One year after the first initial trial, World IPV6 is finally becoming a reality. Major telecommunication companies, Internet service providers, Web companies, and networking equipment vendors are teaming up to accelerate the deployment and adoption of the technology in key economic regions of the globe. The Internet Society on June 6 summed it up in a statement noting: "This time it is for real." It's undoubtedly the case that there's no going back on IPv6, but what does this mean for your business and customers' operations?
For those who may not know or understand the significance of the formal launch of IPv6, here's a primer on what it is and why this is a significant milestone for the continued reliance of the global economy on the Internet. IPv6 succeeds IPv4 and is the latest technical protocol governing the use of the Internet globally. IPv6, as the Internet Society explains in a User's Guide on its Website, is a:
...unique 32-bit number that identifies the location of your computer network. It serves as your computer's 'street address,' enabling other computers to find out exactly where you are and deliver information to you.
Why should you bother about such technicalities? Because IPv4, the preceding Internet protocol, has exhausted all its available IP addresses, which means the exploding use and adoption of Web-ready devices, including smartphones, tablet PCs, smart household gadgets, printers, and others, could be crimped by lack of IP addresses for the equipment. The Internet Society said in the above-referenced statement:
According to the Number Resource Organization, the world officially ran out of IPv4 address in February 2011. All that can be done now is to divide the allocated properties into ever-smaller portions or trade what's already been assigned -- moves that could complicate and compromise your privacy.
Communications, data, and networking service providers, manufacturers of telecom equipment, ISPs, and companies like Google, Facebook, and others that are heavily dependent on continued growth in the use of Web applications are keenly aware of this. That's why many of these companies one year ago teamed up to run the first global trial of IPv6, an event now eclipsed by last week's formal launch of the new Internet protocol. This time, more than 400 companies and organizations from around the world took part in the launch. Several, including Akamai, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo have transitioned their entire content to IPv6 from the older protocol.
Several intermediate steps were taken before the global launch. One of the most important, from the end users' perspective for developing economic regions, was probably SemanaIPv6, the South American testing conference for full interoperability between Internet services working with current IPv4 version (still mostly deployed) and the incoming IPv6. The major regional telecom operators, ISPs, and other institutions from all over Latin America and the Caribbean attended the event, which was coordinated from Brazil.
There are implications for design engineers and other innovators too. In a previous blog, I focused on how companies are trying to design connectivity into their products. I called this the Internet of Things. A new paradigm is developing, however, one that in the future assumes all products that have the capability for connectivity will be designed with that goal in mind. This emerging consensus among innovators -- announced for the first time by Maurizio Dècina of Italy's Politecnico di Milano -- projects a future governed by the phrase "Internet of Things." This implies that the most common objects used by people and enterprises would have the capability to "plug" into the Internet.
For electronics manufacturers, this future would open up opportunities in all segments of the economy and explode current demand for electronics add-ons in consumer, manufacturing, medical, industrial, and service markets. This possibility to deliver bespoke products was recently discussed at NEXt, the leading European conference for the digital industry. Honestly, I never thought before about the innovations IPv6 could foster by removing constraints inherent in the finite nature of IPv4.
Even in terms of market evolution, according to Jeremy Tai Abbett, creative partner and co-founder of Truth Dare Double Dare, and one of the most active people in the sector, we are going to see an explosion in the number of newly formed startup companies that will explore multi-disciplinary approaches to developing the next generation of Internet of Things products. By the way, not all of these products will be digital devices: Many non-digital things will be enhanced with connectivity tools, including some items you regularly toss into a drawer!