Internet-Draft SenML Data Value Content-Format Indication August 2020
Keränen & Bormann Expires 20 February 2021 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
Standards Track
A. Keränen
C. Bormann
Universität Bremen TZI

SenML Data Value Content-Format Indication


The Sensor Measurement Lists (SenML) media type supports multiple types of values, from numbers to text strings and arbitrary binary data values. In order to simplify processing of the data values this document proposes to specify a new SenML field for indicating the Content-Format of the data.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The Sensor Measurement Lists (SenML) media type [RFC8428] can be used to send various kinds of data. In the example given in Figure 1, a temperature value, an indication whether a lock is open, and a data value (with SenML field "vd") read from an NFC reader is sent in a single SenML pack.

Figure 1: SenML pack with unidentified binary data

The receiver is expected to know how to interpret the data in the "vd" field based on the context, e.g., name of the data source and out-of-band knowledge of the application. However, this context may not always be easily available to entities processing the SenML pack. To facilitate automatic interpretation it is useful to be able to indicate an Internet media type and content-coding right in the SenML Record. The CoAP Content-Format (Section 12.3 in [RFC7252]) provides just this information; enclosing a Content-Format number (in this case number 60 as defined for content-type application/cbor in [RFC7049]) in the Record is illustrated in Figure 2. All registered CoAP Content-Formats are listed in the Content-Formats subregistry of the CoRE Parameters registry [IANA.core-parameters].

{"n":"nfc-reader", "vd":"gmNmb28YKg", "ct":"60"}
Figure 2: SenML Record with binary data identified as CBOR

In this example SenML Record the data value contains a string "foo" and a number 42 encoded in a CBOR [RFC7049] array. Since the example above uses the JSON format of SenML, the data value containing the binary CBOR value is base64-encoded. The data value after base64 decoding is shown with CBOR diagnostic notation in Figure 3.

82           # array(2)
   63        # text(3)
      666F6F # "foo"
   18 2A     # unsigned(42)
Figure 3: Example Data Value in CBOR diagnostic notation

2. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

Readers should also be familiar with the terms and concepts discussed in [RFC8428]. Awareness of terminology issues discussed in [I-D.bormann-core-media-content-type-format] can also be very helpful.

3. SenML Content-Format ("ct") Field

When a SenML Record contains a Data Value field ("vd"), the Record MAY also include a Content-Format indication field, using label "ct". The value of this field is a string value, one of:

The CoAP Content-Format identifier provides a simple and efficient way to indicate the type of the data. Since some Internet media types and their content coding and parameter alternatives do not have assigned CoAP Content-Format identifiers, using Content-Type and Content-Coding is also allowed. Both methods use a string value in the "ct" field to keep its data type consistent across uses. When the "ct" field contains only digits, it is interpreted as a CoAP Content-Format identifier.

To indicate that a Content-Coding is used with a Content-Type, the Content-Coding value (e.g., "deflate" [RFC7230]) is appended to the Content-Type value (media type and parameters, if any), separated by a "@" sign. For example: "text/plain; charset=utf-8@deflate". If no "@" sign is present outside the media type parameters, the Content-Coding is not specified and the "identity" Content-Coding is used - no encoding transformation is employed.

4. SenML Base Content-Format ("bct") Field

The Base Content-Format Field, label "bct", provides a default value for the Content-Format Field (label "ct") within its range. The range of the base field includes the Record containing it, up to (but not including) the next Record containing a "bct" field, if any, or up to the end of the pack otherwise. Resolution (Section 4.6 of [RFC8428]) of this base field is performed by adding its value with the label "ct" to all Records in this range that carry a "vd" field but do not already contain a Content-Format ("ct") field.

5. Examples

The following examples are valid values for the "ct" and "bct" fields (explanation/comments in parenthesis):

6. Security Considerations

The indication of a media type in the data does not exempt a consuming application from properly checking its inputs. Also, the ability for an attacker to supply crafted SenML data that specify media types chosen by the attacker may expose vulnerabilities of handlers for these media types to the attacker. This includes "decompression bombs", compressed data that is crafted to decompress to extremely large data items.

7. IANA Considerations

(Note to RFC Editor: Please replace all occurrences of "RFC-AAAA" with the RFC number of this specification and remove this note.)

IANA is requested to assign new labels in the "SenML Labels" subregistry of the SenML registry [IANA.senml] (as defined in [RFC8428]) for the Content-Format indication as per Table 1:

Table 1: IANA Registration for new SenML Labels
Name Label JSON Type XML Type Reference
Base Content-Format bct String string RFC-AAAA
Content-Format ct String string RFC-AAAA

8. References

8.1. Normative References

IANA, "Sensor Measurement Lists (SenML)", , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Shelby, Z., Hartke, K., and C. Bormann, "The Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP)", RFC 7252, DOI 10.17487/RFC7252, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Jennings, C., Shelby, Z., Arkko, J., Keranen, A., and C. Bormann, "Sensor Measurement Lists (SenML)", RFC 8428, DOI 10.17487/RFC8428, , <>.

8.2. Informative References

Bormann, C., "On Media-Types, Content-Types, and related terminology", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-bormann-core-media-content-type-format-01, , <>.
IANA, "Constrained RESTful Environments (CoRE) Parameters", , <>.
Shafranovich, Y., "Common Format and MIME Type for Comma-Separated Values (CSV) Files", RFC 4180, DOI 10.17487/RFC4180, , <>.
Shelby, Z., "Constrained RESTful Environments (CoRE) Link Format", RFC 6690, DOI 10.17487/RFC6690, , <>.
Bormann, C. and P. Hoffman, "Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)", RFC 7049, DOI 10.17487/RFC7049, , <>.
Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing", RFC 7230, DOI 10.17487/RFC7230, , <>.


The authors would like to thank Sergio Abreu for the discussions leading to the design of this extension and Isaac Rivera for reviews and feedback. Klaus Hartke suggested not burdening this draft with a separate mandatory-to-implement version of the fields. Alexey Melnikov, Jim Schaad, and Thomas Fossati provided helpful comments at Working-Group last call.

Authors' Addresses

Ari Keränen
FI-02420 Jorvas
Carsten Bormann
Universität Bremen TZI
Postfach 330440
D-28359 Bremen