frequency, normally with devices that are in physical contact and mostly communicate with two devices. From the two devices that communicate, one device can be passive, that device does not require an energy source such as a battery or a solar cell. When one device is connected to the internet the other device can exchange data. It is a contactless mode of communication which uses electromagnetic waves unlike in RFID. It is intended to include very specific type factors such as logos, labels, key pins or cards without battery. For instance, it can be used as an anti-theft tag or a security tag for an enterprise. It works by generating a magnetic field when the passive device is touch or moved because it absorbs field energy, the absorption is sensed, and the alarm will be triggered.

RFID was advanced as NFC because RFID not only absorbs energy but also sends information back; this makes it easy for unauthorized people to read easily. For instance, if you pay for a product that has a RFID tag with your credit card you can be easily traced by another person who can get the details of your purchase. However, NFC is advanced and more intelligent for instance as was mentioned above it has contactless credit cards which allows to make payments without getting traced. NFC also allows communication of two active devices such as communication between two mobile phones. NFC chips can perform various applications for instance, data communication between smartphones, Smartphone and printer communication, Verification of an authenticated person having NFC ID card at the office/university by NFC reader within the door, Banking payments using NFC compliant MasterCard to reinforce security, Ticket booking at the airports.

3. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is an upgraded variant of Bluetooth, one among the foremost seasoned and most broadly utilized remote innovations for compelling correspondence inside the short scope of roughly 10 meters. The thought of Bluetooth was started by Nils Rydbeck at Ericsson Mobile in Sweden in 1989. Somewhere within the range of 2001 and 2004, this was additionally upgraded as lower power utilization and lower cost variant. Bluetooth Low Energy, a personal area network which was developed in order to meet up with the rapid increase of IoT devices. BLE is suitable for IoT devices as it can be easily used with passive devices, devices that require an energy source like a battery as it can last for a long time period which is a massive benefit for users when compared to NFC and RFID. BLE is a secure protocol that guards the user’s personal details.

Bluetooth Low Energy convention or Bluetooth Smart by Nokia. It has been intended to supply altogether diminished force utilization while maintaining the correspondence run. Due to this property, Bluetooth is the main convention utilized by IoT gadgets. The big frames such as iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, OS X, Linux, Windows, and others utilize it. BLE suits other applications precisely. With all the controversy surrounding IoT (Internet of Things) and, thus, the number of technologies and products on the market, BLE is trying to place itself as an IoT leader for longer-term IoT. Fitness trackers (like Mi-Band, Fitbit and GoYo band), smartwatches (such as Apple Watch, SamSung Watch, Huawei Watch), medical apps such as glucose meters, insulin pumps, door locks, light bulbs, alarm systems, etc. are just the opposite uses for BLE. Bluetooth Low-Energy protocol can afford a traditional Bluetooth home along with lower power consumption which was not available in RFID and NFC. This BLE does not manipulate large files and goes for the tiny portions of the data beautifully. This is why Bluetooth leads the internet with things protocols of the century. The foremost recent sort of Bluetooth innovation, Version 5.0, includes an ingenious Internet Protocol Support Profile. It’s been totally evolved and upgraded for Internet of Things gadgets.

4. ZigBee

During the 1990s, the idea of low power wireless mesh networking became popular and in 2002, the ZigBee Alliance was established to tackle this charter. The ZigBee protocol was conceived in 2004 after IEEE 802.15.4 was ratified. On 14 2004 December 14, that became the IEEE 802.15.4.-2003 standard. On 2005 June 13, Specification 1.0, also known as the ZigBee 2004 Specification, was made public. ZigBee launched in 2007 and is also known as ZigBee Pro. ZigBee is a high-level communication protocol which is used to create personal area networks with the use of small and low-energy devices. ZigBee is an IoT protocol which is best suited for small scale projects. It is commonly used in home automation. Among the other protocols used in the internet of things, ZigBee is built more towards the industry requirements, and less for consumers. It usually operates at 2.4GHz frequencies. More popular for industrial environments, ZigBee is used for applications that allow less rated data transfer across a short range of distance.

