IMT Atlantique and the company Actility announce the creation of the "lab.SCHC" joint laboratory

Actility, the reference solution provider in industrial connectivity solutions for massive IoT for low-power , low-bandwidth connectivity (LPWAN or Low-Power Wide Area Networks), and IMT Atlantique have today unveiled their new joint laboratory focused on the international standard SCHC (Static Context Header Compression - pronounced "chic"), an Internet technology invented within the SRCD laboratory of IMT Atlantique in 2012 and now prevailing globally. This initiative will significantly enhance Actility's capabilities.

Signature LabSchC IMT Atlantique Actility

Back to the Future

SCHC is an innovative method for compressing and fragmenting network protocol headers, initially used for low-bandwidth and low-power networks (LPWAN). This technology was initially commercialized by the startup Acklio, a spin-off from the engineering school IMT Atlantique, founded in March 2016 by Alexander Pelov and Laurent Toutain, both researchers within the Systems Networks, Cybersecurity, and Digital Law laboratory (SRCD). SCHC is particularly suited to the Internet of Things (IoT), where it offers significant gains. "It is more efficient, consumes fewer resources, offers better latency, and enhances performance while maintaining interoperability and the security of exchanges," explains the Associate Professor Alexander Pelov.

In August 2023, Actility acquired Acklio and opted for open sourcing a major part of its products, making the embedded code public while keeping the network core commercialized. "Open sourcing will allow us to distribute SCHC more widely and reach much larger markets. Many IP protocols could benefit from SCHC, such as the OCPP protocol for electric vehicle charging," emphasizes Olivier Hersent, founder and CEO of Actility.

From Electric Meters to Interplanetary Communications

An initial application involved "smart grids" and "intelligent" meters, such as Linky, for electricity, as well as water and gas. "For instance, a water meter's energy consumption is reduced by 70% compared to other technologies. SCHC technology is both economical and eco-friendly," highlights Alexander Pelov. Several countries have incorporated SCHC into their electric meter networks: Ivory Coast, Brazil, China... Others, like India, may follow suit.

Meanwhile, Italy has launched a major project aimed at its gas meters. Currently in the pilot phase, it will encompass 8 million devices by 2029. And that's not all; further applications are anticipated, such as charging stations for electric vehicles or connected homes. SCHC thus has tremendous growth potential. The IETF, the international internet standardization body, has recognized the multiple applications of this technology and decided to extend it across the entire internet. This is a significant achievement since the security protocols of the global network are particularly demanding. As a result, SCHC technology will be employed in various communication sectors, with ongoing projects involving WiFi, industrial networks, connected homes, satellite links, and even the next generation of telecommunications, 6G. It may also be used in the development of "Ambient IoT," a futuristic concept of the Internet of Things that will incorporate numerous low-power, intelligent, and wireless sensors, similar to RFID chips, often battery-less and based on 6G. SCHC might even prove useful in more surprising areas, such as interplanetary communications. Additionally, a project involving underwater links, such as for offshore wind turbines, has been initiated with IMT Atlantique, Nantes University, and several industrial partners, thus underscoring the great versatility of the SCHC technology.

Multiple Projects for a Common Laboratory

The inauguration of the joint laboratory with IMT Atlantique marks a significant milestone in this promising venture. The university will have access to all Actility's products and industrial codes—for instance, to design charging stations for electric vehicles. Initially planned for two years, the laboratory presents an ambitious roadmap. The primary goal is to work on new improvements to SCHC technology based on field feedback. Research will also be conducted on various technological components, as well as on standardization, energy efficiency, and industrialization...

To maintain its development momentum, the lab.SCHC aims to become financially independent to preserve its key role in the development of this future technology on a global scale. Various forms of partnerships will be offered to major industrial players, whether French or international, either through bilateral collaborations or projects supported by national and international research agencies. The establishment of a Chair is also planned for 2025.

To support the rapid development of SCHC technology, the specialized training offered by IMT Atlantique for engineering students and international masters will be open to everyone in MOOC format starting in July 2024.

"Our laboratory starts on a solid foundation, with a unique positioning, knowledge, and products. From its inception, the lab.SCHC will have a global impact, with complete synergy between research, industry, societal impact, and education," states Prof. Laurent Toutain, director of the lab.SCHC.
"We are thus poised to move towards the future evolutions of the Internet. SCHC is a technology of the future. By 2030, it will be present in more than half of the connected objects in the world." As a leader in this technology, Actility raised 16 million euros in 2023, with total funding exceeding 100 million euros since 2016. Its rise in a key area of global tech will greatly contribute to the visibility of IMT Atlantique.

Through the creation of this joint laboratory with IMT Atlantique, Actility not only strengthens its leadership position in low-power IoT technologies but also broadens its innovation horizon through direct access to the latest research and developments. This partnership provides Actility with a unique platform to test, refine, and deploy SCHC technology in various industrial applications, thereby enhancing the performance of SCHC through feedback from large-scale deployments. Actility will thus gain a competitive edge, anticipating market developments and more effectively meeting customer needs. This initiative also enhances its international visibility and opens new business opportunities in emerging and traditional sectors.

SChC technology developed in IMT Atlantique laboratories by Acklio, a spin-off from the technological university

Developed in 2012 by the SRCD department at IMT Atlantique, SCHC is an innovative method of fragmenting and compressing the headers used for low-power networks such as connected objects. Compared with other techniques, it has a number of advantages: "It consumes fewer resources, offers better latency (2) and delivers higher performance", explains Alexander Pelov, a lecturer in the Network Systems, Cybersecurity and Digital Law (SRCD) department at IMT Atlantique and one of the designers of this solution, along with another lecturer, Laurent Toutain. SCHC is particularly well suited to the Internet of Things (IoT), where it offers significant benefits.

In 2016, the SCHC technology led to the creation of a start-up, Acklio, a spin-off from the school. Acklio's first priority was to gain recognition for its solution from major companies such as Cisco and Orange. In particular, by focusing on its interoperability, in the face of competing proprietary and incompatible systems. This work has won awards from the LoRa Alliance, an association working on IoT networks.

At the same time, the Acklio team has also played the standardisation card. SCHC has been adopted by the IETF (2), the international body that oversees Internet rules, as part of a new standard to be released in 2020. SCHC technology, which originated in Rennes, has now become one of the Internet standards. This should facilitate its expansion throughout the world.

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Published on 18.04.2024

by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT