So far in the brief history of the Internet of Things, the emphasis has been put on the ‘things’. Developers have rushed to get devices to market quickly, creating a messy and fragmented market. But as the market starts to mature, can we actually get all of these devices connected?
The original intention of the Internet was not to connect fridges, phones and cars. It was designed for computer networks to share information in situations where power and bandwidth weren’t constrained. Fast-forward to today when power and bandwidth are the two most important factors for internet connectivity. IoT devices require simple communications, directly with the Internet, where every byte of data sent is important.
TechCrunch recently asked the question “How ready is the Internet for IoT?” given that the public Internet does not come with a Service Level Agreement.
An IPv6 future
The biggest issue today is the lack of IP addresses. The current protocol, IPv4 doesn’t have anywhere near enough. The solution to this, a newer protocol called IPv6, has been around for a while but adoption has been slow. Until IPv6 is fully implemented, IoT will never be able to reach its full potential because IPv6 provides the vast address space that is needed for when all those ‘things’ with individual mobile connectivity try to get online.
Yet IPv6 is hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. Just recently, Cisco released a high-level alert about a vulnerability in IPv6 packet processing functions of multiple products. The vulnerability could allow hackers to cause an affected device to stop processing IPv6 traffic, leading to a denial of service (DoS) condition on the device. This isn’t a problem unique to Cisco, so clearly it’s critical for the whole industry to work together to overcome these security challenges and help make the widespread adoption of IPv6 a reality as soon as possible.
The other big challenge is getting devices communicating together. Different systems have been designed by different companies, making interoperability much more difficult. This is also a waste of resources as each company has to reinvent the wheel to get a product to market.
Recent developments such as Apple HomeKit, and the creation of standards for allowing communication using Bluetooth over IPv6, are helping to change this. This brings benefits to everyone in terms of simplified development cycles, ease of use for consumers and increased security and interconnectivity.