Example of street lighting and electrical meters in urban areas to provide low power consumption, using the communication protocol ZigBee. It is often used for security systems and in smart homes and equipment used in the industry which require short-range and low-rated wireless data transmission. Due to its low power consumption it restricts the transmission distances of a ZigBee to 10–100 meters, depending on the power output and environmental features. From transmitting data through a mesh network of intermediate devices, ZigBee devices can relay data over long distances to meet more distant ones. ZigBee is usually used in applications with low data rates which require long battery life and safe networking. ZigBee has a defined rate of 250 Kbit / s which is best suited for intermittent transmission of data from a sensor or device input. ZigBee and the popular ZigBee Remote Control are most known in the market for providing convenient, low-power, measurable solutions also with high node counts as well as famous IoT Security Protocols. The ZigBee 3.0 brought the protocol up to a single standard.


The Z-Wave protocol was introduced in 1999 in the Copenhagen-based Danish company by Zensys. The same year Zensys launched a light-control system, which was after reknown as Z-Wave, a proprietary system on a chip home automation protocol on an unlicensed 900 MHz frequency band. Z-Wave is a wireless communication protocol mainly used in smart home networks, allowing smart devices to connect and share control and data commands. It is a mesh network which uses low-energy radio signals to communicate from one device to another, by only requiring a wireless control of residential device and some other devices, like light control, protection systems, water heaters, doors, locks, pools, and gate openers. As for other home and office management protocols and services, an on-line Z-Wave network may be controlled from a tablet, laptop or server locally, either through a mobile screen, from a wall-mounted panel with a Z-Wave gateway, or from an online interface, utilizing a hub controller and central control center.

Z-Wave provides the device layer interoperability between the home control systems of the different manufacturers that make up the partnership. There are more than 1,700 interoperable Z-Wave products in 2019 which is 2600. Z-wave and ZigBee have many similarities for instance the both consume very little energy hence can be used for a long time period before the battery needs to be changed. The main difference between them is by how they operate their mesh network. Z-wave a signal or a data component to be transmitted throughout the network just 4 times, although there is no ZigBee cap. In comparison, at rates of between 40 and 250 kg bytes per second, ZigBee can transmit data in one day, while Z-wave can only move 10–100 kg per second.

Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN)


Sigfox seems to be a French network provider established in 2010 that develops wireless networks for connecting low-power artifacts like smartwatches and electricity meters, which small quantities of data need to be continually on and released. It is located in Labege near Toulouse, France and has a workforce of over 375. The company also maintains offices in Madrid, San Francisco, Sydney, and Paris. Sigfox is a 0G network that can listen track broadcasting data without the need for a network connection. Sigfox provides a communication opportunity where all the networks and devices can be managed through the cloud rather than by a device. This benefits drastically as energy consumption reduces along with reduction in the cost of connected devices. With both smartphone and WiFi features, Sigfox is recognized as one of the strongest alternative solutions. Owing to the nature and architecture of the Sigfox IoT Protocol for M2 M applications, data can only be transmitted at a low stage.

Sigfox will relay 10–1000 bits per second with UNB or with the Ultra Narrow Band for low-data transmission. The electricity also absorbs 50 microwatts. Sigfox IoT Protocols are 900MHz in frequency, so cloud connectivity is available. The Sigfox IoT Protocol spans 30 to 50 kilometers in rural habitats. The distance of this protocol is between 3 and 10 km in urban areas. Moreover, Sigfox is more advanced compared to some other communication protocols. Sigfox is developed to meet up with the massive IoT requirements such as long-lasting battery life, low-cost device, low network connection fee, increased network capacity compared to some communication protocols, and allows to make connections with devices that are further away in distance. Moreover, unlike cellular networks even if the device is not attached to a specific station the broadcasted message will be received through any station which is in the range of 3.

2. Cellular

The cellular network has been in operation for the last two decades and consists of communication protocols like 1G, 2G, 3G,4G, 4G lte and the recently introduced 5G. The network is distributed over areas known as cells where at least one has a fixed location transceiver or usually a base transceiver station. These base stations provide the cells with network coverage which supports in transmitting data. When these cells are joined together, they are able to provide radio coverage over a wide geographical area. This allows many devices to communicate. This protocol is commonly used for communications on long distances when compared with other systems, the data can be sent in large sizes and with fast speeds.

