6LowPAN (part 1) – discovering sub 1GHz mesh networking


So, party inspired by my not particularly successful Tado teardown I’ve decided to play around with 6LowPAN. “What’s 6LowPAN?” you may ask. Well, it IPv6 networking over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks. That’s what Tado uses to communicate between its components and I thought I might re-purpose their gateway for this. Unfortunately it uses a slightly out of data Stellaris microcontroller and getting this working was awkward. I got bored with it.



The ultimate goal would be to have drop-in smart light switches that link up in a mesh and can be controlled remotely home-automation style. Ideally I’d like something that:

  • can report its status back (unlike some commercial offerings)
  • is battery powered so that there’s no need for a neutral connection in the switch
  • doesn’t leech power through the load – that’s cheating and won’t work well with LED lighting
  • can operate as a separate manual switch in case the network is down

How far will I get with this? Who knows. Let’s see.


6LoWPAN can sometimes be over a 2.4GHz network (like Zigbee) but I’m going to go with Sub-1GHz for better range through walls and hopefully as far as my garden office / workshop. TI do a nice range of Sub-1GHz ARm microcontrollers. I got myself some CC1310 launchpads and a CC1350 launchpad too for good measure.

As far as software goes, it looks like Contiki is a good place to start. It’s a RTOS designed exactly for 6LoWPAN. It looks pretty good, but despite the best efforts of the creators I must admit it doesn’t seem easy to get started with. There is some helpful stuff over at Sun May Sky which I believe is maintained by YiKai Chen who you’ll also find helping out over on the TI E2E Community.

Getting started

First things first. I needed to download Contiki and get it building. The official guide pointed me towards using a pre-configured “Instant Contiki” Ubuntu VM and that certainly works. There was also a guide on Sun May Sky about using Cygwin on Windows. I had some minor trouble with that so thought I’d try out the new Ubuntu bash shell that’s (a hidden) part of the latest Windows 10 builds. That seemed to work well, so I thought I’d add my own guide. [link to be added]