Internet of Things Puts Urgency behind IPv6

Fred Dawson, Editor, ScreenPlays Magazine

Fred Dawson, Editor, ScreenPlays Magazine

People charged with making big IT decisions for websites and internal business operations can be forgiven if they’ve looked at recent trends in IP address usage and concluded they can put off the huge pain of enabling IPv6 in their domains.
But there’s one category of address users, namely, the fixed and mobile network service providers, who will soon find themselves facing a major cataclysm if they don’t get with the IPv6 transition program. While the domestic cable industry has moved ahead aggressively on this front, other types of ISPs are lagging, much to their peril.

When talking about the slow pace of migration to IPv6, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, now chief Internet evangelist for Google, doesn’t mince words. “The biggest barrier has been to get service providers to turn on v6,” he says.

This is strange, given that, as Cerf says, “The Internet of things is upon us.” Two years ago, with launch of the first IPv6 World Day anticipation was high that a real push into preparations of the looming depletion of available IPv4 addresses was nigh. Last year, with the second IPv6 World Day, notwithstanding Google’s and other major Web entities’ announcements that they were fully v6 capable, the trend line showed a drop off in v6 address allocations from 2011 and has remained in negative territory ever since.

Don’t be fooled by these short-term blips on the screen. It’s all about to change with the transition of what has been a niche machine-to-machine market to a more generalized extension of automation in every direction across the enterprise, residential and vehicular landscapes. Positioning all the devices that will be required to accommodate this explosion in connectivity behind NAT (Network Address Translation) gateways as a way to avoid assigning each a public Internet address won’t work.

Gartner reports total revenues generated for services and products in the M2M sector have grown by 30 to 40 percent over the past three years and will keep growing at that pace for the foreseeable future. MarketsandMarkets, another researcher, projects the total M2M market for services, hardware and software worldwide will jump threefold from $27 billion in 2012 to $85 billion in 2017. Machina Research reports the global M2M connection count will go from 135 million in 2011 to 2.3 billion by 2020.

The use of networks and microchip intelligence to derive efficiency from automation is a no brainer at this point. It’s showing up in fleet tracking; public and private security surveillance; toll road operations; transportation automation; connected parking meters; kiosk commerce; digital signage; electrical grid, pipeline, drilling, mining, agriculture and equipment operations of every description – the list is endless.

In the residential market home security has taken off, bringing with it a new momentum behind smart home applications of every description. Energy management, control over lighting and window shades, monitoring of product performance and remote management of appliances are all part of the mix.

Indeed, most appliance manufacturers are now equipping top-line products with connectivity modules and a long list of applications offering convenience and preventive maintenance to consumers. As a case in point, German appliance manufacturer Miele has launched the Miele@home initiative to promote the fact that its machines have multiple data points that interface with network-based control to pre-emptively identify potential malfunctions and perform other tasks aimed at improving user convenience, energy efficiency and maintenance.

Telemedicine, too, is coming on strong, especially with the use of connected devices that can monitor vital signs of health patients and the elderly, often with connections allowing family members to keep tabs on how they’re doing. In Japan, there’s even an ‘iPot’ app that sends SMS messages to let family members know grandmother is okay because she’s having her tea.

Remote monitoring as part of health care is a big item on the health industry’s cost-cutting to-do list. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. medical research has found that annual savings from remote monitoring could amount to as much as $10.1 billion for people with congestive heart failure. Health care savings for diabetes patients were projected to be $6.1 billion.

Needless to say, all this automation is not going to be the sole province of the mobile industry, as has been the case with M2M apps in general over the past few years. Ubiquitous connectivity of intelligent modules running on every type of machine and device will be a stock-in-trade component of every type of broadband service.

As the tidal wave of demand for such connectivity hits, service providers who can hand out IPv6 addresses to enable all these applications will be well-positioned to drive the market. Those stuck with nothing but IPv4 addresses in their address management storage bins will be out of luck.