IPv6, with its glorious address space, is just what’s needed to connect all those billions of things, or is it?
Cracks in the Silos
Today’s IoT networking is anything but standardized. As a relatively new technology that has grown separately to serve the needs of many masters, Internet of Things deployments are silos of proprietary or pseudo-open tech. Today, a more apt description would be the Internet of Gateways or the Internet of Cloud Middleware. Layer 3 protocols abound in both the slow moving industrial IoT and the rapid refresh world of consumer IoT.
Solutions, mostly focused on measuring cost variables in a business model, have driven the use of proprietary or homegrown networking in Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems in the industrial world. To date these SCADA deployments are custom affairs built to be used once to perform a very specific function.
On the consumer side, the motivating factors to build proprietary tech are different. Here, the market is still relatively small and developing. Companies must offer full solutions, from physical sensors, to mobile apps and everything in-between in order for the business to be economically feasible.
Although a simplistic view, it is easy to see why these two main market drivers of the Internet of Things are not open, using standards-based solutions. In both cases it’s a simple case of economics. There are not enough commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), plug ‘n’ play devices, networking tech and middleware available to develop cost-effective, specific solutions as demanded by industry and the home. And the market isn’t large enough yet for companies to only sell standards-based COTS plug ‘n’ play devices, networking tech and middleware.
Meet the New Standard – Same as the Old Standard
Standardization in the IoT market needs to start at the bottom — the bottom being layers 1 – 3 of the networking or IoT stack. IPv6, having proven itself in connecting people, has scalability, interoperability with lower layers, and has been integrated into almost every system imaginable. That, combined with its almost unlimited address space, makes it the hands-down choice for IoT network connectivity. It’s just a matter of time before the IPv6 tide rises high enough to drown out all other networking challengers and deliver on the benefits of standardization – cost savings and a wide breadth of interoperable products and solutions to fuel innovation.
IPv6 is not without its problems, especially in so-called low-powered, lossy networks, where memory and computation power isn’t plentiful. However. too many smart people (and organizations) with vested interests are working on finding solutions to these shortcomings for IPv6 to fail.
When the use of IPv6 reaches its tipping point, it will enable IoT to reach to its true potential. In return, the Internet of Things will become that IPv6 killer app that we were directed to find in that board meeting long ago.