The operational frequencies range between 900–2100 MHz with a distance range of 35 km to 200 km and the data speeds. The data transfer speed is between 35kbps and 10 Mbps. A Quectel company has cellular IOT products such as EC21, EC23, EG91 and many more standard LTE products which work on 4G. The 3G based IOT module launched by UMTS / HSPDA Company. UC15, UC20, UC15 Mini & UC20 Mini are the same. Cellular protocols allow numerous benefits when compared with other protocols. For instance, they have more capacity as they can use the same frequency and can be used for many links. Moreover, mobile devices use less power as towers are closer and they also have a large coverage area since additional cell towers can be added.

Future developments

Internet of Things (IoT) consists of intelligent devices that communicate with each other. This enables data collection and sharing of these tools. In addition, IoT now has a wide range of life applications such as manufacturing, transport, logistics, healthcare, digital climate, education, robotics and information about cities. Smart devices may have wired or wireless connections. Internet of Things (IoT) consists of intelligent devices that interact with each other. This enables data collection and sharing of these tools. In addition, IoT now has a wide range of life applications such as manufacturing, transport, logistics, healthcare, digital climate, education, robotics and information about cities. Smart devices may have wired or wireless connections. The use of IoT devices are stimulating rapidly along with the mass advancements in technology, and in future almost all the devices will be IoT devices due to convenience and other benefits. However, this massive increase in the use of IoT devices will also lead to an increase in the number of cyber-attacks. Therefore, to enhance the security of the data security protocols must be upgraded. When considering the communication protocols there will be major advancements in the communication protocols of IoT devices. The newest protocol upgrade that was launched recently was the 5G cellular protocol, it has enabled real-time responses and allows to connect to numerous devices compared to the 4G cellular protocol.

With having all these benefits there is a high propensity for it to have cyber-attacks. Hence it was developed to focus on defending the network externally and by internet- based intrusions as IoT devices have greater proclivity for intrusions from inside the network and buy middle- man attacks. These will not be the only developments in future for 5G there will be further developments made in order to cater more to the IoT devices security. These are not only the future developments regarding the IoT device’s developments in communication security. Jonathan Penn, Director of strategy at Avast said that there are new form of authentication, more dynamic authorization, and improvements in behavior analysis that will be introduced in the future to enhance the security of the data being transferred, and those systems will be able to indicate threats and support in developing protocols to fight against those threats. Furthermore, over the next 10 years there will be protocol developed for IoT devices where there are distinct segments, each of which will provide its own solution for a threat that occurs. This is made possible due to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) which enables the devices to think on its own. This will help to reduce cyber-attacks drastically in future. For instance, wearables can see some standardization over Bluetooth around encrypted updates, whilst the connected home can establish its own collection of solutions.


The use of IoT devices have risen and communication protocols have been advanced along with technology advancements. Even though communication protocols have advanced IoT device communication still we witness cyber-attacks as securing many devices is extremely challenging. As even though there are many protocols available for the security of the IoT devices, unauthorized access is still there in the market. Communications protocols are important in the telecommunication of the IoT devices, as it allows two or more entities to transmit data in the system of the device and in exchanging messages in or between computer systems. Communication protocols handle authentication, error detection of a correction, and signaling. It can also identify syntaxes, semantics, and synchronization of analog and digital communications. These make communication protocols very important as it is the main component in IoT device communication, communication protocols are described as “The rules that govern communication among devices”. Therefore, new and advanced communication protocols have been developed and have been specified by standardization bodies such as IETF and IEEE.

This report analyzed the evolution of the communication protocols, taking into count all the basic and advanced developments, and when they were introduced to the market. Many protocols were analyzed, and it was explained for what devices the protocols can be used, their functionalities and security capabilities. Next it explained about the future developments and how these protocols will be upgraded along with the advanced development in AI.

By keeping the protocols updated and checked regularly cyber-attack can be prevented. Furthermore, even though there are disadvantages they are outweighed by the massive benefits gained by using protocols for the enterprises. Moreover, unlike other IoT security protocols, communication protocols play an important role in protecting the data and they are more affordable compared to other protocols. This report concludes the importance of having communication protocols when transferring data. More this allows people to classify the differences of the different protocols and have a better understanding of their different capabilities.

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